Finding Your Joy in Skincare and Beyond, Part 1
We know skincare is self-care, but does it sometimes feel more like a chore to you? Or even all-out war? Then it’s time to take back our joy. Here, how you can spark joy in skincare.
Skincare can be self-care. I’ve been saying it since I first wrote how I use skincare to help manage my depression, all the way back in 2015, and in the years since then, I’ve had countless meaningful conversations with readers who’ve done the same. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to discuss other avenues of self-care with you guys, too. We’re still at the beginning of a new year, with all the freshness that implies. That makes this a great time to have a conversation about how we can maximize the joy in our lives, in skincare and beyond.
The first step to that is making sure that your self-care is actually self-care, and not the opposite.
Making sure your skincare is self-care
In 2020, I think many of us already know how much a consistent skincare routine can benefit our mental health and daily lives, so I won’t spend more time on that topic. Instead, I want to talk about the flip side of this scenario. It’s something that I see more and more often in the community: that tipping point where skincare stops being self-care and starts becoming a source of stress.
Look. It’s beauty. We’ve been trained by society (and perhaps hardwired by nature) to value and seek beauty, to aspire to possess it, and often to project our personal wishes and fantasies onto it. Most of us have internalized on some level the idea that life would be better if we were prettier, the idea that we would have better chances at the things we want if our appearances were more “ideal.” In some cases, that may be true. In other cases, it isn’t. But in all cases, for the vast majority of us, it really isn’t that big of a deal.
Most of us aren’t models or celebrities. Our livelihoods don’t depend on how well we can perfect our outward appearance. Friendship, romance, and happiness don’t require flawless skin or idol features, either — if they did, the human race would have died out a long time ago. Beauty products are fun, and the pursuit of whatever your idea of beauty is can be fun as well, but at the end of the day, beauty is not life or death.
Beauty is not life or death, and neither should the way we approach our beauty routines. I fully believe that beauty is something that should be approached with a sense of fun and enjoyment, not with the grim determination of a soldier training for battle.
Unfortunately, it can be easy for some of us to lose that sense of fun. I see it happen particularly often in skincare, especially if you first came to skincare because you have specific skin issues that you’d like to resolve. Skincare and beauty can quickly become a source of misery if you aren’t mindful of your thought processes around it.
Our internal narrative, the story we tell ourselves about ourselves and the words we use to tell that story, have a powerful influence over our experience of reality. So reflect on your own self-talk and how you describe yourself, both to yourself and to others. Are you nitpicking your appearance, criticizing yourself harshly, calling yourself names, or catastrophizing to yourself about all the bad things that will happen or all the good things you will miss out on if you don’t look a certain way or if you don’t do your entire skincare routine every night?
If you are, it’s time to step back from skincare and from the magnifying mirror. It’s time to remember that happiness and success do not depend on how quickly your breakout clears up or how regularly you reapply your sunscreen.
(And don’t get me started on reapplying sunscreen. Personally, I don’t do it unless I’m actually out in the sun for more than two hours in a given day. Reapplying every two hours on the dot when I’m inside most of the day seems like a huge waste of product, money, time, and energy.)
What to do to spark joy in skincare
When you find yourself stressing out about your skin or your skincare, take some time to step back and examine your motives. What exactly do you believe will happen once your skin is the way you want it to be? If your internal narrative ties major life changes to improvements in your skin (like believing that you’ll only find love once your acne subsides), you’ll be especially prone to turning skincare into a source of stress and unhappiness.
Please understand that people of all sorts of skin conditions find love, success, and satisfaction in their lives. Even if they have acne. Even if they have wrinkles. Even if they’re mid-peel from overenthusiastic tretinoin use. (Whoops.)
Perfect skin and/or a perfect outward appearance of any kind are not a prerequisite to a full and satisfying life. If you’re telling yourself that your life won’t get better or you won’t be happy until your skin looks the way you think it should, it’s time to take a break from whatever influences are making you feel that way. This includes any influencers that send the message that life is more worth living if you’re prettier.
Don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not saying that skincare and beauty are worthless. Obviously not — I maintain my own extensive skincare routines, and I enjoy using makeup and doing my hair, too. I’m just saying that in order to enjoy these things, it’s important to maintain perspective. Feeling that I look my best gives me extra confidence, and feeling that I look on the outside the way I feel on the inside makes me happier. Maintaining what I have lets me feel that way for longer.
I enjoy these benefits enough to justify the spending and the effort. But I don’t do these things because I have to, and I don’t let my routine get so rigid that it feels like the end of the world if I don’t do it. I do them because I want to. Also, I find it fun and relaxing to take care of myself in this way.
Ultimately, that’s the difference between skincare as self-care and skincare as a burden and source of stress. Like I said, most of us aren’t models or celebrities. We don’t have to double cleanse and apply sunscreen and maintain perfectly clear skin. So we should pay attention to whether our beauty routines truly enhance our lives and bring us enjoyment, or whether they’ve become extra problems that weigh us down. None of us needs extra problems that weigh us down.
Do skincare to the extent that it brings you joy. Follow online skincare communities to the extent that they bring you joy. But watch out for the point at which the joy fades and feelings of anxiety or the pressure to be perfect begin to creep in, because that’s when it’s time to step back and reevaluate whether this is something that enhances your life. If it doesn’t, it’s time to change.
Of course, skincare is just one way of sparking extra joy in your life. Next up, we’ll talk about other ways to spark joy!
Do you do anything to spark joy in skincare? Or has it become a burden to you? Let’s talk about it!