My Beauty Routine Helps My Anxiety, It’s Not Just Vanity

in at February 20, 2019

Depression and anxiety have always been present in my life. Early on, I thought it was simply an overreaction to circumstances. I was too emotional, I wore my heart on my sleeve – not realizing that it is a chemical imbalance in my brain, which constantly leads to dilapidating thoughts. It comes in waves: constant overanalyzing, insomnia, panic attacks, restrictive food intake, and procrastination. When it gets really bad, I find it difficult to exercise any kind of productive activity with something as simple as getting out of bed. I had to consider therapy and counseling to confront this heavy thing that made a home inside me. Holistic self-care, through makeup and skincare, is helping me get out of this rut.

My earliest memory of beauty, like many young girls, is playing with my mother’s tube of red lipstick; I crushed it and felt a looming sense of guilt. As a teenager, I gravitated towards the eccentric choice of a purple eyeliner, my boyfriend told me I had beautiful eyes. This memory stayed with me. At 23, as a corporate employee of a TV network, I rediscovered the enchanting world of beauty. I was fascinated by the ability of makeup to give me a sense of control through each meticulous stroke. The intricate 10-step Korean skincare routine became a daily habit. Obsessively researching and trying out products led me to create beauty related content for my personal blog. I was ready to invest whatever time I had after the long 9-hour work day to beauty until now, with a new dream planted in my heart: to be a professional make-up artist. 

I am not alone. Many women have shared about improvements to the state of their emotional and mental well-being when they incorporate a beauty routine into their lives. It is a multi-sensory experience – slathering on layers of creams, swiping an assortment of cosmetics, and spritzing fragrances. This mindful activity redirects overwhelming thoughts to a canvas to counter destructive behaviors. Through the years, I’ve discovered with brazen clarity that I do this for myself.

Beginning the day with my elaborate skincare regimen – from the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser to the Klairs Soft Airy UV Essence – prepares me for the battle ahead of me. Seeing my face transform after I complete my multiple-step makeup routine gives me the confidence to step out and face a new day. At night, cleansing my makeup and leftover debris with my trustworthy Bioré Cleansing Oil is a way to wash off the troubles of the day. Slathering essences and creams at night – Laneige Sleeping Mask for special days! – is a way to lay down the weight of the day knowing I did everything I could.

When I am spiraling down what seems like an endless, numbing cycle of shame, fear, and blame, I elevate my mood through a productive activity that transfixes my attention to this small but big thing. I am present in the moment and not looking back at the regrets of the past or dreading the uncertainty of the future. So no, it’s not just vanity – although there’s nothing wrong with that. This ritualized structure within my day stimulates my senses and creativity which no other act has the ability to do. I actually look forward to it.

In some anxiety-driving cases, I also use the topic of beauty as a means to connect with other women. I open the conservation with this foolproof subject instead of being intimidated. The effortless act of sharing one’s perplexing routine, ultimately, fosters empowerment and fellowship. Getting compliments from my favorite peachy pink blush, Milani Baked Blush in Luminoso, and everyday eyeshadow look from, of course, the Tarte Tartelette in Bloom Amazonian in Clay Eyeshadow Palette, diffuses that inferiority complex I usually have.

This has become a coping mechanism, among others. Creating this idealized, enhanced version of me when I have no willpower to take care of myself becomes a personal feat daily. If you’re going through the same thing, God forbid, know that I am not oversimplifying the excruciating reality of depression and anxiety. A swipe of your favorite bold-colored lipstick is not a replacement for much needed professional help and, in some cases, medication. Do whatever works for you – whether it be daily meditation, physical activity, journaling, or prayer. Setting aside time for self-care isn’t selfish, and it’s a powerful means to boost your holistic well-being and behavior. Commit to that one thing, no matter how insignificant it seems, and remember to take it one day at a time.

This article originally appeared on Project Vanity. 

Elisa Aquino

Elisa Aquino is a portrait photographer, life(style) writer, passion blogger, and beauty rookie from Manila, Philippines. This platform exists to document her daily musings and to showcase the life-changing power of grace to transform women from ashes to beauty.