How A Psychologist Uses Beauty To Support Her Mental Health
Beauty can be a very useful tool to take care of your full well-being; just ask psychologist Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D. In this episode of Clean Beauty School, I chat with Carmichael about just how connected grooming habits and mental health are. She notes that, for example, neglecting hygiene routines like washing your hair can be a sign you're not feeling like yourself. On the other end, she says that as part of a well-rounded treatment, mental health practitioners will help the patients get back into their normal beauty practices, which can make a significant improvement in their mood and recovery. But of course, we also know that beauty standards and the pressure that comes with them can have pretty nasty effects on self-esteem and cause lifelong hang-ups.
We go into more details about the connection between beauty routines and mental health in the episode—and share some of our personal experiences—so be sure to listen in to get the full picture. In the meantime, here are three habits Carmichael has adopted to ensure her beauty routine is aiding her overall well-being rather than distracting from it.
Ask yourself: Who is this for?
Beauty can be an incredible tool to help you feel more like your best self. But it's also very easy to slip into habits that aren't supporting you and are instead about changing yourself.
"Personally, I think beauty rituals are a wonderful thing. And we don't need permission to explore, experiment, and enjoy whatever beauty trends we want," she says. "But we also have to be really mindful of asking ourselves, 'Is this really for me?' Or is this coming from a space of negativity where I feel like I have to 'fix myself' instead of enhancing or celebrating myself?"
It's a challenging balance—and I probably tip the scales more than I care to admit—but when our mindset starts to shift, "that's when I think it's time to step back a little bit," she says.
Don't compare yourself to others who have resources you may not.
We are inundated with images of celebrities who, apparently, don't age. Of course, we know they do—but given their access to dermatologists, estheticians, and Photoshop, it can feel like time stops moving for them and only them.
Instead of comparing yourself to people who have an advantage, find figures who are allowing themselves to age naturally and with power. These people can be those in your life, beauty icons, you name it. Just remind yourself that aging is powerful, and you're in control of your skin as you do it.
"I think it can be very helpful to connect with positive role models around aging. This way we can start to de-link the idea that getting older doesn't mean letting yourself go or fading away," she says. "Embrace the process of aging and find beauty in it."
Avoid the trap of perfection.
It's a very human instinct to want to better yourself. "I don't want to have just a knee-jerk reaction about perfectionism and say 'It's always bad to want to be perfect,' because there is a small part in all of us who want that. And there's nothing wrong with acknowledging that," she says. "The problem comes in when we start just really tearing ourselves apart for every little thing that is not 100% perfect. It becomes a problem when we can no longer enjoy ourselves."
There's no doubt that grooming habits, beauty culture, and our sense of self all have an impact on our mental health. And it can be a challenge to figure out a balance that works for you. For more advice on how to be mindful and check in with yourself, see our tips.
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Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.