Skincare is Self-Care: What Each Step of My Skincare Routine Taught Me About My Emotional Wellbeing
We all know that skincare is self-care. Whenever I feel like I need some extra quiet time, I do a skincare routine that feels more like a pamper session — it consists of a few more steps than my basic regimen. During one of these pamper sessions, I realized that if I took the principles I was using throughout this elaborate skincare ritual and applied them to my life, I would probably feel a lot more comfortable in my own skin. From cleansing to using sunscreen, a skincare routine can be a reflection of our emotional wellbeing.
Here are my skincare routine steps and how they connect to mental health and happiness.
Skincare Routine Step 1: Cleansing
Of course, the first step to any skincare routine is to remove dirt and grease from your skin. Especially after a long day outside, I always do my best to double cleanse, first with an oil-based cleanser to clear my skin of grease and grime, and second with a foam-based cleanser to wash away any remaining impurities. When it’s clean and fresh, your skin can better absorb all the nutrients from the rest of your regimen.
In the same way, we have to free ourselves from external things that do not serve us — whether that means cleaning up our social media feed or cutting ties with a toxic person. Cleansing allows us to be open to self-love and have more room for nourishing activities and relationships.
Skincare Routine Step 2: Exfoliating
A few times a week, I use a chemical exfoliant like glycolic acid, which sloughs off dead skin cells and manages uneven texture. I sometimes alternate this with salicylic acid, which works itself into my pores, treating and preventing unwanted buildup like blackheads.
While it’s a good idea to free ourselves from negative external factors, we also have to take a look inside and assess our mindset and habits to see if there is anything we may need to abandon. Just like we have to shed dead skin to promote the growth of new skin cells, we have to shed the parts of ourselves that are keeping us from being our best self.
Skincare Routine Step 3: Toning
After all that cleansing and exfoliating, my next step is to use a gentle, non-astringent toner to balance the skin’s pH levels and prepare it to absorb all the nourishment from the succeeding steps.
When we feel uncentered because one aspect of our lives is overpowering the rest, it can hinder our overall personal growth. We have to seek and maintain balance in our lives so that we are in a better position to welcome positive changes.
Skincare Routine Step 4: Moisturizing
Hydrated skin is healthy skin. I pat in a hydrating essence on regular days, and on days when I want to pamper myself, I take it up a notch and put on a sheet mask afterward.
Next, I apply my ceramide-rich moisturizer, which locks in all the hydration from my essence and sheet mask and protects and strengthens my skin barrier to keep irritants out and water in. When we nourish our skin mindfully and generously, it shows. I’d wake up the next morning noticing that my pores are smaller and that I have a certain glow.
It’s the same way when we’re mindful and generous about nourishing our emotional needs. Whatever it is you need to do in order to feel like yourself — whether it’s unplugging to read a book in silence or going on a long, meditative walk with your dog — do it. And beyond that, protect your inner peace by setting firm boundaries and not letting anyone take away your time for yourself.
Skincare Routine Step 5: Treating
On days that I’m not exfoliating, I use retinol as a targeted treatment to make my pores appear smaller, my skin texture smoother, and to prevent fine lines. Since retinol is a strong ingredient that can irritate the skin, I apply it after my moisturizer so that I have a buffer just to be sure.
I think the thing about being truly emotionally healthy is that it’s not just about letting go of toxic relationships and having tons of “me time.” Growth doesn’t begin and end where we’re comfortable. True growth comes when we actively work on specific areas where we want to improve as a person.
Skincare Routine Step 6: Protecting
Finally, I really try to make it a habit to wear sunscreen and protect my skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Many people have fought me on the need for sunscreen when it’s not even sunny outside, but it’s not only the sunburn-causing UVB rays that we ought to protect our skin from — we also have to take UVA rays into account. UVA rays can penetrate clouds and even windows and contribute to early signs of aging. External stressors can’t be avoided — and sometimes, they may be subtle enough that we don’t notice their harmful effects.
Just like how constant exposure to the sun’s rays, even on the cloudiest days, can harm our skin, small but constant stressors can harm our mental and emotional health as well. But while these stressors can’t always be avoided, what’s within our capacity is practicing healthy habits and coping strategies to manage them well and protect our wellbeing.
The Bottom Line
Clear, healthy skin is just one of many benefits of a skincare routine. The next time you find yourself in front of a mirror applying your favorite cleanser, consider how you can also cleanse the impurities in your own life. Whether those “impurities” are self-deprecating thoughts, a social media feed that’s bringing you down, or something else. Applying your skincare routine is a great time to be mindful of your physical health, but also your emotional wellbeing.