Being young and prone to bouts of depression isn’t really anything new or exciting to write about. In fact, I’d warrant that this particular internet essay niche of living with depression is one of the most oversaturated. I suspect that now it’s actually the majority of friends my age who have problems with their brain chemistry or whatnot. If I didn’t know any better, I’d suspect it might actually indicate something wrong with society.
Nonetheless, I don’t know if the internet essay niche of how problematic mental health links up with the usage of beauty products is quite so saturated. But it should be.
Aside from knitting (more on that another time) and probably prescribed medications, beauty products are the thing that helps me out the most. Sound crazy? Read on.
For one thing, beauty products are, in essence, problem solving. Flaky skin? It can be fixed. Clogged pores? No worries. Lackluster eyebrows? There’s a product for that. In the depths of a depressive episode, there is something actually quite amazing about a world where every solution is available at your fingertips. It soothes your worn out brain into a state of reassurance. The answers to your problems are out there. It’s just a matter of finding them.
The beauty world acts as a “liminal space” between reality and pretending. Nothing really matters. When your brain is catastrophizing a read-receipt, that's heartening.
Furthermore (and this is a commonly overlooked argument in their favor), beauty products are nice. They are! They smell good, they are fun to rub about between your fingers, they’re brightly colored and iridescent in finish. They’re the last remnant of fun, light-hearted childhood in our adult lives.
They’re unnecessary, maybe. But life being reduced entirely to necessity isn’t exactly a world-renowned recipe for happiness. Having items that bring pleasure (however problematic in a Capitalism sense) when your own brain seems incapable of producing any just is intrinsically valuable.
The beauty world thus acts as a sort of “liminal space” (yes I did go to college) between the real world and a fake world. Nothing really matters, which when your brain is busy catastrophizing a read-receipt, is heartening. You can take comfort in the mindlessness of swatching lipstick after lipstick, or spraying all your favorite perfumes, or rubbing thick, unctuous creams on your dry patches. This is true escapism.
Some say the key to freedom from depression is mindfulness. I say a healthy dose of mindlessness is equally important.
Finally, and perhaps somewhat morbidly, the very essence of beauty products lies in some sort of future planning. By applying your hair masque, or rubbing cocoa butter on your shins, you’re at least subconsciously admitting that there is going to be another day. While today might have been dangerously close to unbearable, there will be another one.
And, if nothing else, you’ll have softer legs and smoother hair. Surely that’s something.