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My beauty routine helps clear the cloud of depression — but it’s not always easy

Beauty writer Sidra Imtiaz shares how beauty helps her reset when depression takes hold

depression beauty rituals
Updated: March 20, 2023
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"Your beauty routine must be a billion steps!" and "I bet you never skip SPF," are just a few of the comments I hear when I divulge that I work in beauty for a living, or when someone sees my arsenal of lotions and potions.

An avid skincare and beauty-product lover, lucky enough to try brands I used to dream of using, you can imagine my shame when yet another night goes by where I barely even cleanse, ignoring the looming line-up of treatment products because I simply can’t face more than brushing my teeth before bed.

Those who suffer from depression are always the first to label themselves lazy or incapable and I am no exception to this. I feel embarrassment, shame and guilt when my skincare routine falls short of the standard I set for myself. But the truth is, I sometimes can’t face my beauty routine when I’m in the clutches of depression.

beauty products in the bathroom

I have endless products, but my beauty routine suffers when I'm feeling low

That said, on the days when I can’t cope with cleansing, toning and moisturising, I know it’s when I need it most. I rely on beauty and self-care to get me through the haze. If I can bring myself to complete the ritual, I know some of the fog will clear.

Recently on holiday I was religiously exfoliating, conditioning, pampering from top to toe, and I felt motivated and confident - both physically and mentally.


On holiday, I found it easy to follow my beauty routine

I found myself asking why this routine felt so difficult to fit into my day-to-day life in London, when the benefits were so clear. The answer lies in the state of my mental wellbeing. Beauty is often deemed as frivolous, but I’ve always seen a direct link between my beauty routine and self-care and my mental wellbeing.


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I was in a balanced place emotionally; on holiday with very little responsibilities or worries, in a place in my cycle where my hormones weren’t impacting me, and the level of energy and commitment to my beauty routine was peaking.

On the very opposite end of the scale, there have been times when depression feels like a backpack of weights, dragging me down with it. Depression doesn’t care if things are going ‘well’ in your life. You can be surrounded by everything that should make you happy and still feel as though the most undemanding of tasks are impossible.

It’s in these moments that if I can bring myself to do it, my beauty routine helps me press the reset button. It forces me to make very small decisions that help gear me up for a bigger day.

sidra selfie

My beauty routine forces me to make small decisions

I may not feel up to showering, but if I take a moment to use a scented aromatherapy shower gel I already know those thirty seconds are going to make me feel better.

There is more truth and science to the power of skincare and self-care than we realise. Antonia David, head of education at Elemental Herbology, a skincare and body care brand that aims to transform your skin and improve your wellbeing tells me: “Choosing products that you love the smell of can have a bigger psychological benefit than you might realise.

Coming to our senses

“Our sense of smell is the only one of our five senses that is directly connected to the part of the brain that controls mood, memory, behaviour and emotion.”

I’ve found that it’s products that trigger a sensory reaction that help me most. Fragrance and lifestyle expert at Jo Malone London, Emma South explains the significance of self-care when it comes to happiness.

“Building in dedicated times of self-care supports a positive system of beliefs about the self. It nurtures the idea that you as an individual are important and deserving of that time, therefore bolstering self-esteem and confidence.”

For instance, the act of spritzing with my signature scent forces me to acknowledge myself, and lighting my favourite candle grounds me to my surroundings. This awareness is something that reminds me of who I am underneath the cloud, a tiny piece of my identity puzzle that I can reclaim through this one minuscule moment.

And yes, this isn’t the answer to all mental health woes, and yes sometimes I do climb straight back into my pyjamas and burrow down exhausted from these simple steps, but at least I’ve made a start.

It’s a marathon not a sprint, and I feel more well-equipped for it than I would be without my beauty routine.

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