Ari Lennox's "Soap, Water, and Shea Butter" Routine Is Working for Her

Her Instagram Lives are highly quotable. Her music has likely brought a few new humans into the world. Her beauty routine, though? Super chill.

When I spoke to Ari Lennox, she was in the middle of a round of interviews to promote "If You Want Me to Stay," a new cover of the original Sly and the Family Stone tune. Lennox appears on the song with Anthony Ramos, but it's more than just a take on the old classic. The singers have partnered with Crown Royal to help raise money for Main Street Alliance, an agency providing relief to all the bars, clubs, and stages that have been suffering due to COVID-19 shutdowns. Every time you stream the track, Crown Royal makes a donation.

"What I find really beautiful about this opportunity is the fact that Crown Royal cares about wanting to keep these venues around," Lennox tells me during our phoner. "[These are] people's jobs — the bartenders, the owners, the security, the technicians. There are all different types of employees and people that help keep these venues thriving. It's important to keep these jobs out there."

Lennox, who has performed in her fair share of entertainment venues over the years, also stresses a greater human element. Keeping these places in business is not just good for the folks that work there — it's also important to the rest of us in eventually getting back to normal post-pandemic. "It's important for people to gather. It's very therapeutic to listen to your favorite artist or to dance to your favorite song," she muses. "And then also for artists to get on that stage and pay homage to the legends that came before them that did their thing on that stage. A lot of these venues [we're trying to help] have such legendary history."

Lennox, like the rest of us, is definitely missing that aspect of pre-COVID life. "I need that inspiration so that I can come up with some dope songs." 

In the meantime, while these venues are closed, Lennox is focused on taking care of herself. That includes decorating her new home, hanging out with her dog, and, it turns out, keeping her beauty routine pretty chill. Those gorgeous trademark curls? Turns out they don't need much manipulating. And as much as we love an elaborate beauty routine, Lennox makes the case for keeping it as pared back as possible. 

ALLURE: Besides being an amazing musician, you've also given us some major curl inspo. What are some of your favorite products to use on wash day?

ARI LENNOX: Just a natural soap. Any type of natural soap, I'll use for my scalp. I use natural shampoo, something that's paraben-free, free of toxins and chemicals. Afterward, I [use] just shea butter, really. Shea butter and a favorite oil of mine, whether it's grapeseed oil, olive oil, or jojoba oil. It's relatively simple — I wash it whenever I feel like it needs to be washed, about every two weeks or sooner.

ALLURE: Do you use curl enhancers ever?

AL: Sometimes. Only if I'm trying to style it and get it in a bun, get the curls to listen. I'll use some, but usually, I'm just too lazy. I'll just let my curls just be free, for real.

ALLURE: I love that. I think for a lot of Black women with natural hair, there's pressure in the community to have an elaborate hair routine. And it's like, "Can I just be lazy please? Can I just put it in a puff and live my life?"

AL: Right. My only thing is, when I do protective styles, I [typically] do braids, [and then I feel like they] are so not cute. Other people's braids be looking so beautiful, but mine don't. It seems like they're just not luscious when I try to braid my hair. [Once I get to day two], they'll feel a little dry and shriveled up. Do you ever experience that? Do your braids really listen to you?

ALLURE: Well, it depends on who does them and if I soaked the hair in apple cider vinegar. Sometimes, it's not so much that they're shrivelly, but they'll make me itch.  What about skin care? Are you obsessed or that routine also super low-key?

AL: Super chill, just soap, water, and shea butter.

ALLURE: Do you use a drugstore bar or is it also another natural soap?

AL: It's whatever soap is in the house. If somebody in my life [would tell me exactly what to use,] I will use it. But I'm just really lazy and will not do things that require much energy.

ALLURE: You're in the public eye. I think the perception is that there needs to be a lot of production behind existing — even taking a selfie to put on Instagram can be a whole to-do. But you don't seem to necessarily subscribe to that.

AL: Right. But like I said, I'm open to someone glowing me up and enlightening me on key products to have in my house — but I don't go out of my way to do that. And then I don't really… I mean, I do kind of care what people think, but it's more about what makes me comfortable, what makes my skin happy. I've noticed my skin doesn't need much to be happy, so I just stick with simple.

ALLURE: But there is that pressure to be glam, no?

AL: Yes. I feel the pressure. But once again, I'm too lazy. So I don't give a shit, kind of. Part of me wants to look as polished as some of the greatest legends that are around today. But another thing I'm just like, "Man, that's also not me every day." I don't mind showing people what I look like every day, because what the hell? To me, that's real life. At least that's my real life, but I'm also conflicted because I'm at a point where I do want to be like Beyoncé and just be really just glammed up and really badass-gorgeous. I do feel conflicted at times.

ALLURE: We're all inside and I know you have a new place. Come on, homeowner! Have you been super into decorating?

AL: Yes and no. I find I have to, once again, be still and accept that I can't do everything that I want right away. That's been hard to accept because I like to watch a lot of home improvement shows. To know that I can't do everything in one day or in a month, [knowing that I can't] fix everything I want to fix is driving me crazy.

I'm practicing just being content in not being able to change much, but I do little things. There's an antique store not far from me and I've found some of the most beautiful, beautiful gems in there: Beautiful antique mirrors and nice rattan furniture. Cool, vibey stuff. I've found ways to decorate here and there at a slower pace.

ALLURE: Obviously, there's a lot going on in the world. How do you stay grounded and sane through it all? We're all experiencing this situation in such different and profound ways.

AL: Definitely hanging out with my dog has helped me a lot. Staying off of online dating sites.

ALLURE: Whew! Amen!

AL: I'm just staying away from anything that doesn't feel genuine. I have been still and just practicing self-love and trying to eat better. I'm basically walking towards peace and away from anything that I find toxic.

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