My bedroom is currently home to four different mascaras, three liquid liners, four or five vessels of foundation, three different types of body oil, two trusty lotions, five different moisturizers, an abundance of nail polishes, a swarm of sheet masks, and a backlog of shampoos and conditioners that have not yet made it to the bathroom. My collection of beauty products is so expansive in part because of my job, but also because of a simple truth: my beauty routine is my secret to happiness.
An obsession with skin care and makeup can seem vain at best and dangerous at worst, but for me it's more about getting in touch with myself than molding my appearance to any conventional standards. Sitting in front of a mirror every day to craft my own image allows me to reflect on how I want to present myself to the world, and pore by pore, lash by lash, I become myself.
Your beauty routine is what you make of it. This is how I made mine work for me, both physically and mentally.
Making Myself With Makeup
I started using makeup when I was about 12. I bought three products—a small eye shadow palette, a mascara, and an eyeliner, in shades that complemented my eyes—and every morning I would apply them dutifully, completely oblivious to the fact that I was not as mature and sophisticated as I thought. Nevertheless, swiping on the mascara and smudging on the eyeliner proved to be creative acts: in applying my makeup, I pushed myself toward being the person I wanted to be—or at least looking like her.
When I carefully sweep on mascara, I mentally prepare myself for the day, and when I gently wash off all my makeup, I cleanse away any remaining stresses.
As I grew older, my makeup routine invariably changed, and I changed with it. In winging my liner, I was able to emulate my style icons, and in applying a dark, vampy lip, I could instantly transform myself into a total badass. Makeup gave me more freedom than clothes ever could. I could change my personal style, but adding a highlight or contour or rosy glow to my face felt so much more intimate, binding, and effective.
Self-Care Is More Than Skin-Deep
Over time I came to see that in addition to using makeup as a tool of transformation, I needed to take care of my hair and skin, too. My skin-care routine has changed drastically since my teen years, when a jar of Noxzema and some apricot scrub comprised the entirety of my skin-care stash.
The choice to indulge in 10 minutes out of every day for self-care can be a kind of meditation.
Now, when I cleanse, tone, and moisturize, I see that my skin is a reflection of how I'm doing mentally. If I'm breaking out, it's likely because I've been stressed or eating junk food or generally not taking care of myself. Paying attention to my skin forces me to take stock of my life and to adjust my food, sleep, skin-care, and other habits as needed.
When I dyed my hair blonde, it lost a lot of its strength and luster, so taking care of it became a top priority. Using hair masks at least once or twice a week gives me an excuse to stay in the shower longer, taking some time to stand in the hot steam and collect myself as a wash-out mask does its thing. At night I lie down on a silk pillowcase, so my hair stays smooth and shiny—and I fall asleep feeling totally relaxed. I don't follow my routines in pursuit of just good hair days or good skin days: I follow them in pursuit of good days.
Beauty Care ≠ Indulgence
Society's ideas about beauty can be problematic, pressuring women (and men!) to look one way over another. But attitudes that go the other way and write off all forms of beauty care as vapid and vain fail to recognize that putting time into your appearance is an opportunity to focus not just on your looks but also on yourself and your well-being. The choice to indulge in 10 minutes out of every day for self-care can be a kind of meditation.
There's power in ritual and power in taking care of yourself.
When you take a bath instead of a shower, you're devoting time to focusing purely on yourself. When you apply a face mask, you're forced to limit your activity to things that won't interfere with your skin care. When you use a fancy face cream or lotion or an expensive perfume, you're sending yourself the message that you deserve nice things. Every act of so-called indulgence pushes against negativity and stress: they are reminders that it's important to take care of yourself.
Ritual and Self-Care = Empowerment
My beauty routine brings me happiness because it serves as a time every morning and every night when I can put aside anything that might be bothering me, any greater problem in the world, or any gnawing bit of self-doubt to center myself. When I carefully sweep on mascara, I mentally prepare myself for the day, and when I gently wash off all my makeup, I cleanse away any remaining stresses.
There's power in ritual and power in taking care of yourself—and if a new lipstick or moisturizer or toner can help me to pull myself together, no matter what greater task is at hand, you can bet I'll keep collecting these talismans and taking my time, every single day, to let them work their magic.