Boost your beauty routine, boost your happiness
GL's beauty director, Kelsey Haywood Lucas, considers the significance of a sheet mask—and explores the science behind smarter self-care.
A few weeks ago, a funny meme popped up on GL’s Instagram feed. “Breaking out, diet is trash, haven't slept in a week, stress levels at an all-time high,” it read. And then, on the next line, “Me: I should put on a face mask! Ya, that’ll fix everything.”
I laughed. I could relate to the idea that we sometimes expect a DIY spa session to solve all our problems. I gave it a double-tap, but it also made me wonder: Why is it that so many people seem to relate to this concept—of slapping a sheet mask on our problems, snapping a selfie in the process...and calling it self-care?
While countless IG posts may have you believe self-care is spending Sunday soaking in a tub filled with flowers, the truth is, it’s so much more than that. Simply stated, self-care is the act of engaging in activities and rituals that bolster bliss and focus our intentions inward. (And let’s face it: There’s a lot going on in the world that’s scary, confusing and stressful, which is part of the reason why self-care has become such a buzzword lately.)
It’s anything that strengthens our emotional and mental and physical wellness; it's anything that makes us feel healthy and happy and energized. And for a lot of us, one of the most accessible forms of self-care is through beauty—whether that means deep conditioning your hair while you write down what you're grateful for, or patiently patting your way through a seven-step skincare routine.
It’s all about the routine, the pattern, the focus: Experts believe that our brains are comforted by the consistency, which helps us fight anxiety, depression and stress. Those 20 minutes—in the a.m., before bed, whenever—allow us to find a very soothing and empowering sense of control when we might otherwise have no say in what happens to us and around us all day long.
For others, self-care may mean shutting off your phone for three hours after school. Whipping up a matcha smoothie in the morning. Yoga. Watching slime videos. Fidget spinners.
Self-care should be a time to relax, recharge and reflect. It isn’t always pretty perfect or Instagrammable. What works for your BFF or your fave blogger might not work for you—for example, one former GL editor gave herself a mani every single night, no matter what, because the process of painting was so soothing for her. But, well, that might make a lot of us bananas—so be sure to experiment before you adopt someone else’s routine or write off self-care altogether.
At its core, self-care is making the effort to understand yourself. It’s knowing that if your face is freaking out, the answer isn’t always to go blow your allowance on the latest skincare product some influencer just unboxed.
Instead, it might mean accepting that you need more sleep and more water and maybe, just maybe, fewer formulas rubbed all over your face. And reminding yourself that, sometimes, breakouts happen—and it's just part of life.
It’s not watching the 33rd straight GRWM video on YouTube when you’re stressed and have a heaping pile of homework ahead of you. It's recognizing which of your go-to moves are exacerbating your anxiety (like, um, avoiding studying for Friday's calc exam) and which ones are actually helping you (like spending an extra 10 minutes studying, taking some deep breaths, painting on a power lip and walking into that test feeling your absolute best).
Self-care is often making the tough choice; the duller decision. It’s a lukewarm shower, not a steamy one, because heat wreaks havoc on your skin. It’s a boring cup of herbal tea, not a fancy, frilly, photogenic Frapp—because even though your shirt says, “But first, coffee,” all of that caffeine would totally mess with your sleep schedule.
Here’s the thing: A sheet mask will never solve all our problems and we all know that. But it *can* teach us to do better. It can teach us the discipline to sit and be still and silent with ourselves for a minimum of 15 minutes—and that, my friends, is meditation. And it can teach us that when we continually choose to take care of ourselves, there will be all kinds of benefits. Better skin, sure—but also the understanding that we are worthy of our own time and attention and affection.
When I started writing this story, I never thought I’d say this, but…yes, self-care really is as simple as slapping on sheet mask. Snap a selfie if you want to share it; sit solo if that’s more your style. Whether it’s a slimy piece of cotton stuck to your face or a decked-out bath complete with glitter bombs and blooms, know this: Self-care is self-love. So just be sure to schedule some.
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—Next-level luxuries for body and soul—
How to get more reward from your rituals...
Chill out. Here’s another reason to nix your steam session: According to research, cold showers can alleviate and prevent depression by stimulating a part of your brain called the “blue spot.” For the feel-good bennies, researchers recommend two to three minutes of 68-degree H2O, preceded by a five-minute gradual adaptation to that temp. It’s a brrrr…illiant way to start the day.
Mist. In a mood…and, um, need a moment? (We hear you.) There’s no better way to reset and refresh—on the fly—than with a quick spritz of a facial mist. Look for something with rose water (which plumps the skin and has anti-inflammatory effects) and stash it in your bag for SOS sitches.
Make time for massage. It’s no secret that soft, hyper hydrated skin feels amazing. But instead of slapping lotion on post-shower and running out the door, up the effects of your application by using it as the opportunity for a mini massage. As you work in a luxe cream or oil (I'm obsessed with the Kopari Coconut Melt), be sure to rub deeply and knead with your knuckles: It’ll stimulate the lymphatic system to help your bod detox, improve circulation and even stimulate feel-good chemicals in your brain.
Spritz something soothing. Studies show that lavender aromatherapy can reduce anxiety and depression substantially, as well as improve restlessness and disturbed sleep. Work it into your nighttime ritual by deeply inhaling the oil or spritzing a sleep spray onto your pillow.
Erin’s Faces Aromatherapy Spray in Lavender, $14, erinsfaces.com
Roll with it. Habitual behaviors help the mind clear itself and find logic—and practices with the most repetition are the most effective. Make your morning skincare routine do double duty (your brain *and* face will benefit) by using a facial roller for 2 to 3 minutes: You’ll literally just roll upward in short strokes over and over again. Go to girlslife.com/iti for the benefit breakdown and our how-to. Go HERE for a demo!
A version of this article appeared in the February/March 2018 issue of Girls' Life magazine.