4 Changes to Your Beauty Routine That Can Enhance Your Mental Health

Updated 04/13/19

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Being calm, cool, and collected is always better said than done. The way we feel about ourselves on the outside always translates to how we feel about ourselves on the inside. While it’s true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, beauty is more than just what’s on the surface, but rather what we personally define as beauty. It’s an internal conversation that never ends, especially on days when we don’t feel or look our best. The idea of how we see ourselves has changed drastically over the years, especially in the era of social media, where it’s so easy to base our perception of beauty on what society deems as being beautiful. You don’t need anyone (or any app for that matter) to tell you that you’re beautiful. In the words of the late Maya Angelou, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” You will always be you—and that will never change. You’re allowed to have an off day from time to time—you’re only human. You may not be able to change who you are on the inside or outside, but one thing’s for sure—your attitude towards how you feel about yourself can change, if you allow yourself to change it. In that same vein, taking care of ourselves is a necessity in adding the spark you need back into your life and can also give you a new perspective on what you define as being beautiful.

Below, we've compiled four changes to your beauty routine that are scientifically-proven to ease stress with less of a focus on outer appearance and a greater concentration on being your best, most confident self.

Treat Yourself

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Rome wasn’t built in a day—and neither was your beauty closet. The answer to every woe and troublesome day isn’t splurging or spending money that you don’t have—however, every once in a while, you deserve to treat yourself to the finer things in life, whether it be the Pat McGrath lipstick you’ve been swatching every trip to Sephora or the Fenty Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter ($36) your roommate lets you borrow that you’ve been secretly obsessing over for months. Consciously and responsibly spending money and time on yourself can only benefit one person—you.

Acting out of self-care can have a positive ripple effect on your feelings and on how you think about yourself,” says NYC-based psychologist Heather L. Silvestri, Ph.D. “There is usually only a short-term spike in dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. Brain imaging has shown that the anticipation of spending is actually the moment of greatest pleasure. If you’ve spent your money with conscious intention and with self-care in mind, then the action is likely to continue bolstering your mood even after the dopamine surge winds down.”

Take a Bold (or Bright) Risk

We all have a friend (if not ourselves) who went through an awful breakup or a traumatic life event that resulted in them making a drastic change to their appearance, and that's perfectly okay. “By doing something impactful to change how we look to ourselves, and to the world, people can feel more empowered,” explains Silverstri. “External changes only net positively for us if we undertake them with mindfulness and intention.” Might we suggest changing your hair color, or asking your stylist to give you that bold, badass pixie hair haircut you’ve always wanted, or the perfect short cut that fits the shape of your face. Start from scratch with a new hairstyle, a new perspective, a new persona to match.

Be Gentle on Yourself (and Your Skin)

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Contrary to the random breakouts that many of us commonly experience during times of high stress or environmental differences, the effects of skin flare-ups and acne can be devastating. Depending on how long it takes to rectify, it may be a lifelong battle. According to The American Academy of Dermatology, skin disease/acne can affect more than just your appearance but compromise your mental and emotional health as well. It's the unfortunate truth that those who have cystic or frequent acne, permanent scarring, or sporadic breakouts are more likely to endure bullying, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor self-image, and decreased quality of life.

As much as we don’t want to admit it’s true, we care what others think more than we allow ourselves to. While some individuals go through the ringer finding medical treatments and spend hundreds of dollars on over the counter solutions, others hide behind their anxiety without seeking help: “We are conditioned to believe we must learn how to figure it all out on our own," says Tiffanie Brown, social worker at Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. As a result, we become embarrassed to ask for help and learn to keep it to ourselves."

Fight your skin battles with your head held high—but don’t feel the need to fight the battle alone. Change your normal skincare routine by finding support around you with similar experiences, or find a facialist or dermatologist that you feel comfortable enough to share what’s going on internally in order to seek the best forms of advice.

“Depression, stress and anxiety are things that all humans deal with, but affects our bodies differently,” explains Emani Jeter, Esthetician, and owner of vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand, Beauty Strike. “For me, my body will feel depression and anxiety before it registers in my mind, and if I’m in a constant state of depression, my skin will react by producing brand new shiny friends on my face. Most of my clients say when they are depressed, their skin tends to do the same.”

Whether it be a support group session, or a private therapy session, finding people to talk to about what’s going on inside and out can make a hell of a difference about how you feel about yourself in the long run, and can also help you learn more about how your body works, and what makes your skin more breakout-prone. Facing these skin concerns isn’t easy, but the first part of accepting who you are is changing your attitude towards how you feel about yourself.

Redefine Self-Care

As we grow older, the phrase "me time" resonates with us a lot more than it did in the past. Schedules fill up and workloads runneth over, causing you to be more likely to burn out. Make time each month (or even each week) and get some much needed personal time. Your skin, your spirit, and your body will thank you in the long run for minimizing your stress levels—not to mention, basking in the euphoria of a mani/pedi appointment, a massage, or your favorite face mask is just the reset button we need sometimes.

Every one of us has a set of somatic idioms of distress that make up our typical stress response," says Silvestri. "For those of us prone to dermatologic reactivity, increased or chronic stress will likely show up on your skin." “As horrifying a prospect as that may seem, it’s actually a good opportunity to take seriously your own stress response and to take active, purposeful measures to take better care of yourself.” Schedule some much-needed R&R into your beauty routine, and you'll see it reflect in your newfound dewy complexion.

Next, read all about how one beauty writer went on a "skincare diet."

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