My Beauty Routine Couldn’t Have Been More Different from My Mom’s—Until We Found Common Ground


At the height of the pandemic, I was spending days alone, typing at my laptop and scrolling on my phone. I began to feel a constant sense of restlessness that brought with it a low-level anxiety that, over time, morphed into a subtle depression. I needed to find a way to reintroduce joy and novelty into my life.

It started with bubble baths. At least once a week I would soak my stress away and treat myself to a warm scented bath. But as my anxiety grew, so did my bath habit.

While there was a huge mess of things I couldn’t control, inside my bathroom, standing in front of my mirror, I attempted to control my skin.

At first it was just eucalyptus bath salts and a single candle, and as my ritual progressed, incorporating new products became part of the fun. Exploring new scrubs, cleansers, and candles online became a regular part of my day and, consequently, walking six feet outside my apartment to retrieve a package became therapeutic.

My skincare routine expanded exponentially as well. While there was a huge mess of things I couldn’t control, inside my bathroom, standing in front of my mirror, I attempted to control my skin. My complexion didn’t always reflect the amount of effort I put into it, but the time I spent washing my face and massaging in serums became essential, like I was pouring time and devotion into myself.

One day I called my mom, hoping her voice would lift my mood, only to be brought down. She had just started her new job as a preschool teacher after being out of work for seven months, but teaching students she had never met alongside the woes of being an educator during a pandemic were taking a toll, not to mention she was alone most of the time. It’s always been just me and her, so thinking about her being at home by herself left a pit in my stomach.

annie blay

The author and her mother.

Courtesy of Annie Blay

As much as I hated being away from my mom, I was hesitant to move back in. Anyone who has had to move back home knows why. Though parents may be loving, their constant presence along with the loss of privacy can feel overwhelming. But as the pandemic continued to rage on and I was ready to make the move back home, all my beauty products and rituals came with me. I did my seven-step skincare routine in the same bathroom where my mom used to hastily rub Vaseline all over my face as a child. I took my long baths in the same tub where I cut myself while shaving my legs for the first time.

However, now my new beauty routine became subject to unsolicited commentary and advice that usually started with “You use too many products” and ended with “You know all I use is Dove soap and my skin is smooth and clear.” My mom never really had a skincare routine. Growing up in Ghana, her beauty regimen consisted of lathering on raw shea butter after a bath and not much else.

Dove Purely Pampering Shea Butter with Warm Vanilla Body Wash

Though our beauty routines couldn’t have been more different, parts of our rituals began to inform each other. She’s added a few new products to her lineup, and her dedication to the brand convinced me to try Dove, though I’m more of a body wash girl than a bar soap devotee.

Now, there’s always a bottle of Dove body wash in the shower—currently Purely Pampering Shea Butter with Warm Vanilla—and it feels like the place where our beauty routines meet in the middle, which, right now, is a place I’m happy to be.

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