Lightweight foundation, lipstick and brow pencil. The final touch, mascara. Finishing my makeup marked the moment when I was ready to rush out the front door to start my day. But when the quarantine started, I considered the absurdity of spending time going all out with my makeup; knowing that I wouldn’t go anywhere farther than my couch. Not changing my clothes, not doing my hair, and not putting on makeup were behaviors that blurred the line separating my work time from my rest time. I fell into a procrastination vortex that I couldn’t escape from.
One day, as I was scrolling through Instagram, I found a selfie of actress and fashion icon Sofia Carson with perfect eyebrows and glossy coral lipstick. The caption said: “We don’t have to wear makeup to stay home, but it helps.” It sounded like a paradox I couldn’t make sense of. I liked the photo and kept scrolling. With my camera off, wearing pajamas and no makeup, I spent the rest of that day staring at my professors talking for hours, feeling like my online classes were something I could procrastinate. I wondered if Carson was right and if losing time doing my makeup would make me more productive.
Was there any science behind this paradox?
A study published by the Cogent Psychology Journal explains that wearing makeup increases self-confidence and induces positive emotions; which in turn may lead to better cognitive performance. “[Individuals] may use makeup to increase their levels of self-esteem by boosting their physical attractiveness and this consequently makes them feel better during stressful times,” the study says. The time that we are in is, indeed, a stressful one. Makeup can be a way of coping with it.
Up to the day that I saw Carson’s selfie, the only self-care I had been doing was brushing my teeth. I’d dropped my three-step daily skincare and makeup routines; thinking that I was saving time that I could use to do work, exercise, or have fun. Instead, I found myself rolling on my bed until the minute before my online classes would start because I didn’t have to get ready for them.
The following day, I decided to make a change.
Toner, serum, moisturizer. The final touch, crimson lipstick. I put on a crop top and tight jeans, tied-up my hair in a half bun and strolled to the kitchen to get breakfast. My mom mentioned that my face was glowing and my little sister said that I didn’t look like a bum anymore. They made me laugh, but also, their comments revitalized me.
That morning I had a video call with my academic advisor, the first time I turned on my camera for a call during the quarantine. She complimented my lipstick shade and mentioned how happy I looked. After my meeting, I had class and so I turned on my camera and participated a couple of times. There was a shift in the way people were seeing me — as a happier and more active person. I felt more confident and ready to work on my homework. After finishing my tasks, I washed my face and put on my pajamas.
The line dividing my work and rest time was coming back into shape.
It was great to hear people’s new perception of me; but beyond that, I was excited to see myself coming back to normal. For years, doing my makeup had been an essential part of my days; and when I stopped doing it, I felt that my mornings had no structure. I shouldn’t have ever stopped. Having routines helps you maintain a sense of normality even in the most difficult times. In an article for Psychology Today, Carleton University psychology-professor-specialized-in-procrastination Timothy Pychyl explained why keeping habits is important. “Habits are those pre-potent responses that we readily engage in,” wrote Pychyl. “[O]ur habits support, rather than hinder, our successful goal pursuit, even when we don’t feel like it.”
You may ask, why lose time putting on makeup if you aren’t going anywhere? Here’s the paradox. By “losing my time” doing my makeup, I was reviving a long-time habit and somehow bringing my life back to normal. Going back to my routine was necessary for me to succeed during this quarantine.
Wearing makeup is a personal choice that I can’t force anyone to do. But if you were like me, someone who would regularly wear makeup but now has stopped doing so due to laziness or lack of motivation, try going back to it. Whether lipstick or full face makeup, you’ll see how empowering it can be to look like the person you used to be before the quarantine.
Even if you were never into cosmetics, following any routine you had before quarantine will help bring stability to a new reality that you don’t have control over.
We can’t change the situation that we are going through, but we can change our attitude towards it. Although many things will not go back to normal, the one thing that we can keep the same is our personal identity.
Header by Gabrielle Henderson