4 Min Read |
Beauty products and makeup are widely used and yet widely criticized. The beauty industry as a whole is often said to feed off consumer insecurity. Studies show that frequent use of makeup and cosmetics is significantly linked with self-consciousness and low self-esteem – although conflicting research suggests that actually, the notion that one has improved their physical appearance can also enhance confidence. Society is becoming more aware the expectations placed on women as brands and consumers are challenging conventional beauty norms. Anti-Trump lipsticks and media coverage, which politicises makeup choices, highlight the changing playing field of beauty.
But somewhere within this discourse is the reality of choice. A large number of women make the personal choice to purchase, use, and promote beauty products every day. And many report that this choice is not only because they want to look a certain way, but because incorporating beauty routines into their daily life is good for their mental health.
View this post on Instagram
You drink water, but do you feed your skin? Our Hydrating Floral Mask is everything your skin craves, especially in the middle of winter. Our unique blend of 1,000 different micro and macro molecular sizes of hyaluronic acid (HA) work on multiple different levels of the skin to hydrate from the inside out. Why 1,000? Because size matters. #greenyourbeautyroutine @siljadanielsen
Focus and Routine for Improved Mental Health
Morning and evening skincare and makeup routines have the power to change moods. Supported findings in mental health research demonstrate that a routine can be hugely beneficial to those struggling with anxiety. Even the simplest daily routine, such as moisturizing your skin, can create a sense of calm and focus.
Evidence shows that a one-hour meditation practice can markedly reduce anxiety – and a key aspect of that is the intense focus that is inherent in meditation. Although it may seem a bit of a leap, the focus that frequent cosmetics users experience when they are absorbed in their routine can provide a similar experience of focus and of checking in with the present moment.
Unfortunately, as it stands there is a great lack of research into the role of beauty in mental health. In 2008, a study found that women with breast cancer showed improvement in their psychological wellbeing after going through a cosmetics education program, which helped them to manage the visible side effects of their treatment. This study is a drop in the ocean, and there is a need for more attention to be given to ways in which beauty could be used to make people feel better. We are living in a time when poor mental health is a growing problem; over 44 million Americans have a known mental health condition at present, making it a genuine health crisis. Is it not important, then, to consider how existing daily practices – like beauty routines – could be embraced in order to improve public health?
Brands Ahead of the Curve
Some beauty brands are already beginning to welcome their role as potential mental health supporters. According to data taken from Google, consumers are increasingly searching for products and ingredients that are known to lift moods and reduce stress and anxiety – such as CBD, Ashwagandha, and scents including bergamot. This shift in consumer interest, away from products which simply change the way they look and also affect the way they feel, is inspiring beauty companies to incorporate mood-boosting ingredients in their products and target their marketing accordingly.
Osea is a clean beauty brand which has been operating for over two decades. It recently launched a product called Vagus Nerve Oil – a body oil which, according to Osea, has the dual purpose of regulating stress levels when the scent is inhaled during use. Similarly, luxury face oil brand Milèo encourages customers to apply the product before cupping their hands around their nose and mouth to experience feelings of joy. Milèo’s founder Matthew Milèo notes that this sensory wellbeing experience provides an incentive for customers to keep buying the products; “if a customer is looking at a couple of options, they will pay a little more for something with added benefits, and it persuades them to make that purchase.”
Scents, particularly essential oils, have been proven to reduce stress. A number of brands are using this insight to sell mood-enhancing products. Vermont based natural skincare company Tata Harper has launched an Aromatic Stress Treatment spray which claims to dispel stress and anxiety with a scent blend that includes jojoba seed oil and sambucus nigra fruit extract. Aveda’s Stress Fix Body Cream soothes dry skin while reducing stress with lavender and clary sage oils. At the lower end of the price scale, Origins – an environmentally conscious natural skincare brand from New York – offers a Peace of Mind On-the-Spot Relief product which can be dabbed onto the skin. They call this product a ‘mind-clearing formula’ and it includes a range of essential oils including peppermint, basil and rose; all of which reportedly have hormone-balancing and stress-relieving properties.
Marketing and Consumer Care
Milèo’s honesty about the marketing value of feel-good ingredients is reflective of both the business-focus and the consumer-focus of the beauty industry. It is an industry which, arguably, depends on genuine consumer satisfaction more than any other. If people don’t like a product, or if it doesn’t do what they want it to do, or if it simply doesn’t work, they won’t buy it again.
Critics may suggest that using ingredients that claim to improve mental health is another way of manipulating consumers into buying products. On the other hand, beauty industry consumers are going to continue to buy beauty products. so why not make those products worked on multiple levels and, crucially, make people feel calmer and happier?