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The fitness, wellness, and beauty industries pride themselves on helping people look and feel their best, but they can often create environments that do not feel welcoming and inclusive to all. Our goal is to amplify Black voices in the wellness community and draw attention to any moments of discomfort that can help lead to positive changes.
We wanted to find out how business owners, fitness instructors, stylists, wellness practitioners, and community members alike can help improve these industries by highlighting real stories—both negative and positive—to provide perspective into marginalized experiences in wellness. We reached out to MBUnited, a diverse council of minority and allied team members dedicated to promoting intercultural dialogue, awareness, and opportunity for minorities.
Here, three team members share their stories.
The lack of representation in mainstream media has been a longstanding battle against inclusivity. Many beauty advertisements, social media accounts, and magazines depict photos of blonde, thin, white women with long, straight hair. This is an issue for many reasons, as it sets a false standard of beauty that neglects most people in this country and seems to exclude them from the beauty market.
Not only that, but many women with textured hair have trouble finding a properly trained stylist who is respectful and inclusive in their practice. Antoinette Little, Technical Business Analyst at Mindbody, shared:
Hair shrinkage is natural for women with textured hair, and the tighter the curl, the more shrinkage you will have. For many years, images of white women with long, straightened hair have dominated, causing insecurity amongst black women. Being a black woman with long curly hair, I've experienced going to busy salons where I've been told ‘we don't service people with your type of hair’ while running fingers through my hair with disgust. As a result, causing me to be extremely self-conscious about the maintenance of my hair and the people I choose to service it.
Walking into a salon should be an exciting and comforting experience. These businesses and stylists exist to help us look and feel beautiful. If they are up-charging or turning some of us away, they are contributing to the false standard of beauty represented in the media and creating an environment that not only excludes but creates longstanding insecurities in Black women.
Group fitness is also often associated with one type of person. We see images of super-fit men with big biceps and six-packs, or skinny, blonde yogis in expensive athletic wear. Many have walked into fitness studios and felt out of place, whether because of their weight, age, skin color, background, or even clothing. This feeling can be reinforced—or diminished—by the type of instructors working in these businesses.
If a business is owned or operated by a diverse staff, it can provide an environment that is welcoming to all types of people. According to Nicole Ely, QA Analyst IV at Mindbody, “If you don't have a diverse staff, the chances your staff will have bias issues are WAY stronger.”
When asked about a wellness experience that stood out as welcoming and inclusive amongst the rest, many of our MBUnited team members mentioned diversity among staff, clientele, and social media.
I took a pole/aerial silk fitness class in New Jersey. The studio has since been closed, but it was the most welcoming experience I'd ever had. The studio was run and operated by black women. I'd never been to a studio run by black women, so the novelty appealed to me. The fact that they were so welcoming, patient, and encouraging made me feel like aerial silks weren't so scary and that they could be for me, a plus-sized black woman.
In classes, I noticed there were women of all different shapes, sizes, and backgrounds, which made the class fun and interactive. Instructors never brought attention to any particular group or individual and played music that wasn't tailored to any specific genre. Oftentimes, I've attended workout sessions when instructors see too many Black faces, and they assume Rap is the type of music the group wants to work out to.
And Derelle Davis, Business Operations Specialist at Mindbody, said, “I love seeing fitness studios whose advertisements and social media looks like a melting pot.”
From diversity and inclusivity of staff, instructors, and clientele, to music played and images on social media accounts, there are so many ways businesses can contribute to a more inclusive environment for all.
If you’re an instructor, stylist, or business owner, be aware of these issues. Whether it’s remembering to encourage everyone equally, educating yourself on unconscious bias and how to eliminate it, or training on how to be a better ally, every step counts toward making positive change in the wellness industry.
When asked how businesses can do better, Ely suggested, "Hire external trainers to talk about bias. Study up about issues in wellness concerning black people and people of color. AND LISTEN when people of color are talking about what they want from their experience.”
Davis specifically mentioned giving each member of fitness classes direct eye contact and encouragement: “Saying something kind and simple like, ‘We're happy to have you, enjoy the class!’ can go a long way.”
If you’re a client at salons, spas, or fitness studios, you can also do your part to increase inclusivity and create a more welcoming environment for all.
If you walk into an establishment, and you see a person of color waiting, and the practitioner calls you up first, ask if you're in line after that other person. Call attention to the fact that someone isn't being seen. Don't support businesses that have race issues. Just because they're comfortable or familiar to you, let them know with your dollars that they need to be comfortable and familiar to everyone in the community.
And while your personal interaction with an establishment can go a long way towards promoting inclusivity, it also helps to marshal the support of friends—and the World Wide Web.
“Invite your friends to help add to the diversity, and write reviews not only explaining the service but including your ethnicity," encouraged Davis. "Personally, if I see Jane's Salon has a stylist that knows how to style African American hair, and they have a great review, I'm going to give them try.”
Over and over again, the message from our respondents was clear: sustained, intentional change from businesses requires sustained, intentional action from its clientele. Being clear about what you’d like to see from a business, leaving reviews about what you have seen, and voting with your wallet can all make a huge difference. As Little put it:
1. Engage with the business and its owners by providing ideas for improvement and feedback on the service you received.
2. Promote the business to your friends and social media groups. If business owners start to see a diverse group of recurring customers, they'll be more prone to expand the quality of service they're providing.
3. Don't give up easily! Once changes are made, business owners will sustain if forced to.
Overall, the wellness industry is supposed to exist to help everyone look and feel beautiful, safe, healthy, and welcomed. At Mindbody, our goal is connecting the world to wellness—not just the blonde yogi or shampoo model.
We all want to be well. And we all want each other to be well. But, in order for the wellness industry to feel attainable and inclusive to all, some changes need to be made. And these changes start with all of us.
In the words of Ely,
I want to support your business. I want to feel beautiful and fit. I want to have an amazing experience at your business! If you don't see people of color at your establishment, if they aren't coming back after coming in once, DO THE DEEP DIVE AND ASK WHY! Look at your staff. Look at your products. Look at your fitness plans. Do your homework and figure out if you can build the same experience for white people AND people of color with the tools and staff that you have. If the answer is no, fix it, and don't just write POC off as a ‘not our target clientele.’
Wellness transcends physical fitness. It’s a dedication to social, emotional, spiritual, and environmental well-being—everything that makes each of us and our communities whole. True wellness cannot be achieved while Black people face ongoing injustice. This is why we fight for Black lives.
Summer is officially here, and with that, there are so many fun activities that will motivate you to get outside to stay in shape and strive for those post-quarantine fitness goals. But before you decide to get outside to enjoy some walking, yoga, swimming, or hiking, remember these best practice skincare habits to protect your skin from common skin concerns, such as, sunburns, chafing, and excessive dryness.
Here, board-certified Dermatologist, Dr. Bottiglione, shares some advice to help your skin stay healthy as you embark into the great outdoors.
When going outside, the sun is going to be your biggest culprit for damaging your skin. While the sun boosts benefits like vitamin D production, take notice when your skin is overexposed to the sun’s harmful rays as it becomes dangerous. When overexposed to direct sunlight, the skin is irritated, causing sunburns, dryness, and sensitivity that can increase the chances for wrinkles and skin cancer as we age.
Luckily, staying inside when it’s so pleasant outside is not the only skincare alternative to avoid the sun’s damaging rays. Here are a few simple tips to prep your skin before stepping outside.
Opt to protect your skin with a clinical-grade sunblocking lotion of 15 SPF or higher.
“Anytime you go outside, you need to apply sunscreen to your skin,” advises Dr. B. “Ensure you apply sunscreen to the full body and reapply often. In the morning, after cleansing your face, is the best time to apply.” He recommends a spray for oily skin, or the Dermatologist’s Choice Sunscreen Enhanced Moisturizer for dry to combination skin types that needs a little extra hydration.
The key is the more intentional you are about proactively protecting your summer skin, the healthier it will be. It may sound simple, but your skin will be happier when you take a preventive approach rather than a reactive approach—for example, applying the sunscreen moisturizer before a walk to help to avoid the treatment of a sunburn after. When prepping your bag for the fun day ahead, make sure to add sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water.
Now the real excitement begins! However you decide to get your fitness outdoors, we have the skincare routine you need or a carefree and healthy day.
Deep breath. Like our favorite flow, these skincare tips will keep our mind—and our skin—at ease. If you take your yoga practice outdoors, wear an SPF shirt, and lay your mat under a nicely shaded tree to help shield you from excessive sun exposure.
“Avoiding direct sunlight and wearing protective clothing is smart to protect your skin from sun damage. Even if you are going for a relaxing walk or doing just a few sun salutations. Staying out of the direct sunlight will reduce your risk of sun damage and wrinkles.” - Dr. B
Swimming is one of the best cardio and strength training workouts, while also an enjoyable activity during the summer. Whether you are swimming in open water or laps in the pool, the excess amount of water with exposure to pool chemicals and environmental pollutants can cause skin irritation and dryness. To keep your skin hydrated and protected, Dr. B. recommends applying the Dermatologist’s Choice Pre-Bath Oil to your skin before entering the water. This will seal your skin’s protective barrier to avoid skin irritation from chemicals and debris. He adds, “The Pre-Bath Oil is what I give to all my patients with eczema or dry skin. It is the only thing that will protect and also deeply hydrate the skin.” Just apply this serum before you put on your sunscreen, and you're good to go!
With warm temperatures during the summer months, it’s the perfect time for hiking and exploring the mountainous outdoors. It is essential to take the necessary steps to avoid your skin becoming sunburnt, irritated, or breaking out. “Wearing a hat with a large brim that will shade your face and neck is key. A baseball cap is just not enough for the sun protection you need. After your hike, it is important to clean your face and pores of sweat, dirt, and toxins with Dermatologist’s Choice Glycolic Peel Cleansing Pads to avoid breakouts from occurring,” Dr. B. warns. Keep them in your bag for easy cleansing after a hike.
One of the biggest skin concerns cyclists or runners usually bring to dermatologists is chafing. Even if you’re just cruising along the seaside or taking a cycling class, those tight clothes and friction can cause some intense irritation and redness. “When you have an issue with chafing, you need to protect your skin. You need armor over the skin. Beeswax, for example, is thick to coat the skin and protect it. Another effective option is the hydrating Dermatologist’s Choice Pre-Bath Oil. For best results, moisturize your skin, and then add a piece of clothing to cover it (that is actually like armor),” Dr. B. shares. Are you a runner? Feel free to use this tip too before your next mile or 30.
At the end of your activity, the real results of that skin preparation set in. But sometimes, you need a little extra support afterwards. After any good workout, cleansing off the sweat, dirt, toxins, and irritant is paramount. Dermatologist Choice pH Balanced Cleanser helps to gently but effectively remove sweat, oil, and restore the skin’s natural pH levels.
Did you end up getting a sunburn, or is your skin dry from the elements? Soothe with the Pre-Bath Oil with natural oils like sunflower and jojoba oil for deep hydration and healing.
“Sun damage can manifest in multiple ways. Most often, you will notice a sunburn first, which can then lead to irritated skin—and over time, sun damage increases the appearance of wrinkles.” For safe measure, at night regenerate sun-damaged skin with Dermatologist's Choice Ultra Anti-Aging Cream with 15% non-neutralized glycolic acid to your skin. This powerful dermatology treatment rebuilds the collagen and exfoliates fine lines, sunspots, and acne on the skin. “Do not apply the Ultra Anti-Aging Cream on a sunburn or irritated skin,” Dr. B. shares. These are long-term habits to aid in maintaining your best skin health.
Capture your best skin with everything you need this summer with the Dermatologist’s Choice Skin Kit, and get 20% off your order with code MB20 at www.dermchoice.com.