The nationwide quarantine has highlighted for most of us how putting on a little lipstick or mascara can make a difference in an otherwise banal or disappointing day. But beyond that, beauty, and beauty routines specifically, can be a huge mental health booster in many ways.
When our daily lives are upended by the compounding stress of a pandemic, along with the trauma of watching and hearing stories of more Black people murdered by police, putting on a face of makeup might seem trite and ineffective.
Clinical psychologist Ayanna Abrams, Psy.D., took a moment from her ever so booked and busy schedule to explain to ESSENCE just how important keeping up with beauty regimens, purchasing beauty products and seeing the results of a beauty routine can be right now. So go ahead and hit send on that order of serums without feeling guilty or frivolous.
What is the correlation between beauty routines and mental health?
Ayanna Abrams: There’s something that feels really important about us being able to have a routine because it can give us a sense of stability, control and security. There’s something that’s predictable about having a routine when we wake up in the morning, before we’re going to bed, that can actually really soothe our systems. And then on top of that, when it’s a beauty routine there are multiple benefits of that. That beauty in and of itself can tap into the part of our brain that helps with creativity and that’s also really, really important for us.
And we’re not just talking lipstick and mascara.
Abrams: Expanding beauty is not only limiting it to makeup, but also skin care and I think about all these other ways in which people are taking care of all these different parts of their body whether those parts are seen or unseen. We can get a sense of accomplishment and a burst of feel good and a burst of dopamine to our brains when we’re taking care of these things and we can see something in terms of a before and after.
Is that why self-care Sundays and self-care Saturdays have become such a big thing?
Abrams: Without self-care people have really been suffering. Without these different routines that they say, No matter what, this will be part of my day, recognizing that we will get pushed and pulled all over the place by all these external demands and obligations so wanting to pull something back into our control. And that’s what can feel really important in terms of having some sense of autonomy back in our lives.
Is there a connection between receiving a beauty package and joy, especially during quarantine?
Abrams: Yes, absolutely! There is a pleasure that we are able to get not only from receiving the package, but I’d also even add from buying the things. When we engage in activities that we know are intentionally to take care of ourselves or to intentionally improve our lives, that’s really helpful for us. The rush to our brain and that pleasure center already happens from when we are making the purchase and then again when you receive the package. Additionally, there’s a benefit that, as we’re using these products, we actually notice improvements in things. Beauty is how connected you feel to yourself.
So engaging in beauty right now doesn’t have to feel frivolous?
Abrams: I appreciate the expansion of beauty not being reduced to this frivolous and only feminine [thing] or thing for women versus ways in which we can all engage in some kind of self-care, and that also being beautiful. A good routine can really solidify you. It’s one less decision to make when we have this habit in place and that in and of itself is a stress reliever.
Ayanna Abrams, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in Atlanta. She has been practicing in the Atlanta metro area since 2010 and is the founder and executive director of Ascension Behavioral Health.