How Makeup Affects Your Mental Health

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Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Thursday August 27, 2020

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Why do you wear makeup? Your answer to this question speaks volumes about your mental state. Do you wear it to get ahead in the workplace or impress the opposite sex, or do you paint your face to feel better about yourself? 

People have worn makeup for various reasons across the millennia. Today, as in earlier times, both men and women use products to enhance their appearance. However, in today’s high-anxiety society, how does makeup affect your mental health? Is it a tool for healing, or should those in recovery for specific disorders shun the stuff? 

The Role of Makeup in Modern Culture 

Picture a flight attendant. Now, visualize the same individual without makeup. Can you do it? 

The images we see reflected in popular culture influence our mental health. Consider how evidence suggests that the use of uber-thin models in advertising contributes to eating disorders. It isn’t a stretch to understand how other aspects of physical appearance can impact what happens in our minds. 

However, people don’t only wear makeup to improve their inner sense of self-worth. Research reveals that women who wear makeup on the job earn higher salaries than those who choose to work bare-faced. Maybe you don’t care about that matching set of luggage under your eyes, but if you are aiming for a raise, you might want to grab the concealer. If you work in some professions like bartending or newscasting, your employer can require you to dab on some mascara to maintain a public image. 

This situation creates few problems for folks who would wear makeup, anyway. However, it does impact a woman mentally if she’s passed over for a promotion due to a lack of eyeshadow and waxed brows — are her male peers held to the same standard? If a man or a transgender individual chooses to wear makeup, are they penalized for expressing themselves? How does this issue affect their psyche? Minority stress impacts mental health conditions and can exacerbate symptoms.

Should You Wear Makeup if You Have Mental Health Issues? 

The choice to wear makeup or not is intimately personal, and your mental health may impact your decision. If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you can become depressed or moody when you fall short of “perfection.” Going for a day or even a week without makeup might represent a vital part of your recovery process. If you do work in an industry that requires its use, have a confidential talk with your HR representative about your needs. 

In some individuals, makeup — or having enough of it in the right brands — can become obsessive. It’s one thing to feel dismayed when you run out of Oil of Olay, but if you find yourself in panic mode, it’s time to re-evaluate your self-esteem. If your sense of worth centers around your physical appearance to the point where it causes you to spend money that you can’t afford on foundation and balm, you may need a cosmetics time-out. Becoming desperate when you can’t get it is a sign of a deeper problem, and you should consider seeking help. 

How to Use Makeup to Improve Your Mental Health

Cosmetics do have many benefits. Makeup can become a potent tool in your mental health arsenal by helping you regain a sense of control and engage in self-care with these tips:

  • Soothe an anxious mind: Anxiety often stems from racing thoughts and catastrophic thinking — “I messed up that expense report, my boss hates me, I’m going to get fired, then I’ll be homeless.” Doing your makeup brings you into the present moment. Make it a mindfulness activity by noticing how your skin feels under your fingertips and admiring your eyeliner’s precision line. 
  • Love your own skin: Fair or no, when you look good, you tend to feel better. If you are in a depressive episode, for example, you may find it challenging to get out of bed. Taking a shower and doing your makeup can play a crucial role in your recovery process. 
  • Learn to overcome challenges: Is it your fourth time trying to create the perfect cats’ eye? Don’t give up and chuck your liner in the toilet. Makeup costs money, and you’ll get a nasty clog to boot. Instead, consider it a lesson in perseverance — and congratulate yourself when you do nail it. This practice can be a vital exercise for people with borderline personality disorder who tend to overreact to emotional stimuli, like frustration. 
  • Paint a war face: No, this advice doesn’t mean to commit cultural appropriation. However, if you have a personality disorder, you might lack a clear sense of self. Doing your makeup can be a critical way to pump yourself up for various events by helping you feel more secure about the identity you project to the world. 

Improve Your Mental Health — With Makeup

The relationship between makeup and mental health is complicated. However, by using it wisely, you can use cosmetics to further your recovery goals. 

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