Founded by Dr. Kristian Henderson, BLK+GRN is an all-natural marketplace promoting holistic and ingredient-conscious wellness products by black artisans.
SHEER: What is the BLK+GRN marketplace and how did this idea come to fruition?
DR. KRISTIAN HENDERSON: Well, my background is in public health, and before starting this venture, I was really interested in health disparities in the black community — particularly how they impact Black women. Throughout my research, I’ve found that Black women were facing worse health outcomes than their white counterparts, and those outcomes linked to the levels of toxicity in the personal care products that Black women are using, and the effect that it may be having on their overall health. Surprisingly, around 75% of the products that are marketed directly toward Black women are considered toxic. This sort of sparked my own wellness journey, where I really wanted to personally start using clean products that were better for me, and also make it easier for other Black women to make that same choice. Health and beauty, in many ways, are almost synonymous, but I also wanted to highlight our purchasing power. So, I combined all of that — and that became BLK + GRN — a space where Black women could transform their health by discovering and purchasing all-natural Black-owned products while supporting small businesses in their community.
SHEER: What are some of the biggest beauty and skincare myths for black women that BLK+GRN is trying to debunk?
KH: We’re trying to debunk the notion that all products labeled “green” are in fact green. Despite an increase in health consciousness within the beauty industry, toxic ingredients found in most mainstream personal care products are still alarming. Women of color are still using these products on their bodies every day without being aware of the damaging effects that they have on our health. If we aren’t aware of what goes on and into our bodies we’ll continue to attract sicknesses that could have been avoided. It’s SUPER important that we as women care for our bodies from the inside out to live healthier, happier lives starting with the products we use every day.
SHEER: How do you select the artisans on your site?
KH: Our artisans are selected through our approval process which consists of them submitting their product ingredients, brand values, and samples. When people make the choice to purchase from BLK+GRN, they are really investing their money into a larger purpose; which is elevating the health and well-being of Black women while supporting Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. Because of this, my team and I are meticulous about which Artisans we approve for the website .
SHEER: What is the vetting process for products on your site? And what are the top ingredients and chemicals that women should avoid when shopping for beauty/skincare as well as hair products?
KH: I try every single product that we sell on BLK + GRN (except the beard products, of course haha). Literally! I’ve tried over 300 different natural beauty, feminine care, and cleaning products. Let’s just say it’s nearly impossible for me to have a favorite. But using these products myself is important to me, to show my customers that natural products can also work effectively, or even better than those with harmful ingredients. When shopping for beauty, skincare and haircare products, Parabens (toxins) of any kind should be avoided. You can identify them if they start off or end with words like PROPYL-, ISOPROPYL-, BUTYL-, AND ISOBUTYL-. Such chemicals are usually found in retail stores and have been discovered to encourage the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells even if used in the smallest amounts.
SHEER: How would you describe the importance and value in buying black?
KH: Alongside holistic health, BLK+GRN is built on the buy black movement and the realization that we can literally vote with our dollars and build our communities by supporting small black businesses and entrepreneurs. Although notable in its own right, the importance of buying black transcends using products that are created to serve us. It gives us the ability to invest into black families and communities for continued opportunities at a better quality of life for ourselves and our children.
SHEER: In what ways do you encourage black women to approach their skincare and beauty routines holistically?
KH: Approaching your skincare and beauty routine holistically beautifies not only your appearance but also benefits your health and soul. My personal wellness cycle started with my hair. I decided I wanted to go natural to resist ingrained eurocentric beauty ideals and limit my exposure to toxic chemicals. During this transition, I started working out more, and my natural hair was so much easier to manage than my relaxed hair. Not only did I start to see the weight drop while working out, but I also started feeling better emotionally. I felt so good that I assessed my eating habits, and made the choice to eat clean.
Then, I thought, if I’m eating clean, why can't my products be clean? That's when I started looking for all natural alternatives to everyday products - beauty, cleaning, bath, and body, etc. Walking through this wellness journey I discovered yoga and became a certified yoga teacher. I’m still on a journey to live greener every day, and I am excited about planting a garden and trying to grow a green thumb. As you can see, you may start with your skin or hair care but it doesn’t have to end there.
SHEER: What are some quick tips and products from your site that black women can use to take care of their skin during the summer months vs. during the cold and dry winter months?
KH: For the summertime we recommend Black Girl Sunscreen (A customer favorite) as a facial moisturizer and Alodia Hair Care Kit to condition and maintain moisturized hair. Both are great for traveling and daily use all seasons!
In the winter months Eve Milan’s Brightening Masque ($7) is especially hydrating and brightens dull skin without bleaching your natural complexion. For bodycare, Shea Radiance’s P.U.R.E line ($7-$40) is ideal for sensitive to Eczema prone skin with. For haircare, Dew Magic Leave-In Hydration ($20) conditions and protects your hair from becoming brittle in cooler weather.
SHEER: How do you hope to grow the BLK+GRN marketplace for the future and further your very important mission?
KH: We’re about more than selling products. We’re about creating a safe space where Black women can normalize self-care. We’re also about Black entrepreneurship. We recently launched Black Wellness Marketing to promote Black wellness events and brands to our audience and customers. There are thousands of black women who run amazing businesses that you’ve never heard of! I see BLK+GRN increasing as a movement to change that by increasing their exposure. Through our events, podcast, and mindful content, we look forward to helping more Black women on their journey to happiness through wellness.