Over the years, my relationship with makeup has gone through many phases—some of them more regrettable than others (looking at you, orange pancake concealer). And while it’s taken me some time to get more comfortable with cosmetics, these days I reach for them to conjure a specific mood instead of for the sake of achieving a certain look. Sometimes I want to feel powerful and commanding, so a bold lipstick is in order. Other times I need to relax and refresh, so I focus more on the ritual of applying products than on the actual aesthetic. For me, makeup has gone from being a tool for concealing imperfections to a form of self-expression and self-care. And I’m not alone. “More and more people see makeup not just as a way to beautify, but also as a part of their wellness and self-care routines,” says Joanne Hsieh, CEO of Astral Health & Beauty, which owns brands like PÜR Cosmetics, Butter London, and Cosmedix Skincare. Once a predictable part of beauty routines, these days, makeup has become a powerful tool for wellbeing.

An Added Layer of Confidence

Ensuring you feel good about yourself is a key piece of self-care. Makeup artist and wellness coach Heather O’Boyle Erman has a front-row seat to the power of makeup to change how we see ourselves. “So many times after a session with me, a woman looks in the mirror, and her energy completely changes,” she says. “She’s the same person but there’s an internal confidence that wasn’t there before. And once we taste that, we know it’s accessible to us, with or without makeup.” Even global icons like Lady Gaga can relate. In a recent interview, the singer talked about how makeup does as much for her confidence internally as it does externally, and described it as an extension of her self-care routine. “[Makeup] gives me an extra boost of confidence,” says Gaga, who founded Haus Labs makeup in 2019. “I feel I’m able to brave whatever is coming my way because I’ve really taken time for myself.” More and more, makeup is becoming a way to express and celebrate differences, mirroring the way society’s concept of identity has become more fluid. Even industries as traditionally uniform as aviation are adapting. Australia’s Qantas Airlines recently revised its requirements to allow flight attendants of any gender to wear makeup while on duty. Related Stories People are also increasingly using makeup as a way to celebrate the role their “imperfections” play in the overall canvas of their face. This has led to the rise of everything from freckle pens to models like Paige Billiot, who uses makeup in fun and flamboyant ways to highlight her port wine stain birthmark instead of disguising it. As an increasing number of individuals seek to express their moods and personalities through makeup, Hsieh notes a shift towards inclusivity within the industry. “Brands are offering a wider range of products suitable for all skin tones and types, men and women,” she says. “There’s a growing acceptance and even celebration of personal expression through cosmetics.”

Makeup as mindfulness

While we’ve all had those mornings when we’re rushing to get out the door, Yael Shy, a mindfulness consultant and author, suggests that slowing down our skin-care and makeup routines can serve as an opportunity for mindfulness. She offers a quick recipe to elevate these daily rituals into a mini meditation:

  1. Immerse yourself in the present moment by savoring the textures, gentle sounds, and fragrances of your products.
  2. Gently release thoughts and to-do lists, surrendering to the experience.
  3. When your mind attempts to steer you towards problem-solving or ruminating on the past, return to the soothing rhythm of your fingers and the experience of the beauty routine happening in the moment.

Shy emphasizes the important distinction between looking in the mirror to spot imperfections and using makeup to conceal them versus gazing at those perceived flaws with tenderness and self-love and using makeup to accentuate and play. “It’s not about how you actually look,” she says. “It’s about your intentionality, your decision to embrace your beauty and worthiness just as you are. This shift in perspective can profoundly affect how you feel when applying makeup.” As the cosmetics market continues to grow, with projections reaching $417 billion USD by 2030, the ways in which we engage with makeup also keep evolving. What was once a tool for conformity and hiding flaws has transformed into a means of self-expression and holistic well-being. With more people embracing cosmetics as part of their self-care rituals, one thing is clear: Makeup is no longer merely about concealing; it’s about revealing and celebrating the beauty within.

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