It’s arguable that women are under more pressure than ever before, with 53% of us admitting to feeling overwhelmed in the office alone. Could our beauty regimes hold the key to better mental health?

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How do you feel when you apply your makeup? If you’re prone to hurriedly blending foundation or wanging a mascara wand around on public transport, you’re certainly not alone, but chances are you feel more stressed than serene. How about if you could carve out a window that combines mindfulness with your usual beauty routine?

Given that we’re working longer hours than ever, and rarely ever truly clock off, double-timing hair, skincare and makeup regimes with a ritual of mental self-care seems to make sense. According to Mintel, 59 per cent of women report that their beauty routine helps them to relax, and if further proof of the mood-boosting potential of powder and paint were needed, 54 per cent of Chinese women using a face mask felt happier afterwards. Combine this with the fact that the Chinese are one of the most overworked populations in the world, along with the Japanese where 22.7 per cent of companies reported workers logging more than 80 hours of overtime a month last year, and the value of ten minutes of downtime with a face pack really comes to the fore.

According to Mintel global analyst Andrew MacDougall, beauty routines are increasingly becoming an opportunity to find a little peace in a frantic day, quite aside from the actual beautification element:

“Consumers are looking for quick and easy ways to escape, to grab a little “me time” and relax and re-energize whenever and wherever they can.”

Clearly you’re not about to whip out a sheet mask at your desk (although no one would blink an eye around here), but concentrating on the more holistic, self-care element of even the most essential grooming activity can help you to feel calmer and more centred at both the beginning and end of the day. Mintel analysts underline that the much hyped Scandinavian concept of hygge  is fast crossing over into the beauty industry, with an emphasis on taking pleasure in everyday moments and creating an environment of physical and emotional ‘cosiness’. From Espa’s recently launched Restorative Balm , £15, which does double duty as a moisturiser and mind-clearer (it’s designed to help you to ‘escape a demanding day in the office or on the go’) to  Nails Inc’s new Mindful Manicure range , infused with electromagnetic crystals to supposedly ‘channel energy and help to clarify thoughts’, everything from painting our nails to applying lotions and potions is being promoted as a chance to check in with our state of mind and chill out.

Watching someone else apply their make up with so much care can be very therapeutic. it reminds us to care for ourselves.

One such proponent of ‘makeup as meditation’ is makeup artist, author of The Inner Beauty Bible  and founder of  The Colourful Dot Laurey Simmons . A former assistant to Mary Greenwell  and in-demand from the likes of Net a Porter, Vogue and Nike to name just a few high profile clients, Laurey is more than familiar with the hectic pace of modern life, but found that turning the process of applying makeup into a ritualistic experience not only had a profound effect on her work and wellbeing, but on that of her subjects too:

“I quickly created my own career as a makeup artist in the fashion and music industries, and found that putting on makeup can be a kind of ritual in itself. There is something meditative about it, the attention to detail, the repetition, the time for self-care.”

“And so, I developed more of an interest in crystals, meditation and conscious living, my approach to makeup work naturally evolved. I started to create little sacred spaces for my clients, using crystals, essential oils and meditation, which seemed to add a deeper dimension to the makeup ritual. My clients started to tell me that they experienced a kind of peacefulness and inner joy that had a real, positive impact on them before a shoot or big event.”

“This new sacred dimension I was bringing to the beauty process was especially helpful and grounding to myself and my clients when we were on the road. As we’d travel from city to city, and from country to country, on music tours, I’d bring a portable sacred space with crystals and oils. All of these rituals really helped us to ground ourselves and reconnect to a space of stillness in the midst of busy tour life.”

Clearly we’re not all rock stars on the road, but given that almost all of us will have some semblance of a beauty routine, Laurey believes that using this time to set the tone for the day (or wind down at the end of it) can do you the world of good, quite aside from the skincare benefits:

“For many of us, an important part of our morning routine is applying makeup, which helps us feel more confident and ready for the day. Sometimes, however, it’s not easy to tap into a space of ‘inner beauty’, especially when we’re pushed for time.”

“I know for myself that when my skin’s been playing up, or when I’ve not had enough sleep and I have dark circles under my eyes, I look at my reflection in the mirror and can be harshly critical of my appearance, zooming in on the bits I don’t like.”

“Whenever I catch myself in this self-critical headspace, I take an ‘inner beauty pause’, because I know this negative mind-chatter can easily dominate my thoughts and feelings throughout the day if I don’t address it. Remember, beauty is so much more than skin-deep, and these moments when we catch ourselves in self-judgement really do contain huge potential for the cultivation of inner beauty. The more we can become mindful of negative self-talk, the more chance we have of being free from it.”

“Within the ‘inner beauty pause’, I take a deep breath in and visualize breathing out any heavy, critical energy. I then bring my attention to something about myself I know I can feel positive about (it doesn’t need to be physical, it can be a personal quality or an act of kindness you’ve done recently or plan to do that day.) Once I’ve refocused my attention towards appreciation, I then allow myself to embrace my imperfections. If you’re up for a really strong reminder, you can write on your mirror a word or message to help remember your inner beauty: one message could simple be ‘I am enough.’”

Given that Mintel reports that 53% of us are closer to burnout than we were five years ago, with psychological symptoms including anger, nervousness, and lack of energy, not to mention physical symptoms ranging from  fatigue , headache, upset stomach, muscle tension, change in appetite, and even teeth grinding, escaping a cycle of negativity as Laurey refers to, alongside instigating balance within our lifestyles in general, appears all the more crucial.

66% of women believe that stress affects the appearance of their skin, so if you’re reducing anxiety while treating skin at the same time, surely that’s a win-win.

One way that many people (read: millions) are tuning out of the stresses of everyday life is via Auto Sensory Meridian Response videos, or ASMR for short. Emma Smith of ASMR channel EmmaWhispers Red,  has amounted almost 300,000 Youtube subscribers since launching in 2013, and explains how an ASMR video documenting someone else’s beauty routine can be a powerful mindfulness aid:

“I make 'get ready with me' ASMR videos on my YouTube channel. My microphones pick up the sounds of the make up packaging, the brush sounds and of course my voice talking, softly detailing every aspect of the application process. The sounds that come from opening a lipstick or an eyeshadow palette are so relaxing that they constantly draw your focus into the moment. Watching someone else apply their make up with so much care can be very therapeutic, it reminds us to care for ourselves. I also feel it's important for me to appreciate my flaws whilst making these videos. Not only is it of benefit to me but for others to gain confidence in themselves. We're all truly beautiful however we appear on the outside.”

Anyone with a Lisa Eldridge video  habit can likely relate to the soothing nature of a step-by-step tutorial when executed calmly in dulcet tones (not so much the ‘hi guys!’ of many beauty vlogs), and while the inclusion of deep-breathing, positive affirmations and the likes of crystals in a beauty routine may be too hippie dippie for some, anything that lifts the load in terms of internal and external pressures is to be welcomed if it works for you. A Mintel report reveals that 66% of women believe that stress affects the appearance of their skin, so if you’re reducing anxiety while treating skin at the same time, surely that’s a win-win. On a practical level, Mintel analysts emphasise that, to become a habit, any service or product that claims to enhance wellbeing needs to have a tangible effect and directly address our needs:

“Thinking about usage occasions is important to consider when targeting stress relief and relaxation. Apps (such as Blow Ltd. ) that deliver results in minutes are more in line with today's lifestyle. In addition, stress-relieving products shouldn't be over complicated- think simple and straightforward as well as being easy to use on the go or at any time throughout the day.”

“It’s also essential that beauty companies ensure that the service and the language clearly communicates a real benefit for the user. The service must deliver on its promises in order to become a mainstay.”

Including more spiritual, mindful elements into a beauty routine may seem wishy washy, but if it makes a positive difference to both your state of mind and outward appearance, there could be something in it. Otherwise, if stress-relief comprises booking a beauty therapist to come to your house out of hours and groom your hooves at your convenience, that counts too.

All imagery except Nails Inc photographed by  Nassima Rothacker  and taken from  The Inner Beauty Bible  by Laurey Simmons, £14.99, published by Harper Thorsons

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