Did you know that your daily skincare routine can do far more than give you a radiant glow and preserve a youthful appearance? Taking time to practice self-care can greatly impact your overall well-being.
Mental health benefits of routines
Effective routines add organization and structure to your day in what often feels like an out-of-control world. According to medical professionals, routines can boost your mental and physical health. They can help you improve your sleep, eat healthier, and increase your activity level. This, in turn, helps decrease stress, which improves your overall health, lessens anxiety, and increases your ability to relax.
“Having a routine—and skincare is included—makes people feel better and gives them a goal, which is good for mental health,” says Diane Berson MD, FAAD, associate professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine, New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
Routines go beyond skin deep
Think about the process of applying a moisturizer: you apply it to your face, gently massaging it into your skin. You inhale the scent, noticing its fruity undertones. You feel the product between your fingertips, enjoying its creamy texture. You look into the mirror, focusing on an even application. This form of self-care delivers a highly sensory experience and allows you to practice mindfulness—an opportunity to be present. As a form of meditation shown to benefit mental health, mindfulness may alleviate some stress, anxiety, and even depression.
“When we clean or moisturize our skin, we end up with skin that’s glowing and radiant. It certainly makes anyone feel good,” says Berson. “I think the application process itself triggers a positive release of endorphins and neurotransmitters.”
Connecting skin care and self-image
Like it or not, when we first meet others, we’re often initially judged by our appearance. And for those who struggle with skin conditions (think acne, rosacea, and eczema), trying to manage these issues so you look and feel good about yourself can negatively impact your self-image.
“Severe acne—and any skin condition—can affect self-esteem and self-image,” explains Berson. “I think it’s a combination of how the person feels about themselves and how they also feel they project to others.” She points out how it goes both ways—stress can cause many skin conditions to flare and having a skin issue can cause stress.
Taking the time to develop a skin care routine specifically for ourselves, though it may not be a cure-all for every skin issue, can help us connect back to ourselves.
How can you incorporate a skincare routine into your daily life to maximize its mental health benefits? After Berson examines a patient, she prescribes a tailored regimen based on the individual patient’s needs, issues, and skin type. You can take the same approach.
“I actually write it out for my patients for morning, afternoon, and bedtime,” explains Berson, noting what to do, what to use, and in what order. With a dizzying array of beauty product choices, most people can benefit from the basics of using a cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen, and retinoid, says Berson.
Regardless of which products you use, Berson offers a few skincare routine tips.
Take a mindful approach. “While people are using skincare, they’re not necessarily thinking about their to-do lists, what happened yesterday, or what they need to do tomorrow,” Berson points out. “They’re just living for the moment and enjoying the self-pampering and the sensation of touch or smell.”
Make yourself a priority. When you take time to pamper yourself, you prioritize your self-care.
Find what works for you. Tailor your skincare routine to meet your specific needs based on your health, lifestyle, age, and skincare issues.
Be consistent. “If I had to pick one time, I’d recommend before bedtime,” says Berson. “Put on your overnight cream, which will sit undisturbed on your skin and sink in.” She also recommends a morning skincare routine because it helps wake you up.
Build in extras. Beyond the basics, use masks once or twice a week. Give yourself a little extra pampering, maybe on the weekend when you have more time, suggests Berson. And make it a special time for self-care, perhaps laying down, closing your eyes, and meditating.
“Having skin that looks and feels better, that is healthier—I think that’s great for self-esteem and self-image,” Berson concludes. “And making a routine out of it, just like anything else, is very healthy for the mind.”
Tap the senses
Consider using essential oils, especially those with science behind their mental health benefits. Research shows that certain oils, such as lavender, can reduce stress. Apply essential oils topically on the wrists, temples, and neck.