If I had a dollar for every time someone suggested trying yoga or mediation to ease my depression and anxiety, I'd be typing this from my home in Malibu while looking out at my view of the ocean. While yes, these are proven to be very effective approaches for many who struggle with mental health, I've personally never found them to be helpful. However, through the years I've discovered other ways to cope, one being through beauty. In fact, I've always looked at applying makeup as being therapeutic. And according to therapists and psychologists, there are reasons to back this notion up.
As I've learned to become confident in my own skin, I lean to makeup more as a creative outlet rather than a way to cover up my imperfections. Just like painting or drawing, Jane Polinski, PLMHP, PCMSW, a mental health therapist, says that makeup can be therapeutic because it's a form of art. "Doing something like applying makeup can help the body and mind to slow down and focus intently on something," she says. Additionally, she notes that dopamine can be released when you finish your makeup. "This can help to boost self esteem, positive mood, and overall morale."
Another way that makeup can be therapeutic is because our brain responds to our actions. "When you apply makeup, touching your skin helps release oxytocin," Valentina Dragomir, a psychotherapist and founder of PsihoSensus, tells TZR. "Oxytocin is a hormone produced in the brain and is also called the cuddle hormone." As the hormone impacts our mood and emotions, the body feels good and relaxed. You know how some people feel calm when they are snuggled up under a blanket reading a good book? That's exactly the state I'm in when I'm sitting at my desk applying my products (with Ariana Grande playing in the background, of course).
Additionally, there are other ways makeup can improve one's mental health. Read on to see what experts say on the topic. And after, consider giving yourself a makeover.
How Makeup Can Help With Anxiety & Depression
First things first — Dragomir notes that makeup shouldn't replace proper anxiety or depression treatment. However, it can help one grapple with unsettling feelings. "Depression and anxiety are often worsened when people feel they’ve lost a sense of control," Shakaila Forbes-Bell, Afterpay's consumer psychologist, says. "Studies show that ritualistic processes like applying makeup can help people cope with these negative emotions, mainly because you have complete control over the process and the outcome." Since you can pick your colors, which products you use, and can count on a predictable results, she says this emboldens you and aids in managing emotions.
How Applying Makeup Can Help Control Unsettling Thoughts & Overthinking
A big part of my anxiety involves overthinking (about literally, everything). And according to Forbes-Bell, I'm not alone. She says that research from the National Science Foundation shows that the average person has between 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day, 80 percent that are negative and 95 percent repetitive, causing a vicious cycle. But, when I'm applying my makeup, all the overwhelming thinking taking over my brain tends to somewhat go away. "Applying makeup provides a much-needed break from that negative cycle as the process forces you to disengage from those thoughts and be present in the moment," she says.
How The Creativity Behind Applying Makeup Impacts Mental Health
While I'm not an artist by any means, I've always enjoyed the creativity behind it. And this also goes for the process of applying makeup, which Dr. Courtney Tracy, LCSW, PsyD, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist, says can be very healing. "Creativity and the movement of applying the makeup provides relief from traumatic responses, the anxious ‘freeze’ response and the depressive ’stagnant’ persona." When she thinks about how the application of makeup can be positive to mental health, she relates it to both art and dance therapy. "Movement and creativity can significantly reduce stress, low self-esteem and trauma responses," she says.
How Putting Color On Your Face Can Boost Your Mood
Just like how wearing colorful clothing can increase your mood, applying vivid shades to your face can have the same impact. Polinski says that the brain responds to individual colors differently. For instance, blue can make you feel sad, while orange could spark energy. "Applying bold colors on the face can help a person to feel more bold and confident," Polinski notes. "Color attracts attention and this attention can boost confidence."
How Makeup Is A Form Of Self-Expression
Makeup is also a form of self-expression. "Allowing the space to express yourself gives you a sense of identity and personality," Polinski says. "By figuring out who you are and what you’re about, it can lead to increased self esteem and positive mindset."
Why The Structure Of A Makeup Routine Can Be Beneficial
A unique way that makeup can benefit mental health is due to the basic act of organization. Dr. Jaime Zuckerman, a psychologist based in Philadelphia, says that humans are creatures of habit that thrive off of routine and structure. "When our brains are able to predict what comes next, we naturally have less anxiety and worry," she explains. This relates back to the process of putting on makeup as there's typically a regimen behind it, like the order in which you layer on products. "In fact, it is likely that your makeup products themselves are organized in some way, such as by usage and color," Dr. Zuckerman adds. "It is this routine and organization of makeup application that can actually offer us some calming benefits."