In the first two years of the pandemic, I almost stopped making up (except for one-off occasions when I was seduced by another beauty hacker on tiktok). But as we enter our third year of working and socializing from home – no matter what we’re doing now – I notice I’m wearing it again – and more often.
Makeup has become a part of my daily life again. However, it is no longer associated with any specific time (i.e. the first thing in the morning), because my motivation to wear it has changed from what I think I must do to what I want to do just for me.
Why do people make up?
“People make up to deal with various social and cultural norms, which is why it is important to understand what drives a person to make up,” explained Josie Howard, a psychiatrist and psychodermatologist in San Francisco.
“If it is worn to conform to specific aesthetic norms or beauty ideals, it may damage a person’s self-esteem – often reminding people of imperfections and defects. On the other hand, if it is worn as a form of self-expression and decoration, it can support a healthy self and well-being. I also believe that makeup has become a symbol of the connection with normality, especially during the pandemic, and the routine of makeup is very important to many people People can stabilize, “Howard added.
It’s true for me these days.
Makeup provides a rare pause in my day. Before I started, I carefully placed the brush and bottle on the bathroom counter. Usually, I open podcasts backstage, go into a trance, mix and sweep my face in a slow, controlled rhythm. This is my quiet time. I allow myself to do nothing but the task at hand.
I don’t always know what to do next – in my career, in my relationships, in my life – but I certainly know that. After decades of practice, I finally became friends with my face. I know exactly which products to use and how to use them. It feels good to have certainty in a world where there is little certainty.
“People who deal with anxiety may be relieved that there is at least one stable constant in their daily life,” admitted psychotherapist Alex Greenwald, head of mhc-lp and clinical team at empower your mind therapy in New York City. “Makeup is more than just going to Sephora to buy the latest foundation make-up. For many people, makeup can calm them down. The simple act of applying bold lipstick may be the first step to alleviate anxiety. In fact, research has found a correlation between short and repeated rituals and increased happiness.”
How else can make-up play a role in improving your happiness?
In exploring the psychological impact of make-up, I found myself face-to-face (or rather, screen to screen) with oludara adeeyo, who recently wrote a book on self-care for black women. Adeeyo is also a psychotherapist and psychiatric social worker in California, where she helps the homeless and mentally ill. According to her experience, makeup can promote healing, which is a slow and nonlinear process. This is a starting point.
“Many of my clients have experienced trauma – whether it’s childhood trauma or homelessness in adulthood. With trauma, there’s this sense of loss of strength,” adeeyo said. “You know what’s happening to you is beyond your control, and in order to restore this sense of agency, you need to create a safe space for yourself to continue to recover,” she explained.
“Makeup can be a great way to start creating a safe space for someone. And it’s relatively easy for people to access, especially when you compare it with most other things. Makeup can also be an art therapy that allows self-expression in a sense and regains control through the application itself. You can accurately decide what you’re doing at that moment and how you’re going to do it, This is authorization, “adeeyo said.
So, is makeup a good thing in the end?
As Dr Howard pointed out, “although I think it’s hard to say that all cosmetics usually serve mental health, self-esteem and empowerment, I think makeup is a ritual in the social environment in which we live. Participating in the ritual itself can bring comfort and enhance self-esteem.”
In short, it is not so much the products themselves as the behavior of using them. I held up my foundation make-up brush. If makeup can bring a little happiness or stability to your day, please move forward with a full face rhythm.