Combinations of look good and feel good are common New Years resolutions. But the relationship between the two goes deeper than we might realize. As we round off the second year of the pandemic, many of us have let beauty take a back seat. But the effects of neglecting it are more than just a smile without lipstick or a few extra breakouts.
Important clarification: by beauty, we don't mean looking like an Insta ad. Instead, we're referring to deep beauty—how we represent ourselves inside and out, the ways we embrace and express who we are, the kind of beauty that nourishes our minds, too.
Stress and Beauty
It's not news that stress can have adverse effects on beauty hallmarks like skin. Conditions such as acne, rosacea, and psoriasis have all been increasing throughout the pandemic. Premature aging has been associated with chronic stress, and stress can lead us to unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking too much, or overeating processed foods. But can our beauty rituals themselves impact our stress levels?
It's All Connected: Holistic Beauty Routines
As it turns out, they can, especially when we create holistic beauty routines. Skincare basics extend past just serums and creams to include exercise, mindfulness, and a healthy diet. This means that when we're looking out for our skin health, our mental health is boosted, too: as the National Alliance on Mental Illness states, exercise can help alleviate stress, amp up self-confidence, and help us thrive.
Nutrient powerhouses like salmon, leafy greens, berries, and whole grains that clear up skin also improve brain functioning. By augmenting serotonin, aka our happiness hormone, superfoods improve our moods. So, when we're taking steps to boost our glow, we're also lowering stress levels, which in turn helps our skin look even better—and the cycle of wellbeing continues.
Social Benefits, Artistic Expression, and Deeper Meaning
The benefits of beauty rituals go more than skin deep: they're social acts, too. If a trip to your local nail salon isn't enough to remind you of the power and joy when women come together over self-care, a quick look back at our non-human ancestors is extra proof. While there was a practical aspect to primate grooming habits (parasites, be gone), it was also a way to bond through touch and nonverbal conversation—just think of how calm and cared for you feel when a stylist washes your hair.
Beauty is also a form of art we can practice every day. Bold lipsticks, smoky eyes, and choosing to go au natural not only enhance our features, but they're empowering choices we alone get to make. When we wake up feeling blue, a swipe of eyeshadow can be our boost; when we feel like hot messes, a painstaking cat-eye can be the perfect reset.
Mental Health Impacts
Not only do beauty expressions clue the world into how we're feeling, but they also support our mental health. In addition to communicating how we feel, self-care routines can help us focus our minds. The average person has a whopping 60,000 thoughts a day. Getting creative is a proven way to calm the noise for a moment of zen thats been compared to meditation. When you take time to savor your 5-step skin routine or carefully apply mascara, not only do you enter the day looking your best, but your mind can release dopamine, a natural antidepressant.
Major brands have also picked up on the mind-beauty connection. For example, Selena Gomez's Rare Beauty plans to launch a $100 million Rare Impact Fund to combat problems related to loneliness. Similarly, Revlon has partnered with supermodel Adwoa Aboah and the mental health organization Gurls Talk to create makeup kits advocating for discussions around self-care.
The Ties Between Self-Care and Self-Worth
The most obvious benefit of beauty on our minds, though oftentimes the most misunderstood, is the link between self-care and self-worth. Reminder: Our definition of beauty is not how closely we match an airbrushed image. It's how we translate and express our unique selves, caring for our bodies because we love them, not to make them worth loving.
The research says it all: when we have higher self-esteem, we take more pride in our appearance and vice versa. On days when we wake up feeling like the Bride of Frankenstein (and we all have those days), sometimes we have to fake self-love until we feel it. So lets pause to massage in some moisturizer or add that extra gloss to remind ourselves that we are worth self-care, no matter how wild our bed-hair might be.