Raelle Brown is a powerful voice for many – for women of color, for women with eczema, and for anyone needing a role model with strength and self-assurance. A video producer in the Philadelphia area, Raelle uses her communication skills and her deep compassion to help others through her popular Instagram account, @wokewithinskin, as well as her blog. How does she get ready to be at her best each morning, even when dealing with a difficult skin flare-up? Here, she shares her strategies, from both health/beauty and emotional perspectives.
Dealing With a Flare-Up
As Raelle sees it, planning for any contingency is key. “I have two different plans when it comes to a morning ritual because of my eczema,” she says. “My first plan is for the worst of times – when I’m having a flare-up. On days when I’m actively dealing with my eczema, I can’t rely on being able to do everything in the morning – it might be too uncomfortable to do my usual cleansing and preparation. My solution is to do as much as I comfortably can the night before, in case my skin is really irritated the next day. I don’t take a shower if I’m having a flare-up, because it would make my skin way too dry. Instead, I fill a bath with Epsom salts and soak for about 20 minutes.” Epsom salts exfoliate the skin, and they contain magnesium, a natural moisturizer. Plus, “they’re very accessible for everyone, because they’re so inexpensive,” she says.
Extra moisturizing is her next essential step. “After I get out of the bathtub, I like to use natural butters – jojoba especially is my go-to,” Raelle explains. “I know a lot of people use things like Vaseline, assuming it’s moisturizing, but it’s a chemical, and it’s so much more soothing to go with products that aren’t made up of chemicals. Then I use body oil all over, a natural formula again.”
Putting Her Best Face Forward
Next, she adapts her beauty routine. “If I’m having a flare-up, the only makeup I’ll put on is lipstick – the cleanest type I can find,” Raelle says. “I don’t have just one brand that I like, but I find fruit-based formulas are the best for keeping my skin soft and calm. I try never to wear foundation, because I think with eczema it’s important to let your skin breathe as much as possible. For sure I wouldn’t wear it during a flare-up – trying to ‘cover’ that just makes it more uncomfortable.”
Then there are what Raelle calls her “maintenance” mornings. “If I’m not having an active flare-up, I might get up and decide to take a shower, then do my moisturizer and oil,” she says. “Or I might decide to skip a shower entirely, and outside of moisturizing I might just let my skin chill for a day. Chilling is a really good preventative step you can take sometimes. If I have to wear a little makeup for some reason, like I’m going to have my photo taken for my blog or something like that, then I will put on a little makeup. But again, natural products all the way.”
That’s what Raelle does for her body – and then there’s what she does to prepare herself psychologically for the day. “I think it’s so helpful to just feel community support. That makes a huge difference in what you put out to the world externally, as well as how you feel internally,” she reflects. “So I go on social media, and I get support, and it is just a huge help to communicate with other people who are going through what I am, in dealing with eczema. It has helped me process so many things in such a therapeutic way.”
To center herself, Raelle also does breath work. “Just deep breathing, being conscious of your breath, being quiet – if you can’t do anything else to get ready for the day, doing that is so important,” she says. “In fact, anything you can do to be calm is important – with eczema, calm is your superpower. Not just so you can deal well with flare-ups, or prevent them. I think, especially for women of color, you have to be aware of how the outside world is going to view you. Being calm, and aware of yourself internally, really helps, because our skin color is already judged, and then you have eczema in addition to that. Instead of being seen as unattractive, you have to be an inspiration. You have to know you’re beautiful! Your viewpoint is the one that matters.”
As Raelle tells it, these simple actions have empowered and sustained her for years. “When I was at my lowest, dealing with the external effects of eczema, I had to learn to go beyond the external,” she says. “I had to find other answers. Finding other people like me motivated me. Now I know how to give that support back to others, and doing that – through Instagram, through my blog, through just talking to them – is the most important thing I do every morning and every day.”