Habits of Beauty

457px-Godward-Classical_Beauty

Historically speaking, I have never been much of a makeup person. Besides a period in high school, I have always just never held it as a high priority (in other words, I’m too lazy to go through the routine). But with a wedding coming up, I decided that I wanted to be in control of how I looked for The Big Day. I used some Christmas money to get samples from a mineral makeup company I found on Etsy* and have been playing around with things like eyeshadow and lip liner. After educating myself with online makeup tutorials, I’ve realized that using makeup and making it look good really comes with skill. There’s a reason YouTube makeup artists are called “Beauty Gurus”. Not to mention that it can also be really fun working with different colors and shapes, depending on your mood.

At this point , all the savvy makeup virtuosos out there are rolling their eyes and saying “Duh…”. I know it seems obvious to some, but these really are new lessons for me.

With that being said, I still have little desire to go through a full makeup routine everyday. Which is why I’ve given some thought to melding the two different schools of thought (ALL THE BEAUTY PRODUCTS vs. meh makeup) to follow a few simple principles when it comes to beauty. I’ve thought a lot about the ethics/social constructs behind makeup (Am I doing this to hide/change/feel better/for others/for myself/just to have fun? Does “opting out” have the same weight as “opting in”? Can I be a feminist & still wear makeup, i.e. Lipstick feminism, etc.) and have come to the conclusion that beauty is a signifier of health (in my eyes, at least). Aesthetics has great value in that it shows the undercurrents of a society (art history, anyone?), and makeup can be said to be an artistic form or medium (see Dennis Dutton’s six universal signatures of human aesthetics).

While it can be great fun playing with makeup, don’t forget the health of the underlying canvas. Naturally clear and even-toned skin can seem like a dream to many, but your skin can tell you many things about your internal health. It is important to not simply cover it with concealer, but take note of this sign and deal with it in a healthy way. The principles below can help you figure out where you body needs tending to.

So here are my Simple Habits of Beauty that I try my best to follow:

  • Skin Care. If your skin is healthy, then you will look radiant (and will have less need for concealer, foundation, etc). The health of your skin can also have direct correlation with your internal health. Anyone that has experience monthly hormonal acne or eczema caused by food allergies can see direct proof of this. So knowing what your skin is trying to tell you can be a very useful skill. On the same line of thought, taking care of your skin can help cleanse you body of impurities, keep you hydrated, and impart other health benefits (such as the use of calming essential oils in a product). Put skin care before makeup and you will start to see a difference in how you look. If you’re someone that feels insecure without makeup, taking care of your skin could help with this. Make sure to use all-natural products, as conventional/synthetic products will only lessen the long-term health of your skin and body. A basic skin care routine will include daily cleansing and moisturizing (with the use of pH-regulating toner recommended), as well as weekly “special” treatments (clay or food-based masks, steams, etc.). Targeted serums can also be useful for specific skin and health problems. Additionally, I’ve found tinted moisturizer a great lazy-girl product. Lastly, “skin mapping” is a useful practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine that breaks down your face as to where your problem areas are and how they correspond to areas of the body.
  • Movement. I don’t like using the word “exercise,” as it just reminds me of my once-every-few-months habit of dragging my ass to the gym, making a promise I would do it regularly, then not getting back until a few months later. Rather, movement is something that can be worked into my entire day and doesn’t always need special clothes or a block of time to accomplish. Working movement into your day can keep your stress hormones regulated, help sweat out toxins, clear your pores, moves your lymphatic system, and keep your joints and organs lubricated and in working order. If I’ve been sitting in class for too long and we get a break, I don’t waste it and instead walk around the building or outside. If I’m home at the computer I stand instead of sit, and make sure to step away for stretching every once in a while. One of my favorite activities is taking walks. Not only is walking outside good for the body, it’s great for the mind and spirit. Every once in a while, when I feel that my body needs it, I’ll do some sprints, and I won’t shy away from lifting heavy things throughout the day. I’ve found the blog Katy Says and the free exercise ebook from Mark’s Daily Apple to be good resources for this type of exercise.
  • Good Food. Everyone out there has a different specific notion as to what “eating healthy” actually entails. What most can agree on is that plenty of vegetables, along with healthy amounts of protein and fat, lead to a healthy diet. What I have found to be the most important thing to do is to listen to your body. After you eat something, if you don’t feel good, that could be a sign that something in what you ate does not agree with you. It’s sounds like a simple notion, but I’ve found that many don’t put two and two together. Cook food yourself as often as possible, and leave eating out as a special occasion. Look into adding more fermented foods into your diet (yogurt, kefir, saurkraut, kimchi, sourdough bread, kombucha, etc.). Experiment with limiting yourself from certain items one at a time (alcohol, sugar, processed foods, caffeine, anything you might be reacting to, etc.) and see how you feel. It may sound silly and overused, but you really “are what you eat.” If your skin seems lackluster or you don’t have as much energy as you think you should, look at your diet. While I myself subscribe to a mixture of paleo and “traditional” (a la Sally Fallon) diets/recipes, others feel best on a vegan diet or only Indian/South American/whatever food. Some good resources that I’ve found helpful are Food Rules by Michael Pollan, How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, and French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mierielle Guiliano (I know that this was one of those “trendy” diet books a little while back, but it does have a lot of great advice and recipes in it. Plus I’m a sucker for anything French).
  • Healthy Mindset. I’ll admit that this can be hard for me sometimes. I can be hard on myself and often internalize and hide many of my emotions (even after four years, my fiance can find it hard to read me sometimes). BUT, I recognize that I do this and push myself to vocalize my feelings as often as I can. We all, at one point or another, will work against ourselves in the mental/emotional/spiritual health department, and recognizing your triggers can help to promote a lower stress level and healthier body and outlook on life.
  • Water. This can be so easy for me to forget during the day, though come the middle of the night, I can hardly swallow I’m so parched. Drinking plenty of water helps to flush your body of toxins, lubricates the digestive system, and hydrates your skin from the inside out. If you get annoyed with how often you have to go to the bathroom after drinking a glass, sip slower. Drinking herbal tea or hot water with lemon throughout the day is a convenient way to force yourself to sip your water slowly. If you hate drinking plain water, try adding a splash of juice (or, my favorite, raw apple cider vinegar), lemon, or drinking sparkling water instead.
  • Regular Detox. Do not confuse my use of “detox” with trendy diets or cleanses. I am instead referring to the use of internal and external methods of unblocking and cleansing all the crap we encounter on a daily basis. Internally, I like to use herbal teas and tinctures to cleanse the liver, and a daily glass of water in the morning. Externally, I use weekly clay masks on my face, and a dry body brush on my body before my shower. Find more info on natural and safe detox methods here.
  • Get Outside. A little sun can actually be quite the good thing. Exposure to the sun’s rays increases production of Vitamin D, essential for bone strength. It can also help with cases of eczema and psoriasis, helps regulate hormone production and blood pressure, and decrease stress levels. Not to mention, exposure to a diversity of outdoor microbes does good for your immune system. Our primal ancestors didn’t have such a stark contrast between the outdoors and indoors (actually, no doors to speak of), and considering we have spent the majority of our time on this earth as those primal humans, it make sense that (evolutionarily-speaking) drifting too far from what we evolved to do might be unhealthy. Just practice common sense and don’t burn yourself.
  • Rest. “Beauty sleep”, for anyone that has pulled an all-nighter knows, is a real thing. Human growth hormone is produced while we sleep, which aids in the growth and repair of the cells in our body. Recent studies have found that we may need more than the recommended eight hours, and that historically we had two phases of sleep, in the middle of which we would write, read, or have sex. Women suffer more from inadequate sleep and need more than men. With all our electrical lights, computers, TVs, work schedules, and social expectations it can seem hard to fathom how one would accomplish this in the modern day world. I still encourage you to strive to get as much sleep as you feel your body needs, and don’t discount or put off activities that you find relaxing. Take note of the quality of your sleep as well. Try to block as much unnatural light as you can: turn away/off your blinking cell phone and gadgets, put up black-out curtains, and reduce your exposure to blue light as much as possible leading up to bedtime.

With these principles a healthy lifestyle comes easily. When you are living healthily it shows on your skin. It doesn’t have to push out as many toxins or excess hormones (in the form of acne or eczema) and stays plump and less prone to wrinkles. With a healthy body and mind, you have better prepared your canvas for fun with different colors and shapes. I hope that this helps anyone struggling with their beauty routine, and if anyone has any questions/comments to please leave them below!

*The mineral makeup company I’ve been giving my patronage to is Willow Tree Minerals. While I can’t quite support all their products, I do like their selection and really enjoy a number of their products (eye liner, Whisper Eye Shadow, nail polishes, foundation, blush). I have noticed a few of their products (like the mascara and a few of their facial moisturizers) include preservatives that I don’t really approve of, especially for a natural makeup company and with the knowledge that there are plenty of ECO-CERT-approved preservatives out there that perform well.

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