Gabrielle Union Swears By This "Yummy" $11 Miracle Leave-In Conditioner
Say hello to Unfiltered, a fresh beauty series where you'll get an exclusive glimpse into the dressed-down beauty routines of our favorite celebrities and content creators. They'll reveal their guilty-pleasure beauty practices, the five-minute-routine product lineup they can't live without, the one good-skin tip they'll be forever thankful for, and so much more. To bring every conversation full circle, we ask each celebrity to send us a selection of self-shot, filter-free photos of their choosing to capture the essence of their Unfiltered beauty philosophy.
Up next, we're getting to know actress, beauty icon, and brand owner Gabrielle Union-Wade. Below, she's answering all of our rapid-fire questions and sharing her favorite products, best-kept beauty secrets, and more. Enjoy!
Let’s talk about your brand Flawless. Can you tell me what inspired you to start this brand and what the creation process was like?
I originally launched Flawless seven or eight years ago. I had different partners, and I was more like the face. I didn’t have the final say in anything—not the pricing, not where it was sold, not what was going into it. It was basically like endorsing myself if that makes any sense. Very quickly, I realized this is not going to work. If I’m selling myself, it needs to be 100% me. We were successful, but that kind of success didn’t feel good to me. So I went back to the lab. I found different investors. I worked hand in hand with several Black chemists to reimagine what great products can look like without all the toxic stuff and at a price that’s more affordable and in stores that are more accessible.
We launched during the pandemic. We came out of the gate like gangbusters. Everyone was home, and it was the perfect time to present these great, affordable products for all different types of hair textures and styles. As far as your imagination can take you, Flawless can be right there with you. It was specifically for the textured-hair community.
There’s such a need for affordable, texture-specific haircare. What was your goal with Flawless, and what role did you hope it would serve for your consumers?
We’re constantly monitoring our feedback. More than anything, people were very appreciative of our pricing and [appreciated that] the products were sold in stores that didn’t demonize their patrons and allowed folks to unscrew caps and feel textures before they bought, which can be a challenge in some stores where they are a little more suspicious of Black or Brown folks smelling things or touching things. They were also really, really appreciative that there was no sketchy stuff.
Those were the biggest takeaways, and that was exactly why we launched. It wasn’t to figure out the solutions to these age-old challenges and then price people out of them. That wasn’t the goal. I wanted products that my own family, who are around the country on limited budgets, could use and afford and feel like these products were made especially for them. That’s hopefully what we’ve accomplished.
I also wanted to make sure that we were putting people that look like me to work and that those people were in charge. It’s a small company, and we’re building slowly. We’re trying to learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of other brands. We’re trying to do this slower, a little bit more methodically, and really leading our innovation with feedback.
I know a lot of women say it can take a journey to fully embrace their natural texture. Can you talk about your hair evolution? Did being in the spotlight ever make you feel pressure to wear your hair in a certain way?
Growing up, I idolized Janet Jackson. I wanted my hair to look like her hair in the “Black Cat” video. It was a cool, shaggy long-bob situation. My cousin was my hairstylist. I would just beg her to leave the relaxer on longer, thinking it would make my hair super straight. All it left me with was lesions. I didn’t give it up. I didn’t give up relaxers until my mid-20s or early 30s … somewhere around there when I realized it was just making my hair so thin and weak and fragile.
When I started working back in the day, you couldn’t be assured that there would be someone in the hair and makeup trailer that would be familiar with Black people, much less styling and maintaining the hair health of textured hair. So I was losing even more hair with my hair being relaxed. I started the long process of growing out my relaxer. I would put [my hair] in braids and protective styles, and every time I took it out, I’d just cut more and more until, eventually, I had completely natural hair.
It was coinciding with hormonal challenges that were leading to autoimmune issues that were leading to hair loss. These were by and large undiagnosed. So I’m just scrambling. I’m in the public eye, and I’m just having plugs of hair leaving my scalp. I’m sort of positioned as a leading lady, and there’s a certain amount of admiration for my physical appearance. I was terrified.
Luckily, I started producing. People wanted to make sure Black and Brown talent had people in the glam room that could style them well and maintain hair health. But they weren’t letting in enough of those people for everyone to feel confident and comfortable.
That became a mission for me as I was gaining more control—to make sure that everyone in our industry had access to the same things I did. I remember the first time I wanted to wear braids. This was within the last 10 years. It was never an option for me when we would discuss hairstyles because a lot of folks felt braids weren’t attractive—one person even said clean. I heard they weren’t professional, and they weren’t chic.
I was doing a project, and I said I wanted Senegalese twists. They were like, “Well, she’s supposed to be pretty and sophisticated.” I was like, “Mm-hmm, Senegalese twists.” Eventually, I just wore them down, and I’ve never gotten more positive feedback from wearing a hairstyle in a film. I think that allowed other productions to trust me. I know what I’m doing. I know what’s best for me. I know what’s best for my character. People are going to respond well to it, and that’s exactly what happened. It’s my job then to make sure that every actor has the ability to craft characters the way they see fit. All hairstyles should be on the table, and there shouldn’t be any pushback about natural hair, textured hair, or wearing your hair the way it comes out of your head. Unfortunately, it’s still very much a challenge.
It’s crazy that that was less than 10 years ago, and it’s still a struggle. Thank you for walking me through that. My next question is about your personal haircare routine. What are your go-to products?
Luckily, I have a haircare line, which makes things a little easier for me. Our core collection is phenomenal. I’ve been using that for forever—even before it was available. I use the Detangling Shampoo. Some of this depends on the amount of time I have. For a quick routine, it would be the Detangling Shampoo ($21) and the 3 Minute Conditioner ($10). Then, I would go to our new 5 Butter Leave-In Conditioner ($11). It’s amazing, and it smells so good.
If I was doing a blowout style, I would use the Blow Dry Cream ($10) and the Heat Protection Spray ($10). Then, I would blow-dry and use the Oil Treatment ($10) to finish it off. If I had more time and I wanted to use a deep conditioner, I would use the 5 Butter Miracle Masque ($10) under a steamer along with the rest of our styling products.
This might be the toughest question of them all, so I almost feel bad asking it. If you had to name your favorite Flawless product, which one would it be?
This is like choosing between my children. Everything in the core collection is amazing, but if I had to say one, it would be one of our new products, the 5 Butter Miracle Leave-In Conditioner ($11). It’s so creamy, and it has great slip, and it super easily detangles my hair, and the smell is to die for. It’s just yummy. It makes my hair feel like butter. That would be my favorite.
I love that you mentioned slip. I hate when a hair product doesn’t have good slip, so it’s not evenly distributed. Half of my hair will feel great, and the other half will have gotten absolutely no product. I love a creamy texture.
It’s so good, and it works instantly. And the smell! There’s something about it. Mine goes missing—let me just put it that way. I’m like, “You know we can go to the store and not just steal mom’s stash, right?”
Can you tell me how your beauty routine has evolved over the years?
Oh, I was Basic Betty back in the day. My mom didn’t have an extensive routine, and my older sister didn’t, so I was literally washing my face with a bar of soap… whatever was in the shower. It was more when I got older and my hormones changed that I was like, “Uh-oh, what’s going on?” I had started using the Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Cleanser ($10) that had salicylic acid. I must have mentioned it, because I became a Neutrogena spokesperson, so I was using all Neutrogena products.
As I got older and the hormone situation just kept changing and changing and changing, I started going to a dermatologist and trying to figure out how to combat hormonal breakouts and dark spots and blackheads and cystic acne. As we moved into high-def, I was like, “Agh! The world is going to see the evolution of this zit. How do we deal?” I’ve tried so many different things. I’ve just had to piecemeal my skincare over the years.
I use the brand Topicals. I use the Little Herbs Co. skincare line. I use 111Skin as well. I just keep switching it up. I’m blessed that people send their new offerings, so I’m able to try things and see what works and what doesn’t.
Are there any beauty trends you’re happy you embraced? Are there any you regret buying into—like, “Why did I do that?”
Let’s start with the “Why did I do that?” I was the chip in the cookie. I lived in predominantly white communities. There was a trend of wearing the Wet ‘n’ Wild frosty-pink lipstick for ¢99. Everyone was on the frosty-pink lipstick. I was like, “Yes, of course it’s for me,” and it was absolutely not for me. When you pair that with a powder blue eye shadow, which looked amazing on my friend, it didn’t play out the same for me. I regret thinking that every trend is created equally. I remember trying that frosted pink with one of my cousins, and she was like, “Girl, haven’t you ever heard of frosted brownie?” I tried it, and that was the move.
What I love and what I’m all about today is the darker chocolate liner with a lighter gloss or nude lipstick. I’m all in. Me and Maddy from Euphoria, we’re all in. I also never have given up on my cat-eye winged liner. I’ve been rocking that since the late ’80s. I won’t give it up. I won’t do it.
Oh, never give that up. It’s the most classic look. Speaking of makeup, are there any specific products you love?
I go with any of the eyeliner pens. I’ll use store-bought no problem. If I run out, I just run back to the store. I don’t see a big difference between the super-expensive ones or the drugstore ones. They’re about the same.
I don’t generally put on makeup every day unless I have to be fully presentable. I use the Pat McGrath Foundation ($69). I like to tan, so I have 24, 25, and 26, and I’m obsessed with her Concealer ($34). Those are amazing.
I only wear Fenty lip glosses, and I worked in some Mario glossy lipsticks…
I love those ones!
I use the Caramel one all the time. I’m not “I gotta fully beat for the cheap seats” every day, but when I do… Charlotte Tilbury has this Finishing Spray ($38) that I gag for. There’s a Glossier lip treatment, and it comes in different flavors. It’s kind of fire.
I love the Balm Dotcom! They have a Birthday one that I’m obsessed with.
Yes! That’s the one I used today! I have all the flavors. I literally have a problem. I rarely shop online, but when I do… Yeah, it’s a problem. It’s a haul.
That’s how I am. Finally, what’s your Unfiltered beauty philosophy in seven words or less?
Do you. Do what makes you happy.
People are going to have a lot of say about everything for your whole life. You’re never going to make 100% of people happy. Start with yourself—start and end there. Don’t make excuses for it. Don’t explain it. Do what makes you happy. If you want thin eyebrows, bitch, you better go for it! It’s no one else’s business.
Experiment. Try on different hats. Try on different styles. When you travel, if you see something you want to try out but you’re worried about what people might say, who gives a shit? They’re going to say something no matter what. Do what makes you happy.
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