Menopause Inside and Out: A Journey to Skin Health and Wellness with Heidi Brown

For many, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a heightened sense of fear and anxiety. This collective experience forced individuals to confront the realities of their own physical and emotional well-being. For Heidi Brown, the founder, and Managing Director of Brilliance by Brown™, the pandemic influenced her understanding of anxiety and her own journey through menopause transition, ultimately inspiring her to help women age with optimal health and beauty – inside and out.

Menopause in the Time of Pandemic

As the pandemic unfolded, many people faced challenges they had never encountered before. Among them was the experience of heightened anxiety and fear. For Heidi, who was newly post-menopausal, the impact of the pandemic on her emotional well-being was particularly profound.

She notes that her body underwent significant changes when COVID hit due to perimenopause. This transition brought with it a rollercoaster of emotions. The pandemic seemed to exacerbate these emotions, creating a perfect storm of anxiety and uncertainty.

A self-described Type-A personality, Heidi attributes much of her struggle with general anxiety to her role as a firstborn child and the accompanying high expectations and responsibilities that often come with this position.

“Across culture, firstborns typically show up constantly taking care of…care of things and care of people,” she says. “Managing things – being in control is a huge thing for me.”

But, for Heidi, understanding that the anxiety that comes with menopause transition is distinctly different and often undermines our sense of security and control was a learning process…and exercise in giving herself grace. Ultimately, she was able to reconcile that her anxiety was not a personal failure or shortcoming. Rather, hormone-related anxiety is pretty common during perimenopause and feelings of fear, impending doom, and near-panic can be life-disrupting.

To better appreciate her journey of acceptance, it’s important to start at the beginning of her story.

An Upbringing Shaped by High Expectations

Heidi grew up in Westchester County, New York, as part of a generation that integrated the suburbs in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Her college-educated parents instilled in her and her younger brother the desire to achieve and excel. Their move to Westchester marked their pursuit of a better life and offered access to an upper-middle-class lifestyle that few Black families enjoyed at that time.

Her parents, who were deeply involved in the civil rights era, passed down a strong sense of identity and pride in being Black Americans. Her father’s career in fashion photography and her mother’s later pursuit of a career in psychology enriched her upbringing, and the multicultural environment she grew up in instilled in her a sense of limitless potential.

Following her parents’ divorce, her mother remarried, and the family moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during her middle school years. This international experience broadened Heidi’s horizons and exposed her to a world of diverse cultures.

“My parents were very accomplished and well-connected with other Black families. They were friends with several influential people in politics and business of that era,” she says. “My environment was very multicultural, so the lens that I look through as an American is, anything is possible – no holds barred.”

This brimming confidence and can-do spirit later led Heidi to build a career in the technology sector, which at the time was an emerging, white male-dominated space centered in Silicon Valley.

“It was the late 90s/early 2000s, and there was all this discussion in the media about how the tech sector was an egalitarian or meritocracy sector,” she chuckles. “It’s really not.”

Despite being among a minority of women in Silicon Valley and a Black woman, Heidi built a successful career in tech. Starting in Sales, she eventually tapped into her right-brained thinking and extroverted personality and shifted to a thriving tenure in communications and marketing. She would eventually rise to the rank of Chief Marketing Officer.

Out of Chaos Comes Clarity

Although she’s served as a marketing executive for select tech companies over the past few years, Heidi left her full-time career in the sector in 2017 to launch a wellness company, while providing fractional CMO services to the corporate sector. 

“I was two years into my marriage, and my life had shifted,” Heidi recalls. “I was sick of what I was doing in tech. My mom’s cancer had returned, and I was becoming more of a health advocate for her.”

Heidi, 52 at the time, says she was also going through perimenopause and experiencing body changes. She struggled with anxiety and poor sleep quality, among other things.

“My skin was having a party – I wasn’t sure what was going on. Acne is always something I’ve dealt with.”

In retrospect, Heidi notes the years preceding COVID as being pretty tumultuous. Between her perimenopausal symptoms, her mother’s illness, a healthy and happy marriage, and stepping away from a successful career she spent two decades building, it’s easy to understand how this confluence of activities might lead to a profound life change. 

She says the health advocacy she’d undertaken helping her mom navigate a second cancer diagnosis and her increased focus on her own changing health needs due to perimenopause spurred her to create Brilliance by Brown in 2019. A digital publication and community focused on skin health and wellness as one ages, Heidi says the creation of Brilliance by Brown was “a culmination of things, ” allowing her to channel her creative instincts.

“The interesting thing about technology is that it’s all about the creative process because you’re creating code, designing software, developing hardware – elements for people to utilize and enjoy,” she says. “The creative process is similar to that.”

Through Brilliance by Brown, Heidi has amplified the products and services of dozens of founders of color in the beauty and wellness space, including thirteen lune and Eighth + Kin.

“I connected with them during my R&D stage of exploring products that are good for Black skin health,” she explains. “There was no centralized platform for Black beauty and wellness founders and proprietors to feature their products – which, in turn, means it was difficult, if not impossible, for Black women to find the products designed for our needs.

Our skin is our largest organ,” Heidi continues. “I think we forget that. We need products with peptides, ceramides, and other nutrients to promote hydration and curb skin elasticity, especially as women on the menopausal journey.”

Heidi is in the process of revamping her digital platform. She plans to relaunch the Brilliance by Brown website in early 2024.

In addition to connecting consumers to information on skin health and wellness, she’s also produced in-person and virtual skin health and women’s wellness events featuring dermatology, endocrinology, cosmetology, and nutrition experts. Working with brands like Google, CVS, Aetna, and the Office of the New York City Mayor Eric Adams, she’s facilitated workplace discussions on aging and women’s health, including menopause.

Heidi’s passion for supporting women and healthy aging has fueled her menopause advocacy. In 2021, she joined the board of the National Menopause Foundation to lend her professional expertise and insights to this growing organization.

“I’ve lived my life in a way that has always included movements and action – menopause is no different. Through Brilliance by Brown, I aim to create a center of excellence for the mind, body, and spirit and provide information that empowers women to age healthfully.”

Learn more about Heidi and her work. You can follow Brilliance by Brown on Instagram.

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