There are many natural and eco-friendly beauty products rising in the marketplace, but it’s sometimes hard to decipher which are actually effective and are true to their label’s claims. Enter Kristian Henderson, the founder of BLK + GRN, an online platform that curates natural and holistic products made by black entrepreneurs. But she’s busy doing more than that. She’s also a professor at George Washington University’s public health policy and management department. Although those roles might seem very different, she was very strategic about having a traditional job that would give her flexibility with time to pursue the entrepreneurship she always loved.
“You never quite understand how everything will fit together until it does,” she says, “I went to Yale undergrad and thought I wanted to be a physician, but then I realized that wasn’t for me.”
But she knew she cared about the health of people, so she found herself working in public health. She always loved business, so she thought she would be a hospital administrator. Kristian worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital for six years doing admin when she realized she was at the point where she could dive all in or find something different to do. She realized it was time to find that something different, and a natural progression was to dive into entrepreneurship.
“I wanted to create a space for people to find products that support their health and wellness, to educate people on healthy living, and support black women in the process,” she says.
Kristian knows that not everyone has the time or interest to do hours of research on the toxins that can be found in what we eat, the hair care products we use and the skincare products that make up our morning and night routines. Because of her passion for what the body consumes, she created BLK + GRN as a one-stop shop for all things eco-friendly and natural, while educating the public on these items and highlighting black entrepreneurs.
“I’m conscious about voting with my dollar,” she says, “When I spend money, I’m building that brand and supporting their family. When I made that connection, it became important for me to buy things that are both good for my health and black-owned."
OUTSIDE OF WORK
Outside of her full-time job as an entrepreneur, Kristian is a yoga instructor.
“Yoga has been a really important thing for me in terms of self-care,” she says, “Having 60 to 90 minutes without my phone by me, practicing moving meditation (I struggle to meditate in stillness, but can in yoga) is important. When I’m going through a tough time, physical activity helps me process my thoughts.”
Relaxing, unwinding and investing in things she would have once seen as a luxury frees up brain space for her, and those activities can be everything from getting massages to investing in a housekeeper to come and clean up.
“Instead of buying a new pair of shoes or some new clothes, I invest in what makes my life easier,” she says.
She also invests her time in what (and who) is important to her. And fitting in time for loved ones isn’t a struggle because of how she prioritizes them.
“I really believe that you make time for what is important to you,” she says, “I don't think it’s about fitting in time, rather it’s a matter of checking my priorities and making sure I’m balanced. When I feel myself spending too much time doing work, I’ll text friends and say ‘I’m thinking of you, I miss you, do you want to come over and hang out.’ I check my actions so that I’m actually putting first what I’m saying my priorities are.”
She feels the same about working out or eating healthy. It’s about knowing what should be in your life and finding that balance.
ON THE KEY TO SELF-CARE
“I think that self-care is this idea that’s connected to self-love, so you have to cultivate true self-love,” she says, “I think it’s this idea of acceptance.”
Kristian maintains that you have to accept who you are and where you are and forgive yourself for past mistakes. This can be in the form of therapy, evaluating your relationships, owning up to mistakes you’ve made and what roles you’ve played so that you don’t repeat those same behaviors. But it’s also about giving yourself a break.
“You can redefine what success looks like,” she says. “I used to think I had to be tired and go, go, go. To me, that meant success. I had to redefine my definition because that’s not success. I wanted to be balanced, wanted both down and up time and didn’t want to be stressed all the time.”
her DAILY ROUTINE
Every morning is different for Kristian.
“I don’t have a set routine every morning,” she says, “But things I typically like to do are wake up and have a smoothie or an acai bowl with Golde turmeric powder for breakfast.”
She always tries to work out in the morning. If she can make it to the gym, she’ll warm up with a quick mile and lift weights for about 30 minutes. A morning workout keeps her focused in other areas of her life for the rest of the day. But if she can’t make it to the gym for some reason, she’ll do 10-15 minutes of yoga at home, as she’s trying to develop a home practice. If you’re looking to get started in yoga, check out Yoga Green Book, which is a place where she always recommends people to start.
Then Kristian will hop into the shower, wash her face with black soap and follow up with some rose water toner and Daily Greens Whipped Moisturizer.
While showering, she uses a product that’s a mixture of activated charcoal and mouthwash, called Garner’s Garden Organic Remineralizing Tooth Powder. You stick your toothbrush in the container and brush your teeth for clean, sparkly-feeling teeth.
While getting dressed, she’ll light a candle (she calls herself a candle fanatic, in fact).
“I go through a candle a week,” she says, “Some scents I love are from H&B. We carry four of their scents right now.”
After her morning routine, it’s straight to checking emails and getting into her work day.
Balancing her multiple jobs and responsibilities means being in touch with herself in order to stay motivated and productive.
“Listen to your body,” she says, “If you don’t feel focused, you just aren’t focused. Let it go. I might have a bad day where I can’t get anything done. If I do, it will be low quality and I’ll be irritable. On days like that, I will take a break, rest, read a book or spend time with friends or family. When I’m feeling focused, I might get enough work done for 2-3 weeks. Just let yourself be wherever you are.”
And Kristian’s go-to product throughout the day is Calm Balm Aromatherapy to-go. If you need a moment of aromatherapy because of stresses at work, it’s a great way to bring yourself peace almost instantly.
About once a week, she’ll have a self-indulgent day where she does a face mask. Which mask she uses depends on how her skin is in the moment — if it’s dry or needs toning she will choose a mask that will serve her skin’s needs at the time.
But every night she removes her makeup (her favorite brand is Laws of Nature Cosmetics, which has liquid foundation that feels like a moisturizer, a mineral powder and a concealer stick) and washes her face with black soap from the morning. Moisturizing her skin is super important for her at night because your face has time to absorb the products while you sleep. She’ll do serums and hydrating face oils at night to treat her skin and give it time to recover from the elements. Night time also means hydrating her hair and sleeping on a silk pillowcase, which is good for the hair and skin.
HER PERSONAL MANTRA
“Your happiness is your responsibility,” Kristian says, “It’s a choice. Once I realized I could choose to be happy or frustrated, I took back a lot of power from the people around me I was giving so much power to. I will be frustrated and talk myself off the ledge.”
A major step in owning her joy was learning the role she plays in creating her happiness, and that it’s ok to put herself first. She wasn’t taught that and didn’t know it for the longest time, but discovering it has changed how she interacts with herself, other people and customers.
“I can be more true to myself because I know who I am, and I’m choosing me.”