How skincare products and rituals can provide you with the daily reprieve you need…
By Adriana Ermter
Think about these expressions for a minute. “She worried herself sick.” “My anxiety is in overdrive.” “You’re probably stressed out.” “It feels like an uphill battle.” “She was burning the midnight oil.” “He can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Chances are you’ve said at least one, thought about another and probably lived out a third. Emotional and physical reactions to stress confirm that you’re not the Black Widow or Spider-Man you think you are, yet do nothing to stop you from continually trying to defy this reality. It’s human nature to push beyond the limits. We want to be our best. Sometimes, we even try to keep up with and surpass the proverbial Joneses.
The imbalance dilemma
Proof of this mentality is the escalating trend to present a seemingly wrinkle-free life in tiny squares on Instagram. So is our newfound thinking (courtesy of COVID-19) that unless we are accessible 24/7 on Zoom, FaceTime and Teams, we risk losing our jobs and/or our connection with friends and family. According to a 2018 study by Everyday Health, 57 per cent of the US population claims to feel paralyzed by stress, with 47 per cent admitting to taking this stress out on themselves. The pressure is real and has manifested on many of our faces, most commonly as acne spots, skin irritations, and increased fine lines and wrinkles.
“There’s a quote by the Roman poet Ovid – ‘The man who has experienced shipwreck shudders even at a calm sea’ – that really speaks to our stress and anxiety,” affirms Claire Silvester, a registered psychotherapist at Therapy & Tea in Toronto. “Our body’s reaction to [all types of] mental challenges can produce feelings of stress or anxiety…and by thinking fearful thoughts, our body reacts in anticipation.”
These reactions are the body’s way of throwing a temper tantrum, although the shouting voices and pounding fists are replaced by blue-coloured bags under our eyes; a deep set of 11s creased between our brows; and dry, scaly patches on our cheeks and more.
One of the simplest and quickest ways to calm these emotions is to make time for a mental and physical reset by tapping into what the beauty and grooming industries call emotional skin care.
Emotional skin care 101
An easy DIY way to realign your body and mind connection, emotional skincare is the practice of creating self-care beauty and grooming habits, and using beneficial skincare products. You don’t need to dedicate hours each day to achieve this: carving out time for practices like baths, facials and a cleansing and moisturizing routine, while supplementing each of these with products fuelled with relaxing and soothing ingredients, is a sure path to rejuvenation.
“Everyone’s body has an alarm system to the reactions of anxiety, and the skin is just one of the parts of the body that can become a physical symptom,” explains Silvester. “The right side of the brain specializes in feelings and sensations, so when you are stressed out, it wants to repair itself and the physical manifestations caused by stress.”
Engaging self-care through skincare
Reaching for beauty and grooming products such as calming face creams, detoxifying Epsom bath salts and mood-enhancing essential oils every single day is a great place to start. Using feel-good products on a regular basis creates ritualistic behaviour, which then turns into mindful habits – when you hone in on the sensations you’re experiencing in the present moment – that can make the difference from one day to the next, as the benefits can be felt emotionally and seen on your skin.
According to a 2019 research article published in Frontiers in Psychology, self-care rituals can reduce and even stop worry and stress, as they can help your brain release negative thoughts and patterns. “We see increasing research that talks about the mind and body as being one, and this concept has gained traction over the last 50 years,” says Silvester. So while the action of moisturizing or bathing may sound frivolous, in actuality it is creating necessary “you-time,” and when done repeatedly, the routine actions send an unspoken signal to your brain that you are taking care of yourself.
The smell good, feel good effect
In her new book Detox Nourish Activate: Plant and Vibrational Medicine for Energy, Mood and Love, author Adora Winquist recommends incorporating skin and bath products infused with essential oils into our self-care practices. The different scents stimulate our olfactory system (the part of the brain that is connected to smell), and can provide respiratory, decongestant and psychological benefits. With each breath we take, the oils’ molecules trigger the brain, causing it to respond and have a positive impact on our emotions, heart rate, breathing, stress, hormone balance and more. “Essential oils are plant medicines that interact in very complex ways with our human cells,” explains Winquist in her book. “Alchemy is when there is a transformation, including physical, mental and emotional shifts. When inhaled, essential oils can stimulate the limbic system, a part of the brain that influences emotions and behaviours.”
Essential oils can also have a big impact on our skin. Lavender and camomile calm and soothe skin irritations and acne spots in addition to our feelings. They also work relaxation wonders when added to a bath. Bergamot, lemon, orange and other citruses brighten our skin and minimize pores, along with invigorating the senses, reducing stress and producing happy feelings. Rose hydrates and smooths the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as emitting a sense of peaceful bliss. Eucalyptus, spearmint and mint simultaneously cool and refresh the skin, and reduce headaches, joint pain and respiratory congestion. Patchouli and rosemary relieve dry skin and eliminate excess facial oil respectively, while lessening depression, anxiety and tension. Ylang-ylang and geranium balance fluctuating skin conditions and promote harmony, self-esteem and confidence.
Infused into face creams, bath salts, bubbles and more, and used ritualistically for enhanced self-care, these ingredients have the ability to heal and balance both our skin and our minds. “There is great synergy in these practices that serve as a catalyst for anyone on their journey of transformation to greater abundance in life, the abundance of joy, vibrancy, love and prosperity which correlate to overall well-being,” says Winquist.
When you’re engaged in mindful activities, such as taking a hot bath and washing, toning and moisturizing your face, you’re giving yourself the space to get out of your head and focus on what you’re doing. That’s when the stress and anxiety begin to melt away. “Mindfulness practice continues to be a key to brain and body health,” says Silvester. “Anything that constitutes healthy self-care can buffer against some of the worry and feeling of being overwhelmed. Aromatherapy, skin care and investing in ourselves are not just lovely experiences; they are vital in times when we are weary with worry. Preventative in nature, regular self-care can act as a long-term strategy for stress reduction. Distract your mind from worrying through skincare rituals, deeply relaxing soaks and having positive daily habits.”
ADRIANA ERMTER is a Toronto-based, lifestyle-magazine pro who has travelled the globe writing about must-spritz fragrances, child poverty, beauty and grooming.