“Growing up, my mum made me moisturise every single day – now it’s a self-care habit I never break”
Written by Akesha Reid
Stretching back generations, writer Akesha Reid reflects on her love for moisturising.
I think my mum taught me the importance of moisturising around the same time I learnt the importance of brushing my teeth. And no, I’m not joking. In fact, I think I had a better understanding of the need for regular moisturising than oral hygiene for a very long time: it was simply the need to not look ashy.
Being “ashy” is a state that is so intrinsically linked to being Black. Our skin gives away when we are dehydrated or lacking moisture by turning a grey-ish hue; cracks sometimes visible in the make-up of our skin – my mum would not have any of her kids looking ashy, no way.
Solid cocoa butter, shea butter and the classic Palmer’s Cocoa Butter tub would line the windowsill of our little bathroom, ready to be slathered onto my freshly damp from the bath skin as a toddler, all the way up to the age of five, when I became in charge of my own ashiness.
The warmth of my skin meant that the oiliness of whatever product my mum or dad picked would melt into my skin with ease. I would feel like a dolphin, so slick with oil and moisture as they carried me into my room – much like one of those slippery water snake toys.
When I was about five years old my mum took me to the doctor and insisted that I had eczema. (She’s a nurse and this was pre-Google, so she had to be pretty sure of my symptoms.)
She explained that no matter how much she moisturised my skin, she would still catch me licking the dry crooks of my arm and excessively scratching myself sore. After being fobbed off multiples times, I was finally diagnosed with eczema and the moisturising routine ramped up – it was like our household was sponsored by E45 and Palmer’s.
I think if I wasn’t so used to my mum keenly “creaming” herself, as she calls it, I might have developed a complex about my skin, but excessively moisturising was completely normalised in our household. And to be ashy, whether you had eczema or not, was an absolute sin.
Intrigued, I asked my mum where she got this obsession from and, of course, it was from her mum. When they travelled from Jamaica to the UK, my grandparents were taken aback by how hard the water was here in London, leaving their skin dry and tight. So, my nan would venture to Brixton market and visit the West Indian stores to pick up slabs of solid cocoa butter along with cooking ingredients.
After bath time, my nan would tell my mum and her siblings to “cream up” themselves in her thick patois accent. While my childhood bath routine and my mum’s may have been completely different (she can vividly remember when she first had an indoor bath and toilet), the post-cleanse direction was still the same: don’t look ashy.
To this day, my mum and I will go wild for a new body cream, the more bougie the better. I introduced her to the Byredo body cream just this month and she loved it for the high concentration of shea butter in the formula.
Of all the amazing things my mum has taught me, moisturising after every single shower or bath is one of my favourites. Of course, because it helped me manage my eczema, but it’s also served as a micro self-care habit that I refuse to break.
Those few extra minutes I take every day to care for my body really does make me feel more connected to it and, twice a month (at the start and mid-way through my cycle), I also use these moments to check my breasts – another habit that my mum instilled in me.
My body serves me every single day, the least I can do is indulge the skin I’m in with some luxurious-feeling oils and creams. My mum and I do still use Palmer’s Cocoa Butter occasionally though.
Main image: Akesha Reid
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