Photo-Illustration: The Cut; Portrait: Elena Gharbigi, Photos: Retailers
On the Beauty Group, a Facebook community co-founded by the Cut and the Strategist, people chat all day long about the products they love — the ones so good they’ll make you hit that little “auto-refill” box at checkout. Below, we asked one of our favorite beauty pros to share her own selections.
Actress Shalita Grant, whose latest role transformed her into Bay Area mommy blogger Sherry Conrad in You’s third season, has had a journey with her hair. For her first three seasons as Sonja Percy on NCIS: New Orleans, Grant wore her hair in a ponytail, which required her to straighten her hair almost daily. Looking back, she says, “I didn’t realize what the hair maintenance of a series regular entailed.”
To try to protect her hair in later seasons, Grant tried extensions. Only when she filmed an underwater scene and had to go into chlorinated water for weeks on end did she cut the extensions out and realize they had caused a bald spot.
“When I came back for the fourth season, that’s the infamous ‘helmet-head wig’ I was wearing. At that point, I was like, I don’t give a fuck. I know why I’m doing this. I’m gonna look like this. It is what it is. And it was humiliating.”
When she left the show, Grant was still dealing with the damage — both outwardly and inwardly. “I had to heal a lot in order to move forward,” she says. “I did that work and then I was like, Now I want to heal my hair.”
She turned to her kitchen, where she concocted her patent-pending Henna Mud Masque, which combines henna lawsonia, aloe vera, and fenugreek to strengthen naturally kinky, coily, type 4 strands. It was meant to ship to hair salons before the coronavirus pandemic, but the actress is now focused on getting it straight to consumers before the end of the year through her brand, Four Naturals hair care. She says, “My hair is the healthiest it’s ever been, and when my patent goes through, it’ll be history-making: I’ll be the second Black woman to have a patent for a natural-hair product.” (The first was Gwen Jimmere.)
In the meantime, Grant is sharing more of her beauty staples below, including the $8 peel she calls a “facial in a bottle,” the sunscreen that is truly invisible, and the Mexican nail hardener that prevents chipping.
“Gross but effective! It’s red, and you look like Carrie with it on but it’s like a $200 facial in a bottle. I use it once a week or every two weeks. Pro tip: Dab a little on your knuckles if you struggle with hyperpigmentation — knuckle discoloration makes your hands look older than they are. Just don’t leave it on for more than ten minutes!”
“This is my go-to for acne fighting and smoothing pores. Best of all: I’ve never had the retinol uglies while using it, though I will say that when I see my skin might be a little dry, I’ll reach for my hyaluronic serum and my moisturizer instead of this treatment gel to prevent any peeling. So take my experience with a grain of salt.”
“This is both a moisturizer and a fab color. My makeup artists love it so much they always add it to my character kits. It was a color Sherry wore often.”
“Eye gel … but for my hands! Hand care is super-important. Those cracks and wrinkles come on quickly, and this de-puffer is perfect to keep my hands looking as youthful as I feel. It’s either the most expensive hand cream or the cheapest anti-wrinkle therapy. Haven’t decided yet.”
Photo: Courtesy of Retailer
“This is the perfect deep conditioner because of the cassia obovata, which is often called ‘neutral henna’ because it attaches to the strand but it’s not permanent. It’s a plant, and it moisturizes but it actually washes out over time. So if you struggle with dry hair, adding cassia to your conditioner will help improve your hair’s ability to retain moisture. It always gives me weight, shine, and some curl definition.”
“I love all of the serums from the Ordinary, but this one stays in my cart because it’s a great combo for fighting my stubborn adult acne and keeping my pores small.”
“Envious of Sherry’s long nails? Well, they’re real — and this hardener is responsible. It’s nontoxic, and it makes my nails thick and strong. I applied this all throughout filming You, and only one nail chipped on the last day. Actually, my girlfriend, Jess, and I had a pandemic romance, and the first thing she sent me was a Mexican flag blanket and this nail hardener because I told her my nails grew really long but they would chip easily.”
“In henna, the active ingredient is henna lawsonia. How the Four Naturals Henna Mud Masque works is that it binds that henna lawsonia to the strand, so every time you use the treatment, the henna builds on itself. And because it’s a plant, it has a beautiful relationship with water. When there’s humidity or when you’re in the water, your curl definition remains — that’s what’s powerful about this mask.
“From using it, my hair is the longest and strongest it’s ever been, in spite of heat styling and in spite of my Brazilian blowout treatment. Jennifer Aniston had to cut her hair after her Brazilian blowout treatment. Me? I just kept living and just kept treating.”
Photo: Courtesy of Retailer
“This sunscreen goes on sheer and virtually disappears. It’s super-lightweight and makeup-artist approved!”
“I love this brand, and this duo does everything you want a primer and a setting spray to do — like blur your pores and keep your makeup on.”
“This is a Black woman–owned company. It’s not only a heat protectant but it keeps humidity out of your hair after it’s been straightened with heat.”