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Why experimental make-up is becoming an act of wellness


TextKristen Bateman

Creatives all over the world have been using lockdown as an opportunity to push their boundaries, psychologists say this could be a new form of self-care

All during lockdown, people have been painting their lids in a plethora of neon colors, trying out unusual liner shapes or mismatched eyeshadows, and more importantly, getting experimental with beauty. It’s especially interesting to note, that it seems like even people who normally don’t wear a lot of make-up have been testing out new looks and snapping selfies – all without anywhere to go. I’ve noticed many of my peers playing with more make-up during this uncertain time too.

Chalk it up to having more time to get ready at home, but even as someone who lives for bright colours or unconventional looks in beauty, I feel like I have also been going the extra mile with my routine. From sticking gems from my drugstore run below my eyebrows to painting clouds on my lids and drawing massive amoeba-like blobs around my eyes, I’ve been approaching make-up with a nothing’s-off-limits approach lately. The most extreme make-up I’ve ever worn has been worn while in quarantine.

For myself, taking time to put on extra, unusual, and even admittedly strange make-up feels almost therapeutic. I don’t have the normal time constraints of having to rush anywhere, and it’s really fun to get into it and see what works and what doesn’t. It’s truly like an escape from the terrifying news cycle and everything that’s going on in the world. 

According to psychologists, there’s a reason why people, even those not previously into extreme beauty, are trying out dramatic new looks right now. “Wearing make-up can be a form of self-care,” says Dr Patricia Celan, a psychiatry resident at Dalhousie University in Canada. “During the pandemic, many people have started to let themselves go. However, doing all of these things is necessary for maintaining your mental health. Something shifts psychologically when you let yourself go, and even just brushing your hair for yourself can improve the state of your mental health while in lockdown.” 

Likewise, others have been taking the opportunity they previously may not have had to change up their look. With many people working from home rather than going into the office, there’s less pressure and judgement, and in turn, experimental make-up is becoming an act of wellness.

“With many people working from home rather than going into the office, there’s less pressure and judgement, and in turn, experimental make-up is becoming an act of wellness”

“During this time, it seems like people are experimenting with many facets of their appearance and persona,” explains licensed therapist, Eric Patterson, PhD. “Letting your hair grow long, cutting your own bangs, trying out new make-up, or going without are all options for people looking to break up the monotony of their daily lives. Not only that, but people may take more chances with their fashion and their interests. Without the pressures of having to face the judgment and criticism of others, people have more freedom to challenge preconceived notions of themselves and how people view them. It is a time for great opportunity and exploration.”

That also means breaking down barriers of what ‘everyday’ make-up is, which for many, is a stress-reliever in itself. “Since the media and make-up industries set the standards for beauty for women, we adhere to them without question,” adds Dr Tricia Wolanin Psy.D. clinical psychologist. “But being able to take a pause, we are creating a blank slate.  We can opt how to define beauty for ourselves, versus it being fed to us. This time period is similar to a detox. We detox our bodies to cleanse the junk food and unhealthy eating habits that have become part of our unquestionable routines. By allowing time to clean this from our system, we slowly begin to intentionally integrate the foods we want to be part of our lifestyles again. Although this make-up detox has been placed upon us, this is an opportunity to explore what we want to purposefully include as part of our regime versus mindlessly complying to societal norms.”

Make-up artists, too, have been taking this time to get even more creative than usual as a way to feel more calm and grounded. Eszter Magyar, of @makeupbrutalism, typically posts every kind of outrageous make-up imaginable. She thinks that quarantine has made her even more productive, and in other ways, even bolder.

“I was braver somehow. I started to shoot full editorials alone, experimental make-up videos, made a colouring book from my looks and finished my website,” she says. “I tried a lot of new things, started to think more in concepts, lean a bit more towards artistic approach. I was happy to move out of my comfort zone. The lockdown had a very positive impact on me weirdly. During the pandemic I felt like a content creating machine. I guess it was sort of a self-defense mechanism – I always worked on something, it helped me to feel useful.”

 “Wearing make-up gives a sense of control, a way to be creative and is an expression of self-love in the form of pampering. Putting make-up on gives the brain a boost of feel good neurochemicals, especially dopamine” – Dr Catherine Jackson, clinical psychologist and neurotherapist

Similar to Magyar, others are using out-there beauty looks to feel more in control. “Wearing make-up gives a sense of control, a way to be creative and is an expression of self-love in the form of pampering,” says Dr Catherine Jackson, licensed clinical psychologist and board-certified neurotherapist. It’s also proven that wearing make-up can make you feel better. “Putting make-up on and even simply looking forward to playing around with a new look gives the brain a boost of feel good neurochemicals, especially dopamine. It results in improved mood, reduced stress and therefore, in better mental health.” 

In a world with such a depressing news cycle and constant uncertainty, why not get a little bit crazy with your eyeshadow?

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