It took a pandemic to help us truly appreciate the mood-boosting power of beauty. From face masks to mascara, products have been a constant companion – one with the power to make us smile in a year when there wasn’t much in the way of positivity to hold on to. While some of us enjoyed the ritualistic nature of an evening skincare routine – one no longer restricted by a shortage of time – or a steamy bath filled with all manner of potions, others sought solace in the lift provided by a lick of lipstick, an ultra dewy foundation, or a brilliant brow pencil.
Beauty’s power to uplift is nothing new. The Lipstick Index (a term coined by Leonard Lauder, then chairman at Estée Lauder), describes the uptick in lipstick sales in times of economic uncertainty, as women seek out an affordable (but no less exciting) way to boost their spirits. While sales of colour cosmetics are down in the Covid era, skincare has seen a huge boost, with many retailers (Cult Beauty included) reporting that sales in the category have more than doubled.
The comfort of ritual
Whether it’s a weekly scalp massage or using your gua sha each evening, our beauty and wellness rituals create a sense of consistency even in times of great change, which can often feel uncomfortable and stressful. Alexia Inge, founder of Cult Beauty, says that many of the more enduring rituals stand the test of time because they have a therapeutic benefit when it comes to the “inner aspect of our lives”, rather than simply our appearance. Think hair, body and face masking, and exfoliating and bathing with “emotionally supportive products with sensory textures,” like sumptuously thick and indulgent oils or scrubs. No longer just about removing dead skin or making our hair glossy, these rituals do as much to improve our emotional wellbeing as they do the way we look.
How touch can lift our spirits
Human touch is essential for a happy life, and many of us have been forced to adapt to life without it. When we are touched or touch, a hormone called oxytocin is released, which helps us to feel that warm, fuzzy feeling we get when we’re in love, while also reducing feelings of depression and anxiety. When we are deprived of human touch, our beauty routines can come in handy. Applying our skincare mindfully, and with care, as well as indulging in facial and scalp massage, can make a difference.
The mood-altering effects of aromatherapy
The sensory element of a formula has a huge impact on how we feel: an effective cleanser which smells like a spa treatment – hello, Elemis’ Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm – earns its cult status because it makes us feel good, as well as look good. Aromatherapy has a big part to play in the formulas we return to. As well as helping us to connect with the outside world, things like essential oils (which, incidentally, have been used for centuries to alter our moods) have a direct effect on our brains. Our olfactive system connects straight to the emotional centre of the brain, the amygdala, and scents can do everything from calm and soothe to energise. Incorporating some kind of scent into your routine, whether that be via an Aromatherapy Associates Bath Oil (we love Deep Relax), or an Anatomē Room Diffuser and Humidifier, is an easy way to tap into a more positive mindset.
The power of community
The emotional power of beauty doesn’t lie only in the products. Many brands now foster thriving and supportive communities that rally around one another, particularly when times are tough.
“Consumers are more connected to a brand’s inner workings than ever before – it’s no longer just about the brand’s façade or the products they sell, but more so the solutions they provide. In that sense, the brand/consumer relationship is naturally becoming more intimate,” says Livvy Houghton, creative researcher at strategic foresight consultancy the Future Laboratory. Brands like Glossier spearheaded this close, conversational relationship, but more recently, shaving brand Estrid has been encouraging its customer base to share “Estrid moments” all while speaking to them like they’re a close friend.
And this new-look relationship makes us consumers feel good, too. “We’ve witnessed the category shift out of the labs and into our homes, and in that way it’s connecting with people on a more approachable, friendly level. This, paired with consumers’ desire for daily guidance and support from brands – through habit or routine-led products and services – is resulting in an entirely different level of brand loyalty. They’ve become indispensable to each other,” says Houghton.
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