Sistah Vegan’s Cosmetic Beauty Secrets

Dr. A. Breeze Harper. September 2015. Muir Beach, CA.
Dr. A. Breeze Harper. September 2015. Muir Beach, CA.

Some folk have asked me about my vegan cosmetic beauty tips and favorites over the years. I kind of cringe when asked to talk about ‘beauty’ tips because of the love/hate relationship I have with the expectation that women are supposed to naturally have (or be inclined to have). I’ve been trying to avoid this topic for years because of the amount of emphasis in the ‘health and beauty’ world that values women for how ‘beautiful’ they can look…and those standards are white fat-shaming, cis-sexist, racist, colorist, ableist etc for the most part and doesn’t embrace that there is not one way to ‘do beauty’. But, I’ll try to offer my personal experiences .

Well, it’s probably not going to be what you expect: I don’t know anything about cosmetic beauty arts. I tried it a long time ago– that is,  to do make-up and ended up on sometimes using lipstick that always seemed to taste bad. That was about 20 years ago.

I don’t regularly remove the hair that comes out of my chin and my 4 year old daughter has asked me why I have hair coming out of my chin if I’m “not a man”. “Why do you have a beard, mama?” I have then  explained to her multiple times that hair (or lack there of) does not determine one’s gender identity.

As an adult, I never went to a salon to ‘get my hair did’. Never been to a spa. The other day I finally gave myself a much needed manicure by clipping my long toe nails (6 months worth of growth that I only noticed after I realized my shoes were uncomfortable because the toenails were pressing against the front) the other day and slapped some shea butter on my ashy toes and feet that have never seen a pumice stone.

I shaved my legs last month after 10 months and probably won’t do it again for another 10 months. I think I’m the only person I have ever seen with a two piece bikini at the beach, wearing a bikini with ‘sideburns’ (i.e., won’t shave or wax before I put a bikini every single time) The picture above is me with ‘sideburns’ but it’s kind of hard to tell since this is a tankini and not a bikini.

But, I have a confession: I cannot and will not leave the house without wearing a pair of huge earrings (preferably my Angela Davis, Malcolm X, or Nina Simone earrings) and shea butter and castor oil applied to my face and body!

In terms of cosmetic art expression (is that the right way to phrase it?), what can’t you leave the house without?

About Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. Harper’s most recently published book, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014) interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town.

Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her bookScars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix) which explored how key Black vegan men us hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies. Her latest book project is Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: A Critical Race Feminist’s Journey Through the ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical Foodscape (2017).



5 thoughts on “Sistah Vegan’s Cosmetic Beauty Secrets

  1. Good on you for teaching your children that facial hair is not (or should not be) tied to gender identity or expression. I blogged about that subject here:

    I always hated shaving my legs, and stopped doing so completely shortly before my transition to male. My male spouse, on the other hand, waxes regularly.

    I stopped using cosmetics a good ten years before my transition (with the exception of one professional photo shoot). I did go to a hair salon for a time, but never in my life had a mani or pedi. Did you read the exposé in the New York Times last year about how nail salon workers are treated? Wouldn’t be surprised if the same goes on here in SF, not just at nail salons but also cheap barbershops. I can’t imagine anyone working at a $10 haircut place being able to afford San Francisco rent prices, so I don’t want to put all the blame on people seeking conventionally-feminine adornments.

    1. And yea, I have read about the exploitation of nail shoppe workers for years now and the fact that they inhale those chemicals all day. There are a few organic spas in the bay area that supposedly treat the workers incredibly well, but still, I’m not yet open to doing that yet as it’s pricey and I think I can cut my own toenails and take care of my own hands and feet as someone who is able-bodied enough to be able to do this. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I usually wear Banu Knots or Twist, so I must have a certain type of earings to compliment my hair. I generally wear hoop earings.

  3. I appreciate how this post turns expectations on their head. I will have to try the shea butter and castor oil combo. I’ve been using vegetable glycerin and it’s made a huge difference for my dry skin.

  4. I must admit that I love adornment and have no problem getting a mani/pedi regularly. I enjoy the smooth feeling that comes with shaving or using a homemade sugar and olive oil scrub and do so regularly. I love shea butter and coconut oil for my skin and hair and like the look of my eyes rimmed in kohl and my lips stained with bright color. If it jingles and jangles it will certainly be in my ears and on my wrists and ankle, lol!!!.

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