Fashion

How My Mental Health Affects My Beauty Routine

In fact, there are various search topics on TikTok, such as ‘skincare for depression’ (1.6 million views) and ‘sad 60 second routine’ (237.2 million views), with videos showing the reality of maintaining a beauty routine with poor mental health. In a video titled ‘skincare routine I am capable of while being depressed’, one woman looks at herself in the bathroom mirror, cries, splashes her face with water, pats it dry with a towel, and walks off. In another, which begins ‘realistic morning routine of a lawyer who is depressed AF’, she washes her face but doesn’t brush her teeth, mixes foundation with moistursier because she’s “too lazy for a base routine”,  and simply puts her hair up because she “can’t bring herself to give anymore f*cks than I do”.

Some users, such as @skinfiltrator, share practical advice for looking after your skin when your mind is draining you. “I suffer from chronic depression and I wanted to do some more videos about how I balance my skincare with my mental health,” she says. “I try to use what I’ve got around me, rather than going to the bathroom.” She applies cleanser before ‘rinsing’ using a water bottle, before sweeping over a cotton pad with micellar water (“because I know I’m not giving my face as good of a wash as I normally do”) and applying moisturiser. “And you know what, if you’re feeling too down to do even that, it’s okay,” she adds.

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The relationship between our mental health and our beauty and wellness routine is clearly a complicated one, and could be linked to our self-esteem during depressive episodes, says clinical psychologist Dr Linnie Telford. “Often when we feel low in mood and feel unable and unmotivated to do basic routines, it can be associated with a lack of self-worth, but also hopelessness and helplessness or fatigue. It’s important that the lack of motivation is seen as symptomatic rather than laziness.”

So, what do we do? It seems counter-intuitive that much of the advice for boosting your mood focuses on self-care and mindfulness – which the NHS even lists as a treatment option for clinical depression – when depression can make brushing your teeth feel like climbing Kilimanjaro, let alone applying a nine-step skincare routine à la Kim K or whipping out the affirmation cards.

“The premise of this recommendation is that we sometimes have to do things without motivation – such as brushing our teeth – and in the doing and practicing of that act, the belief and the motivation that ‘we can do things’ develops,” explains Dr Telford. “Try breaking things down into steps; often, we get overwhelmed by what we think we should be doing, and the need to do everything in its entirety. For example, would washing your face every morning every day for a week be a good start rather than a full beauty routine?  Or perhaps cleaning your teeth by 2pm?” 

This is something that my therapist, my best friend and Dr Telford all agree on: when we feel low, we often adopt an ‘all or nothing’ mindset – but that doing something is better than nothing, and even the smallest effort can make us feel better. So, on their advice (three medical professionals can’t be wrong, right?), I drag myself from my depression pit (in bed, curtains closed, ignoring my WhatsApps and flicking between serial killer documentaries and EastEnders, in case you were wondering) and slowly slope to the shower to wash my hair.

At first, my legs feel like lead and my brain is fuzzy like white noise. This is a bad idea. But slowly, as I felt the warm water on my skin and breathed in the comforting, vanilla-laced scent of my shampoo, I started to feel less fuzzy. A little lighter. Afterwards, I get a slight kick out of how clean my scalp feels; no longer oily enough to fry an egg. Who knows, tomorrow I might even shave my legs. Maybe.


If you’re struggling with your mental health, please speak to your GP or call the Samaritans on 116 123. For information on finding a therapist, visit mind.org.uk.