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Maybelline New York Beauty & Beyond

For most of her life, Balanda Atis has had trouble finding a foundation that matches her skin tone. And she's far from the only woman of color to have this problem.

Growing up in a Haitian community in East Orange, New Jersey, she often heard women in her community voice their frustrations over it. There simply weren't enough specific foundation colors out there for non-white women, so they'd end up using shades that didn't really suit their skin tone.

Even after Atis started working in makeup development at L'Oréal over 18 years ago, this skin tone issue remained prevalent. It actually wasn't until 2011 that their foundation line got the diversity makeover it needed. And that's largely thanks to her.


Atis working in the lab. All photos via Upworthy.

Back in 2006, Atis began the challenging task of fixing the diversity gap in the brand's foundation line.

Their research and development team had just shared a slew of new foundations that were meant to do just that, but when Atis tried them, she told her department head that she still couldn't find her skin tone match. So he turned to her and said, "fix it."

With that, Atis began traveling all over the country collecting data on the wide spectrum of skin tones out there.

Atis and two colleagues ending up doing a lot of their reconnaissance work during their time off on nights and weekends — mostly because it had become a labor of love. As a result, it took several years to collect all the information they needed to start creating more shades. However, in retrospect, the effort was more than worth it.

She wasn't just working to correct an issue at L'Oréal — deepening and expanding foundation shade range has been an industry-wide challenge for decades.

"What drove us on those 12-hour days was knowing that we were solving a problem for women," Atis says.

Atis and a colleague testing foundation pigments.

For example, they learned that adding ultramarine blue, a less widely used color, to certain shades created deep, pure foundation colors that maintained their vibrancy. Previously, darker foundation colors tended to look flat and dull on skin.

When Atis presented their revolutionary findings, L'Oréal put her on the task of developing multi-cultural beauty products full-time as part of a new lab dedicated exclusively to this work. That lead to the creation of more than 30 new foundation shades, which were implemented across L'Oréal in 2011. Needless to say, her involvement was a total game changer.

Several of L'Oréal's brands have since utilized her research including Maybelline, Dermablend, L'Oréal Paris and Lancome.

Moreover, with more women of color becoming the faces of beauty brands, the industry is making it clear that representation matters to them. And thanks to chemistry pioneers like Atis, their image can be accurately enhanced.

That said, Atis and her team are always working to expand the L'Oréal library of shades for women of color. But Atis also has another important focus.  

Today, as head of the Multicultural Beauty Lab at L'Oréal, Atis is showing girls how they too can make a huge difference in the world using science.

Together with her chemistry team, Atis explains to these avid students how they mix and create new foundations, taking into consideration factors like texture and the way light affects different pigments. The hope is that they're inspiring these chemistry enthusiasts to pursue a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math fields).

The benefits of this learning program are two-fold for L'Oréal — they're infusing the STEM world with much-needed diversity and possibly increasing the pool of beauty chemists who see what's lacking in the makeup department.

Atis teaches young women about the chemistry behind making foundations.

"I think it's really important for young girls to learn about STEM, and the opportunities are so big," explains Shauna-Kaye Scotland, senior chemist at L'Oréal. "They need to know that they exist."

The experience seems to do just as much good for the scientists themselves.

"I realized the little bit I was able to share really has a huge impact on them and their future," Atis says.

There's so much possibility that comes with learning the science behind how things are made. As long as women like Atis keep opening the door to interested young women, there's no telling how diverse the spectrum of new women scientists will become.

Learn more about Atis' work with the Multicultural Beauty Lab here:

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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Ginger the dog was stolen from her family back in 2017. Her owner, Barney Lattimore of Janesville, Wisconsin, never gave up the hope that his sweet girl was out there somewhere. Whenever he'd see a dog listed on a rescue website or humane society website that even remotely resembled his Ginger, he would inquire about the dog. Unfortunately, it was never her. You'd think that after a while he would stop, but if he had, he likely wouldn't have gotten the sweetest reunion.

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"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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