An affinity for beauty, more specifically an intricate skincare and makeup routine, is often viewed as vapid or narcissistic. It's a perspective that is practically ingrained in our culture, scorning women for engaging in "frivolous" activities or "vain" procedures, while ignoring those who don't fit the beauty ideal. While this is wildly problematic, it's also discounting a key factor in the morning beauty routine: It's proven to ease anxiety. So, while there's no reason to apologize for your vitamin C serums and stack of lipsticks, it's compelling to consider how your beauty rituals can benefit your mind, as well as your face.
"Habitual behaviors help us to clear our minds," says Vivian Diller, Ph.D. "Like rhythmic breathing during meditation, morning beauty routines induce a feeling of calmness and control." In fact, our brains find logic and perceive higher levels of efficacy in things we do routinely or several times over. According to the findings, the practices with the most number of steps, repetition of procedures, and a specified time (like a morning skincare routine) have the biggest influence. Below, we tapped experts and researched various studies on the subject to get a better understanding of why it really works.
It Encourages Focus
"Applying makeup requires hand-eye coordination, precision, and focus," notes Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, an NYC-based licensed clinical psychologist. "When you are putting a mascara wand or eyeliner close to your eye, you focus. The best way to soothe anxiety is to perform tasks that call for focus and creativity. Anxiety typically stems from concern over an anticipated event or from ruminating thoughts about something from the past. Beauty rituals such as applying a facial mask, lip liner, lipstick, liquid eye liner, or painting your nails, all call for you to stay present."
It Keeps You in Control
"Anxiety can come from a fear of the unknown and a lack of control," says Hafeez. "Any daily routine creates a state of normalcy where the outcome is expected. When you apply your skincare, makeup, and hair products, you're very much in control."
It Minimizes Triggers
"Neurologically, there are processes in the brain that take place leading to anxiety," explains Hafeez. "These processes are triggered when there's overanalyzing, self-blame, or worry about potential negative outcomes. It's often recommended to do something pleasurable or productive to get the mind focused on positive activity and off of negative thoughts." If you enjoy the routine of applying skincare, the positive associations will help quiet an anxious mind.
It Includes Soothing Scents
A study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine proves the use of lavender as aromatherapy can help reduce anxiety and depression substantially. In addition, lavender improved associated symptoms such as restlessness and disturbed sleep, which had a beneficial influence on the participants' general well-being and quality of life.
Hafeez agrees: "Any time you can engage the senses it will soothe anxiety. Lavender is a soothing scent, as is rose, coconut, sweet orange, and jasmine." Cult-favorite products like Kopari Coconut Melt ($28), Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich ($35), Fresh Rose Floral Toner ($40), Mūn Aknari Brightening Youth Serum ($110), and Odacité Jojoba-Lavender Serum Concentrate ($36) are great therapeutic options.
It Stimulates Your Brain
If a shower is part of your usual morning routine, that practice can be helpful as well. A scientific study from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine found a cold shower in the morning can stimulate a certain part of the brain, called the locus coeruleus, where the chemical that fosters depression and anxiety is formed.
Another factor that goes along with applying makeup is natural light. It's best to do it next to a window or in a well-lit area. Well, a study published in the Biological Psychiatry Journal proved the importance of exposure to light in the morning in order to trigger a region of the brain that allows you to better handle anxiety-inducing experiences. Another win for your morning routine.
It Fosters Mindfulness
A study in the BMC Psychiatry journal explains that cognitive-behavioral therapy is a good first step in treating anxiety. Essentially, it helps to foster an overall mindfulness towards yourself and your feelings. Moreover, it further proves that self-care practices are important and effective in the treatment of anxiety. Rituals, like washing your face, massaging your skin, and applying makeup, are all great ways to take care of your skin while also taking care of your mind.
Koulivand PH, Khaleghi Ghadiri M, Gorji A. Lavender and the nervous system. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:681304. doi:10.1155/2013/681304
Shevchuk NA. Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Med Hypotheses. 2008;70(5):995–1001. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2007.04.052
Fisher PM, Madsen MK, Mc Mahon B, et al. Three-week bright-light intervention has dose-related effects on threat-related corticolimbic reactivity and functional coupling. Biol Psychiatry. 2014;76(4):332–339. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.11.031
Katzman MA, Bleau P, Blier P, et al. Canadian clinical practice guidelines for the management of anxiety, posttraumatic stress and obsessive-compulsive disorders. BMC Psychiatry. 2014;14 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S1. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-14-S1-S1