Photographer Flo Ngala On How Shaving Her Head Got

“Yoooo, Flo here (@flongala). I’m a native New Yorker, born and raised in Harlem, where I currently live and work as a photographer. I first got into photography because of a class in school, but it became an exciting way to express myself and push my creativity outside of the classroom. My days vary so much—I could be in the middle of a big edit, or working on a personal project, or just sending emails, and if I said I had a structure I’d be lying. But the best part of my job is getting to turn my observations into a moment that others can experience. Each day, I’m trying to push myself a little bit more into a disciplined routine.

I started experimenting with beauty in elementary school, because I was a figure skater. We’d have these end of the year ice shows that the older girls would help us get glammed up for. I didn’t really get into skincare and makeup until later, when I completely shaved my head. I didn’t even realize I had been hiding behind my braids until they were gone, and suddenly my face was at the forefront. It made me feel less feminine. Still, having seen influencers and celebrities without their makeup scares me out of a full beat. I don’t ever want my before and after faces to look super different. As a photographer it’s important for me to ask a subject things like, ‘Are you comfortable in this? Is this something you’d wear? Is this how you want to look?’ I want to respect and appreciate how each person decides to represent their beauty, because that’s beautiful. Comfort is key—a full glam look might be beautiful in theory, but if you’re not comfortable in it it’ll show.

I bought Black Opal’s Liquid Foundation in Hazelnut when I was traveling and forgot my makeup at home, but it was the best thing that could have happened. It’s great for girls with dark skin—the red undertone? Bruh. This brand is bomb. When I wear it, my face looks super healthy and alive. This Sephora Collection concealer in #19 is one of the first makeup products I ever purchased, but it matches my skin perfectly so I’ve stuck with it. Blended together, the two are clutch for an all-over even tone. My eyebrows aren’t naturally the thickest, so I’ve started getting into Boy Brow, but my eyelashes have always been super curly and long, and I like to accentuate that with mascara. I swear by Too Faced Better Than Sex because it gives my lashes amazing volume, and the depth makes my eyes look really bright. My favorite thing is being asked whether they’re real or fake—that really gets me going.

But 75-percent of the time I’m leaving the house just moisturized and barefaced. I like prepping my face in the shower, or steaming my face with a warm washcloth. It feels super refreshing. It’s important for me to get all of that mascara off, so I gently rub oil onto my lashes and use a cotton swab to remove anything left over. You might not see it with open eyes, but you’d be surprised how many of us are out here with mascara residue on our eyelids! I exfoliate with the La Roche-Posay Ultra-Fine Scrub, which doesn’t feel as harsh as other face scrubs I’ve used. That’s great, considering I tend to be heavy-handed—and I know it works because of how smooth my face feels when I rinse it off. And then the Clinique Moisture Surge moisturizer would be next up. When I say this feels like velvet on your skin, believe me. It’s literally a skin souffle—very hydrating, and perfect to travel with for instant hydration.

I’m not the most hands on with my hair, but I’m working on it! The natural hair community on YouTube is full of dope content creators who I’m really appreciative of, but it was really my sister’s love for her hair that eased me into trying new things. Sampling whatever she’s purchased is my go-to for finding products. Now, my favorites include Wild Growth Hair Oil, which is a classic, Rucker Roots GTC Daily Leave-In, and Shea Moisture’s Deep Conditioning Hair Masque. I also recently got the Camille Rose Naturals Honey Hydrate Leave-In Conditioner—I love how viscous it is and how good it smells! Think I’ll be investing in the rest of the collection.

To unwind, maybe I’ll braid my hair while watching a movie (it’s usually in box braids, which makes my life a bit easier) or give myself an at-home facial while listening to a good podcast. Stretching is amazing, and as I’ve found my body getting increasingly tense, I’ve really had to get into it. Sometimes being productive feels relaxing. On the flip side of all of that, I’m a sleep ambassador, and a long, borderline-too-hot shower can also feel really good.”

—as told to ITG

Photos via the author

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