Hair is her thing. She shares how identity and hair are intertwined, and how scalp care is part of skincare. Here are Ava's scalp care, skincare and self care insights...
Tell us about yourself!
I’m half Ghanaian and half white British, and I’m a native Londoner, but grew up in Amsterdam and Lisbon as a teen which has definitely influenced the kinds of topics I like to write about.
What inspired your interest in beauty?
So many things! I definitely have a thing for hair - I was always getting told off in school and dance classes for playing with mine and my classmates hairstyles, even at the age of three!
Growing up in two other countries where beauty products weren’t as much of a thing as they are here (no Boots or Superdrug) meant I had to read about them online and in international magazines to learn about them.
Spending all my pocket money on InStyle, Vogue, Teen Vogue and Essence taught me the value of beauty journalists in educating people. Then the YouTube beauty boom struck and I was properly sucked under.
Self care, skin care...tell us all about scalp care!
They’re all so important, but so many of us do neglect our scalps. If you think of your scalp as an extension of your face, it helps you to remember to incorporate it into your routine.
I don’t have scalp problems like oiliness or flakes, but it still needs to be cleansed properly and exfoliated, with the occasional mask thrown on. And nothing relaxes me like an oil massage - it’s really vital to get the blood flowing to the follicles for healthy growth.
I wrote an article on scalp care for Stylist last year, and it has everything you need to know.
What are your favourite AM and PM skincare habits?
Nothing beats a cold damp flannel on my face first thing - that plus super minty toothpaste really wakes me up! I wish I had one of those tiny skincare fridges to keep all my products in.
Now that I’m at home more, I’m trying to use a jade roller in the mornings but I constantly forget. It always makes me feel more energised and helps depuff.
At night, a hot damp flannel over my face for a minute (I know you’re supposed to use lukewarm water but I like mine hot hot hot) to steam it a little, do my routine (by candlelight if I’m feeling overstimulated) and a facial massage IF I remember.
What are your top tips for healthy hair?
How does beauty start from within?
Everyone says it to the point where it’s become such a cliche, so I’m not going to say 'self-love'. But feeling honoured and solidified within yourself, trusting yourself to do the best for you and others enables you to move with beauty. I don’t have the fast-track, concrete answer (if there even is one), all I can go off is reflection of what makes me feel filled with beauty on good days, and the beauty possessed by those I respect and look up to.
How are identity and hair intertwined?
I also wrote an essay on this exact topic in Stylist’s book Beauty Reimagined: Life Lessons On Loving Yourself Inside And Out,which encapsulates exactly how I feel.
For Black and mixed women, hair and identity cannot be separate entities, which makes our hair so powerful. Before colonisation, so many African communities held hair in such high esteem that styles communicated what family and tribe you were from, your relationship status, and much more.
Nowadays, our intricate braids and sacred locs are penalised and policed in a way no other hair type is, but the way we choose to wear it has a deeply ingrained hold on our identity.
Emma Dabiri’s brilliant debut novel Don’t Touch My Hair will completely change the way you see Black hair.
What advice do you have for self love and acceptance?
Again, I wish I had a clear cut answer! I’m learning this every day.
How does your skincare and beauty routine change over summer months?
My skin gets pretty oily in the summer, so I use lighter gel textures. That being said, I can’t resist a bit of extra juiciness on my skin when it’s got a tan, so I’ll add some face oil where I’d put highlighter.
For the body, lots of scrubs and dousing myself in body oil (anything with some golden shimmer if I’m leaving the house), a balm on ankles, elbows and knees lest the ashiness strikes, and a very powerful natural deodorant.
My hair is at its best in the summer as long as it isn’t raining, so I use just a leave-in spray without needing heavier gels or creams, and use a lot more masks if it’s especially hot.
What beauty myths do you frequently debunk?
What are your hopes for the beauty industry in 2020?
The past month has rightfully shaken things up so much, and I really hope this continues. Black lives and Black beauty are not trends, they’re not the recipe for allyship cookies; they’re the blueprint.
I’m hopeful that the due respect and celebration carries on building to the point where championing Blackness isn’t something people have to go out of their way to do.
To learn more about Ava, follow her on IG (@avawelsingk).
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