‘I Want People to Know It’s OK to Like Your Skin’
Inside an ordinary shop on Wisconsin Avenue, Becky Waddell is doing something revolutionary. She’s telling women what’s right about their skin, not wrong.
‘I want to sell you products, but I don’t need to pick out your insecurities to make you spend money,’ says the owner of skincare and beauty boutique, Take Care. ‘Women come in and say these horrible things about themselves. I tell them their skin is beautiful and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, really?’ It’s so surprising for them to feel like their skin is nice, versus me saying let me help you cover up these fine lines.’
Becky is familiar with that feeling of unworthiness, in the myriad ways it manifests itself.
Five years ago, sitting in their tiny studio apartment, Becky told her future husband she would carry a line of skincare if she ever opened her own shop. When he challenged her to move forward, Becky insisted she couldn’t do it.
‘I said, I can’t start a business—I’m not rich. That was the first thing that came to mind. Only rich people have businesses. Then I thought about it more and realized there are a lot of other people doing this. Especially in DC, a lot of women have this concept of a side hustle. Out of that, Take Care came from a desire to create a space I didn’t feel was available in the city.’
Coming from Oregon, Becky says there was no vegan scene to speak of in DC just five years ago. The two staples—Khepra’s Raw Food Juice Bar and Elizabeth’s Gone Raw—were established, but very specific, niche food experiences.
‘I was vegan at the time, and it was impossible to go out to eat. From a skincare perspective, there was nothing beautiful. No nice, lovely experience that really focused on minimalist, beautiful, plant-based ingredients.’
Becky launched Be Clean—a vegan, online-only shop—converting the one closet in their apartment into an office where she packaged orders and did her own photography. A few months in, she found a small studio space and decided to go for it.
‘My husband built out the whole space from the bottom to the top. We really operated as a showroom and a tiny shop, and did all of our creative work there. We’ll always have fond memories of that little shop.’
Located on the third floor of a 100-year-old building, Be Clean and its clients eventually outgrew the space. For a year, Becky searched for a new home.
‘Our broker suggested we check out Georgetown, and we were like it’s too fancy! But we fell in love with this space because of the light. All these new developments we saw didn’t have any character or soul. When we walked in here, we knew.’
In 2017, Take Care officially opened its doors on Wisconsin Avenue. The shop isn’t vegan, but Becky remains committed to natural ingredients and products. Perhaps more importantly, she’s committed to making women feel empowered and comfortable.
‘We start the conversation with, ‘What are you looking for?’ Often what brought them in isn’t what they end up leaving with. We talk about their lifestyle, their goals, how is their skincare working for them now. A lot of times they say they love what they have now, and then we’ll start talking about it and they’re like actually my skin is really dry after I cleanse and by midday I feel like I’m just parched. Maybe you don’t actually like what you have—it’s not serving you. It’s about walking through that conversation with them of what they actually need, and having the opportunity to sit down in a beautiful, quiet space that’s low pressure.’
Everyone’s skincare and make-up needs differ, but Becky says a universal pitfall is overdoing it. Many women get into the habit of adding more products to fix a problem, when they actually need to do less to solve it.
‘Scale back, and stick within one collection when possible, because the ingredients are philosophically aligned and building on each other. They’re building toward the same goal. Whereas, if you’re using a retinol form here, and a mask from there, and a cleanser from here, you’re bringing in hundreds of ingredients. That’s a ton of activity on the skin and it can be overwhelming.’
Becky says another common problem is using a bad cleanser, which affects every other aspect of a skincare routine.
‘We’ve gotten accustomed to that squeaky clean feeling, which is the worst thing you can do. Then you need a hydrating mask and a rich moisturizer. If you just used a gentler moisturizer cleanser in the morning, you’d be golden and wouldn’t need to make up for it later in your skincare routine.’
Now the mother of a 2-year-old daughter, Becky says she hopes the shop will encourage women to treat themselves with more compassion—whether they’re selecting a cleanser or learning how to use a highlighter.
‘There are plenty of things that bother me about my skin. I have this weird dermatitis thing going on and it’s making me nuts, but it’s OK to say, ‘I need to get this figured out and make sure there’s not something else going on.’ Taking care of my whole body and well-being, instead of how do I get rid of this disgusting rash. It’s important to think about these things and use a different way of speaking about yourself. Would you talk to your friend the way you talk about yourself? I hope the space really helps foster compassion. It’s complex.’
In focusing more on her entire well-being, Becky realized her customers wanted the same. In February, her and her husband converted the second floor of Take Care into Workwell—a community workspace open Monday through Friday (and weekends, when available) with a $95-per-month membership.
‘It’s very calm and quiet, and members leave feeling relaxed and accomplished. For me, if I was sitting at home, I would have checked my email a thousand times and not replied to anything, and played with the dog. With this space, there’s a feeling of being able to go home and relax, and separate myself from the work I did that day. I can’t say enough how important that is, especially in DC where work life is very intense. It’s made a difference for me personally, and I think it’s true for our members.’
The Phoenix native still dreams of returning to a slower-paced West Coast life, but says there’s plenty of work left to do in DC, where Washingtonians are gradually expanding their skincare and beauty vocabulary.
‘There are high stakes here. A customer will say, ‘I work at the Capitol and my make-up needs to look good. Changing something is very unnerving to me.’ Beauty and skincare seem so isolated, but it has a direct impact on the way other people look at you, and the way you look at others. We want you to walk out and feel like you can go into the board meeting and know your mascara won’t run. More importantly, though, I just want people to know it’s OK to feel comfortable in your skin, instead of constantly noticing the bad things.’