Our "How I Shop" series documents how prominent figures buy clothes. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. The same goes for beauty — and there's a whole lot to unpack in the way we discover, test and purchase hair, skin, makeup, fragrance and wellness products. Now, we're delving into all of it with "How I Shop: Beauty Edition."
Turns out that Tony-nominated, Juilliard-trained actor Shalita Grant has more in common with Sherry, the fan-favorite character she plays on Netflix's "You," beyond an affinity for a #justwokeuplikethis fresh-faced skincare routine.
For one, they're both sharp entrepreneurs — although, I'm sure that the self-aware, reflective and charmingly genuine Grant would not use that hashtag. (The Madre Linda mom-fluencer, however...) In "You," Sherry, the founder of the "Heart-Shaped Mistakes" empire, would presumably have a whole content operation dedicated to beauty, with tutorials for, say, smudge-proof makeup tips for a swinger meet-up. But the actor, whose prolific acting resumé includes Shakespeare on Broadway and other beloved on-screen roles like über-chic lawyer (and Alexis Rose-level vocal fry aficionado) Cassidy on "Search Party," is starting to expand her own brand.
Launching in November, Four Naturals treats and nurtures type 4 hair types, like Grant's, while making a societal (and industry) impact. The plant-based line debuts with two products: a henna mud mask (to restore curl patterns, improve moisture retention and cover grays) and a cassia-based deep conditioner (to repair and hydrate curls). The core of Four Naturals is in the name: The line uses all-natural ingredients and traditional practices found in India and North Africa — all heavily researched and sourced by Grant, who grew up with two generations of hairstylists in her family.
Grant's impetus to start Four Naturals came from a disheartening and very personal professional experience. While playing Agent Sonja Percy on "NCIS: New Orleans" for three years, her hair became drastically damaged through regular straightening and application of disparate extensions for differently textured hair. As many other Black talent have experienced on productions (and in the fashion industry), the lack of textured haircare education and respect from styling teams and producers had emotional health and self-image ramifications on Grant, too. Eventually quitting the show — and left with traction alopecia — Grant felt galvanized to make difference for herself and people with type 4 textured hair, in and outside the business.
"I realized that it's about more than fucking hair — this is assimilation. This is my life-force. This is about limitations," she says. "I can't jump in the pool. I don't feel good at the beach. I don't feel like I can travel the world without at least part of my suitcase being dedicated to hair products. I always have to check my luggage, which means that I'm always paying. Like, I don't make as much as men do —.I'm a Black woman. I'm a Black gay woman. People are always trying to pay me the least to do the most for them. So if all of my money is just going to all these other companies because of the identity that I have, then this is a real global, full-scale problem."
In 2019, Grant spent a year away from acting to invest into researching and building Four Naturals. She says her own evolving personal style philosophy helped inform the brand: "[In my 20s], I was trying to chase these trends that don't have anything to do with the personality of me. It's me trying to fit in with everyone else, and that's not who I am. I'm not a fit-in bitch — I'm stand out kind of girl. And it's not because I looked at other people, like, 'Oh, I want to shine brighter than you.' No, it's not about you. It's about turning my inner light on and being the best me that I can be. I hope the same for everyone around me, because we're all made of stardust. So like, shine! I'm doing my own thing. I don't want to keep up with anyone, but my soul."
In offering a tight capsule of essentials, Four Naturals has Grant's "intentional" shopping approach: supporting local designers, staying minimal and paying it forward through recycling or gifting to family. ("These clothes are really fucking fly!")
"I only want to sell these two products — the mud mask and the conditioner — because for me, it's not about making money. It's about really changing and impacting the lives of women and men with textured hair," she says. "But you'll never get like Four Naturals branded clips, or Four Naturals branded water bottles, because that's a waste. You already have water bottles. You already have clips. I don't need to sell you these things with my name on it. That's not what it's about. For me, it's about making your life easier and saving you so much money, time and energy, because you need it. Because if you have textured hair, you probably got a lot of stress in your life with other things. Why should your hair be part of it?"
After her previous horrific hair experience, Grant — who has already spent the year restoring her hair with her own formulations — walked onto the "You" set with her own products to use on her hair. "It was empowering to me because I was giving my hairstylist the permission to do something on my hair that on 'NCIS' had killed my hair," she says.
Ahead, Grant gives us a science lesson in how to properly deep condition hair, shares her go-to products for flawless skin that she and Sherry appreciate, and muses on what Sherry's mom-fluencer beauty brand looks like.
Talk to us about your hair routine and how you use the Four Naturals products.
I do the detangling method, W.D.O.T.: water, deep conditioner, olive oil and a tangle tamer. I have tutorials on how to do the detangling method — it's the best because it doesn't break the hair, it's pain-free, it's using a little bit of science and it's teaching you how to work smart and not hard. Then, I put on the mud mask. I wrap it and I go to sleep, or I'll go shop for a couple of hours. I go out in the world and I have this gorgeous head-wrap on, but I'm treating my hair underneath it. Then I rinse that out and deep condition. Then I style it however way I'm styling it.
The last time I measured my hair, I had about 15 inches, and that's the longest my hair has ever been, and it's 'chemically damaged.' So I'm going to cut the chemical off to transition my hair back to natural at the beginning of 2022. My hair is gonna be natural without chemicals — chemical-free. It will be my curls! So I'll have a tutorial on that. It's super simple now, and I don't need a lot of products. The products work the way that they're intended to because the cuticle health is balanced. [A conditioner needs] cationic charge to attach or attract and stick to your negatively-charged hair. I learned this because I did a little cosmetic chemistry research. Henna and cassia have a high enough cationic charge that they bind to the cuticle and seal the gap.
How would you describe your beauty aesthetic? And how has it changed or evolved much this past year?
The older I get, the more firm I am in these boundaries of not creating a lot of waste. When I was in my 20s, it was a flex for me to buy these expensive makeup brands. So much of our culture in America, it's like anti-wealth, actually — it's like we believe that you look wealthy when it's about what you can afford, right? But wealth retention isn't about what you can afford, it's retaining what you can retain. I was constantly spending money and buying the the next palette and the next lip thing and the next whatever, and I would use it quarterly or it would end up in the trash or it would break.
Now I'm totally into skincare. I don't wear makeup in my life, like I literally call my interview look 'getting into drag' because that's how I feel, like [in theatrical voice], 'Oh yes! I'm going to don the face and create shapes.' In my life, it's about my pores being smaller. It's about the health of my skin's glow. My nails are real — Sherry's nails in the show are real nails. They're not press-on, but I use nail hardener, and that's how my nails grow long. I don't have to spend money on plastic nails and then eventually throw them in the trash. I'm thinking about all of that. My routine is all about learning different treatment regimens for my skin.
I bought this diamond-tip microdermabrasion machine, so I can do my own microdermabrasion at home. I did a bunch of looking at tutorials, then really being gentle at first — you could screw yourself up, you know — but luckily for me, I pay attention and I follow directions really well, so I can do these things at home and have better success than my fucking 20s skin.
What are some of your favorite products that help you achieve all this?
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution— that blood facial — is everything. The close second for me is this Kate Somerville ExfoliKate® Intensive Exfoliating Treatment. It takes less time than the blood facial. It's like three minutes.
It's about need for me. I don't have enough time, so is there something that I can use that will be really quick, but super effective for cell turnover? Kate Somerville, that's perfect because it's like three minutes. I can use a good hyaluronic moisturizing cushion or my facial toners to help with the redness and the next day, my skin is so glow-y.
How do you go about discovering new brands and products? Do you have a testing process or any sort of criteria products should meet?
For me, it's about finding and answering questions or solving problems that I'm having. I go and do my research for what's available based on the problem I'm trying to solve. There's no one thing. I'm not just talking to the dermatologist, it's not just going to YouTube, it's not just doing the good old Google search and trying to find new studies — it's all of those things.
Do you have a "self-care" or wellness routine? Any favorite rituals, products or tools you use?
Really, the best self-care for me is time alone. I just need time by myself, to hear my own thoughts and feel my feelings and feel my senses. Like, how I feel about what's happening with the choices that I'm making, the relationships that I'm in, the jobs? The more time alone I get, it's better for me — because then, I can come and talk to people and have energy, because I took care of myself. I gave myself the attention that I needed so that I can give people the attention that they're requiring for me in the moment
Sometimes, I need a bath. Like, I need to be in water. What I love to do a lot of times are spiritual baths, because my body, my mind and my senses are saying 'water' for a reason. I add milk and essential oils to some of that, and then I'll smoke some weed in there and get a good herbal thing going. That's amazing relaxation for me. But again, it's not always about doing something with myself — sometimes it's just sitting and sitting quietly, being able to catch my own thoughts. Like, what are the thoughts that have been running in the background when I'm at work? What needs my attention on the inside? Giving myself the space to hear it, so that I can figure out how to heal it and so when I go back into the world again, like it's like, 'Oh, yeah, I know where I'm at. I don't feel like I'm missing anything.'
If Sherry had a "Heart-Shaped Mistakes" beauty category, what would that look like?
Part of what makes Sherry so horrible in the [Madre Linda] community is that she's like, 'Oh, me? I'm just, like, a natural mom trying to get through life. But, also, are you coming? Because if you aren't, your breast milk ain't worth shit.' That kind of a flex. It's hilarious. But we know these women. That's why her makeup [looks more natural].
I think her blog would be more akin to the things that I, Shalita Grant, am interested in when it comes to beauty, which is skincare. It's all under the guise of care because the value that Sherry brings to the world is that she cares. And that's why she's giving you all of this unsolicited information.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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