Grace Eleyae Understands How to Take Care of Herself — And Her Hair

We sat down with Grace Eleyae, creator of the original Satin-Lined Cap, the Slap, to talk about intentional self-care.

Portrait of Grace Eleyae
Photo: Kenneth Billington and Tal Kissos

Self-care is a critical pillar of wellness. But exhaustion and general busyness can often get in the way, creating a negative cycle for rest and overall wellbeing. That's why, Grace Eleyae makes it paramount to prioritize time for herself.

For Eleyae, self-care is not just about bedtime rituals and hair-care routines. “Self-care is different for everything, but mainly it’s about making sure that you are also meeting your own needs,” she says. It's also this mantra that's been infused into the Slap, a satin-lined cap that not only provides glam hair protection while you sleep, but it also eases friction in people’s day to day schedule by helping them look ready to go, without needing a 30-minute routine.

We sat with Eleyae to talk about the Slap and how prioritizing self-care has allowed her to become more intentional about how she winds down before bed.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

How did you create the Slap?

The idea for the Slap came in 2013 when I had some pretty devastating breakage happen during a vacation. I basically had a two-inch-wide hole of breakage in the back of my head that could have been prevented. But because I was on vacation, I wanted to look cute — and I didn't want to only wear a scarf.

[After that vacation,] I started thinking, “There has to be something that is stylish enough for me to want to wear it on vacation, but also still protective of my hair.”

And this started the wheels turning toward some kind of beanie that also had satin on the inside.

A year later, I finally created the original prototype, which was like a skull cap and really small. But I showed it to friends and family. Actually, my mom was the one who said, ‘This could be a business.’ That's where the idea came from.

From hair breakage to not taking care of yourself... we all know the sacrifice of not being able to take time to look cute because we’re too busy on the go. How does this story of self-care connect with the Slap and people who use your product?

It's funny because when I created the product, I thought I was solving a problem that was just in my own life. I didn't realize that we were answering such a huge problem in the market until we really started getting there.

From people who experienced hair breakage to people going through chemotherapy, people who were tired of having to do a full 30-minute routine just to go to Starbucks because they didn’t want to leave looking like they just got out of bed — once we got going to market [to serve these people], the feedback has been amazing.

In looking through YouTube, the Slap has had an obvious impact. It’s a great product and they look amazing. How is it essential to your nighttime routine — as it relates to your wellbeing and mental health?

With COVID, I had to try and keep my flow as similar to pre-pandemic as possible in order to be productive. So once I ‘come home’ in terms of winding down, I usually make dinner and spend time just decompressing, whether it’s watching a show or talking to friends. Just to take my mind off work for a second.

Then once I’m transitioning into my actual nighttime routine, I make sure relaxation time feels clear. Dimming the lights after work, lighting candles to set the mood... then I wash my face, whether I have makeup on or not, and apply a Vitamin C serum for hyperpigmentation, which helps even out my skin tone.

Then I spray some rose water on my face and in my hair before using an African oil, like argan or marula, to really lock in the moisture. After that, I put on the Slap and then go to bed. It’s a relatively simple nighttime routine.

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My Nighttime Routine with Grace Eleyae

Simple is easy to stick to, especially when it comes to rituals, which are so integral to our wellbeing. Are there any elements of your ritual that were passed down from a parent, sister, auntie, or even girlfriend?

Now it’s poo-poo'd to use petroleum jelly, but my mom used Vaseline all the way up until now and she looks so good. I’m excited for older age because my mom looks great.

I also grew up in a Christian home. A big ritual for us is having a quiet time in the morning just to center whether it’s reading the Bible or praying. It centers me for the day, especially in discouraging times.

And how does haircare play into your definition and ritual for self-care?

A lot of us live in the outer world, glorifying the busy life. Being able to have seasons of rest, whether it’s on the daily or little seasons, to really check in with yourself and make sure that the mental, emotional, and physical is all in line.

Slap did this in small ways. After creating it, I gained the confidence of being able to get up and go. It was a huge boost in and of itself. Before I felt so constrained, feeling like I only had two options of not going somewhere or taking 40 minutes to do my hair. And now I have an option that doesn’t cause me to worry about breaking my hair. On a plane, I’m wearing the Slap. On a long car ride, I’m wearing the Slap.

It even started bringing out my natural curl. There are different hair types, 1A, 2, 3... and I used to say that mine was 4Z. The fact that I was able to get it was a huge confidence boost for me as well.

Is there a quote you look to for self-care inspiration?

I like the Nelson Mandela quote that says, “May your choices reflect your hope, not your fears.”

It’s really easy to allow fears and doubts from the world to cloud our decisions. And essentially, self-care helps with that by giving space for you to check-in with yourself and make sure the decisions you’re making align with the hopes you have for your future and yourself.

That’s really beautiful. You’ve also talked about rest and being intentional, which is really difficult in today’s world, but we’ve all been forced to do that during lockdown. What’s been your challenge, specifically when it comes to your nighttime routine, to getting a good night of sleep?

For me, it goes back to lack of schedule. It was so easy to just work, but then I’d look at my clock and it’d be midnight. I’ve had to look more introspectively at myself in a way that was very healing but very difficult, and as a result reprioritized things differently and put boundaries for myself and around my time.

I started taking tennis lessons with my sister and we really enjoy it. I've found it to be very stress-relieving and so I find and make time for it.

And is there anything special about the way you set up your bedroom to make it conducive to a good night’s sleep?

I set up my room so it’s intentional about my access to the world and the world’s access to me is limited. I try to control it, so I sleep with my phone in the bathroom or somewhere unreachable. I also don’t have a TV in my bedroom.

Do you have advice for anyone who is completely discouraged by the learning curve for maintaining a nighttime routine?

I’ve found that the discouragement typically happened when I was trying to match the routine of someone else. I was like, ‘I’m not getting those results' or ‘It’s taking so much longer.' But one person’s routine will not match another’s.

To find your own routine, my advice is usually to try everything, essentially. It took me a while to get fully established, but once I found what worked for me, it helped tremendously and stuck. Once you find what works for you, stick to that.

Do you have a story of a time where you just said, ‘To hell with this routine. I’m not doing it,’ and if so, what happened?

The times I’ve decided that I’m not going to wear my Slap, or I fall asleep on the couch or on a cotton pillowcase — the amount of shedding that happened in my hand when I collect all my stragglers from the sink — it’s a massacre.

While I’ve learned it’s not worth it to skip the Slap, one of the things we created for this scenario is a throw pillowcase that has style on one side and satin on the other. Find the right pillow and turn it over. If I don’t do it, I’m going to pay.