Like most black people, lotioning has been a part of my daily routine for as long as I can remember.

I have memories of an 8-year-old me standing in the doorway. I thought that I was ready to go, but my mom would promptly ask, “Did you lotion your…”                                                                                    

Face. Elbows. Legs. I inevitably forgot to moisturize some appendage. Lotioning was a chore. It was something I had to do because otherwise my skin would tell the world that it was lacking with a layer of dried skin. I’d be ashy.

My white friends didn’t have that problem, but my skin was expressive. It cried out for moisture. It told stories of past tumbles with a series of scars that ran down my legs like constellations. And I tried to shut my skin up with lotion and a cocoa butter stick.

Then came the shea butter. I was a senior in college trying — as many college students do — to live a more natural life.

So I ordered raw shea butter from Amazon, researched lotion recipes, and made myself a batch of vanilla cinnamon lotion with shea butter and olive oil.

Something about that simple mixture felt luxurious. That’s when the change began. At some point, lotioning became enjoyable.

And then it became an act of self-love.

On my best days, I savor the process of warming the mixture in my hands and the sensuousness of self-massage.

“Thank you,” I whisper as I honor my melanin and my curves.

Thank you to the skin that protected me through life’s hardest falls.

Thank you to the stretch marks that document my transition from girl into woman.

Thank you to the hard muscles and the soft flesh.

Thank you to the body that so clearly tells me what it needs if I just listen.

Lotioning is a conversation I’m just now learning to have.

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