the matte project


Beauty Journey: Kholisa Thomas

Name: Kholisa Thomas

Occupation: Art dealer and consultant


I grew up in a big tight knit family. I have an older sister, a younger sister and younger brother. My mother came from a family of 11 and my father a family of 6 so I grew with my siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and an ever-expanding group of cousins! Both my parents were very hard working and successful people in their own rights. My father – a medical doctor and my mother – a geography teacher by training, both have gone on to become senior advisors in government, in health and environmental affairs respectively. They both have Master’s degrees from Harvard, no pressure! From a young age they instilled the values of hard work, family, education and giving back to your community. They were both active in “The Struggle” and in the community’s development in my home town of Port Elizabeth where we grew up.

My mother was and still is a very beautiful and glamorous woman. My parents were always hosting political gatherings for ANC leaders at our home or social parties. Their parties were legendary and my Mom was the ultimate host who always looked the part. She had this ability of making everyone who came to our house feel special. She would cook a special meal just for them or she made the house extra clean and would have fresh flowers on the table. She was always well groomed and well dressed and I think this was not a vanity thing but an extension of her wanting to make her guests feel special that she always made an effort to look good for however the visitor was.

My mother was a diehard fan of Estee Lauder products. I don’t think I ever saw her use anything else! She also practiced yoga and used to give lessons in our garage in KwaMagxaki to women in the neighbourhood. She was a true pioneer and she inspired my belief in holistic beauty from a young age.

Winnie Mandela is my first memory of someone’s beauty taking my breath away. I think I saw her on television with Nelson Mandela in a documentary about the ANC and the treason trial. I had never seen a more beautiful woman. Strong, composed, graceful, with her head up high despite all the challenges that lay before her. This is still my definition of beauty: a confidence, an inner strength conveyed through your gaze and how you treat other people. Beauty is what you believe about yourself.


My beauty routine reflects my overall health belief system. I believe in being in tune with your body, mentally and spiritually. To be in balance and in harmony with your body and your surroundings. Our skin is an extension of our body, so I start from within. I read a lot about health and wellness. I eat well, 80% of the time and 20% I eat whatever I like! I exercise and even though I hate it I drink lots of water. I also try and meditate which for me isn’t sitting still on a mat but it’s about trying to get out in nature as much as possible. That’s my meditation, being at the beach or in a park reminds me to be grateful for life whatever my circumstances are because life is beautiful and can be taken away in an instant.

I’ve always had a gratitude journal and I never thought to extend it to my body but as I got older and started complaining about dark eyes or fine lines, the practice of gratitude has been very transformational. I would imagine being blind, for example, and losing the use of my eyes – that made me deeply grateful for being able to see at all and suddenly the dark circles under my eye didn’t seem too bad. 


I use 100% cold pressed virgin coconut oil to remove my makeup. I love the way it smells and feels on my skin, it’s silky texture and how your hands easily warm it so it feels amazing to the touch. I use an Environ Toner and Cream cleanser, I love the Environ brand because it’s a South African product and their skin philosophy of harnessing potent natural ingredients for the skin aligns with mine.

Then I switch to the Body Shop’s Oil’s of Life range. I start with the Oils of Life Intensively Revitalizing Facial oil, I’m obsessed with this product! It infuses three precious seed oils from around the world known for their repairing properties on skin: Black Cumin seed oil from Egypt, Camellia seed oil from China and Rosehip seed oil from Chile. I have very dry skin in winter and the inclusion of this product to my skin care routine has changed my life! No more tight dry skin through out the day and I love that it’s all natural products. Then I use the eye cream gel from the same range and finish off with the Revitalising Cream Moisturiser in the same range. I just bought the twin ball facial massager, it’s amazing! Massage improves skin tone and circulation, massaging your face stimulates blood flow and lymphatic drainage. I leave this step for the weekends cos aint no body got time for a facial massage when you have to drop the kids need to be at school by 7:30am! Making time for it on the weekends makes me feel like I’m giving my skin that extra lovin so I love that too.

I love the “no make up” trend as per our queen Alicia Keys….I’ve started with make up detox on the weekends, it’s good for the skin and for loving yourself just as you are.

A beauty trend I wish would go away is highlighting and strobing. It’s just that so many people get it wrong and it can be really unflattering.


I know some people will think this a bit weird and new age but I’m strong believer of listening to your body and being in tune with the changing of the month and seasons. I believe as women our moods and feelings are tied to our menstrual cycles and if you are like me and have an average 30 day cycle that’s also tied to the changing cycles of the moon – every full moon is a kind of special time of healing and connecting with my body. I’ll light candles, have a long bath, make a facial mask, all home made. My favourite are avocado, olive oil and lemon or natural yogurt and honey. I’ll also make natural masks for my hair, using coconut oil, egg whatever my favourite natural hair bloggers are cooking up! It’s a time for me to reflect and slow down as our family has a very busy work and social schedule. It’s also become a ritual I share with my daughter, who’s 8. She loves making the masks with me, applying it to her hair or my face and I remind her how special she is, how we have to love ourselves, look after and honour our bodies.

I love that I’m imparting these values to her in the context of a very commercialized, body image hating society that she is growing up in. I’m sad I don’t know more about my Xhosa heritage and my culture’s use of natural ingredients for wellness. This is something I’m working on and hoping to share with my son and daughter. I think what is not told about the “natural, holistic” health and wellness trend/movement is that many of the ingredients and practices used originate from Africa and have been used by Africans for centuries. Suddenly because the West indorses it, it’s now acceptable and ok but before it was something done by “uncivilized” African when in fact history is now showing that Africans were the most highly evolved in many areas of life. I hate that this story is not being told, that that sense of pride and confidence in our Blackness isn’t being bestowed to our girl and boy children.


 Beauty is absolutely and unequivocally political. If you accept that many of our ideas about beauty are constructed and that the ideals of beauty were made up by a group of people and in most cases these are Western, white males because they own the “institutions” of beauty (the fashion houses, the media houses, the cosmetics industries, the exercise and diet industries, the cosmetics surgery industries, etc.) Their “construct” or “beauty ideal” is inevitably Western and White, which basically excludes over half of the earth’s billion inhabitants who are non-western and non white and women! Therefore they have very different ideas and values about what beauty is or means to them. And so for as long as the “Other” is not writing their own stories about beauty, owning their own beauty companies, media houses, creating content and conversations about beauty – then many women can never attain the Western “beauty ideal” as sold to millions of women around the globe and you can be sure that those “masters of the beauty ideal” don’t want to lose this control over millions of consumers. So yes, beauty is deeply political.

Sade is my ultimate beauty crush. She is talented, confident, an artist, someone who believes in herself and her work. She remains “ageless” because her values are timeless. I have every album, I follow every Tumblr, every Instagram account of her #Obsessed.