Not Just Vanity: How my beauty routine helps me cope with anxiety

by Elisa Aquino

Depression and anxiety have always been present in my life. Early on, I thought it was simply an overreaction to circumstances. I was too vulnerable, I wore my heart on my sleeve - not realizing that the chemical imbalance in my brain constantly leads to such destructive thoughts. It comes in waves: constant overanalyzing, insomnia, panic attacks, restrictive food intake, and procrastination. When it gets really bad, I find it difficult to do any kind of productive activity, even something as simple as getting out of bed. I’ve had to consider therapy and counseling, and self-care through makeup and skincare has played an important part of how I manage my condition.

My earliest memory of beauty was playing with my mother’s tube of red lipstick. As a teenager, I gravitated towards the eccentric choice of a purple eyeliner, and because my then-boyfriend told me I had beautiful eyes, it stayed with me. At 23, I rediscovered the enchanting world of beauty. I was fascinated by the ability of makeup to give me a sense of control through each meticulous stroke. The intricate 10-step Korean skincare routine became a daily habit. Obsessively researching and trying out products led me to create beauty-related content for my personal blog. I also started to invest whatever free time I had to pursuing a new dream that was planted in my heart, which is to become a professional makeup artist.  

I am not alone. Many women have shared about improvements to the state of their emotional and mental well-being when they incorporate a beauty routine into their lives. After all, it is a multi-sensory experience: slathering on different textures, playing with different colors, and even inhaling fragrances. The mindfulness of this activity redirects overwhelming thoughts to a “canvas”, countering destructive behaviors, and I’ve become more aware of how it personally affects me.

Using the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser and the Klairs Soft Airy UV Essence in my morning skincare routine prepares me for the day ahead. Seeing my face transform after I complete my makeup gives me the confidence to step out and face a new day. At night, removing my makeup with my trustworthy Bioré Cleansing Oil is a way to wash off the troubles of the day. Slathering on essences and creams before I go to sleep (Laneige Sleeping Mask for special days!) is a way to lay down the weight of the day, knowing I did everything I could.

When I am spiraling down what seems like an endless, numbing cycle of shame, fear, and blame, I elevate my mood by going through my beauty routine - a productive activity that transfixes my attention to this small but big thing. I am present in the moment; it occupies me and keeps me from thinking on the regrets of the past or dreading the uncertainty of the future.

In some anxiety-inducing social situations, I use the topic of beauty as a means to connect with other women. I open the conservation with this foolproof subject instead of being intimidated. The effortless act of sharing one’s routine fosters a sense of empowerment and fellowship. I also deeply appreciate getting compliments on my favorite peachy pink blush (the Milani Baked Blush in Luminoso) and my everyday eyeshadow look (using the Tarte Tartelette in Bloom Amazonian in Clay Eyeshadow Palette) as it helps to diffuse my inferiority complex.

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So no, it’s not just vanity - although there’s nothing wrong with that! This ritualized structure within my day stimulates my senses and creativity. It has become a reliable coping mechanism. Being able to create this idealized, enhanced version of me when I have no willpower to take care of myself becomes a daily feat that fuels the rest of my activities.

If you also experience anxiety and/or depression, know that I am not oversimplifying the excruciating reality of the condition. A swipe of your favorite bold-colored lipstick is not a replacement for professional help and, in some cases, medication. Do whatever works for you - whether it be daily meditation, physical activity, journaling, or prayer. Setting aside time for self-care isn’t selfish - it’s a powerful means to boosting your holistic well-being and behavior. Commit to doing that thing, no matter how insignificant it seems, and remember to take it one day at a time.


Elisa Aquino is a portrait photographer, (life)style writer, and aspiring makeup artist in constant pursuit of all things beauty. She writes to showcase the life-changing power of grace to transform women from ashes to beauty. She blogs over at She Makes Him Known.