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With the world facing a turbulent time, many of us have been experiencing physical signs of our stress, and one particularly pertinent change is in our skin. 

You may be perplexed by your so-called ‘lockdown acne’ but there’s a reason why your skin isn’t on top form right now. By spending more time at home our skin is inevitably exposed to less pollution and we’ve had more time than ever to dedicate to our skincare routines – so why is it taking a downturn? Here’s a couple of reasons why:

Hormones

Our skin is extremely sensitive to its surroundings, but it’s not only what our skin encounters on the outside that affects its condition; how we feel on the inside can have an impact too. Following environmental changes, our bodies are prone to enter a stress response. This response causes an influx of hormones like cortisol, which cease non-essential functions as your body enters a fight-or-flight response. While this would have been beneficial for the survival of our ancestors, in modern, less threatening circumstances the consequences to this reaction can add to our worries! As cortisol causes inflammation of the skin, and the skin glands to produce more oil,  it in turn becomes more acne-prone too.

The way stress indirectly impacts your skin

Poor Sleep

Nevertheless, there are more indirect impacts of stress that can also be affecting your skin. Poorer sleep is a common consequence of stress, with people reporting less sleep, more disturbances, and lower sleep efficiency (Kim & Dimsdale, 2007). With it being well-established that sleep is incredibly important for our bodies to rest and repair, interruptions to our sleep pattern inevitably make it harder to combat precursors to our skin troubles. For example, compared to poor sleepers, good sleepers showed less skin aging, better recovery from skin irritation or redness, and better perception of their appearance (Oyetakin‐White et al, 2014). Therefore, prioritising something as simple as sleep could help to contribute towards healthier skin and more positive self-perceptions even if the skin is troubled.

Poor Diet

Stress is also intrinsically linked to diet quality; the more stressed we feel, the worse the quality of our diet becomes (De Vriendt et al, 2012). While some of us have a propensity to over-indulge as a result of stress in order to comfort ourselves, others tend to restrain their eating and instead snack of highly processed, convenient foods (Wardle, Steptoe, Oliver & Lipsey, 2000). With our skin being extremely responsive to the food we consume, it’s likely that dietary changes during a period of stress can also contribute to changes in the skin.

3 things you can do to rescue your skin

If you too have been experiencing skin troubles during a stressful period, you can make a few simple changes to bring it back to life.

1.     Relaxation  

Taking just ten minutes a day to focus on yourself and be in the present moment can do wonders when it comes to relieving stress. Practicing yoga, meditation or mindfulness can help to ground the mind and bring things back into perspective when they feel a little out of control.

2.     Consistency

Maintaining a simple, sensitive skincare routine can provide your skin with the nourishment it needs to help it recover. Try to use unperfumed, natural products in order to avoid further irritation.

3.     Diet

Try to be mindful of the types and quantities of food you are consuming when you know you are facing a stressful period. As over and undereating can prevent the skin from making a speedy recovery, it may be helpful to plan meals in advance so you can assess the quantity and quality of what you will be consuming. Research has found a link between consuming foods with a high glycaemic load (e.g. sweets and chocolate) with the exacerbation of acne. Nevertheless, don’t be afraid to treat yourself to these as they can also provide a short-term mood boost

If like us, you were fascinated by episode 1 of Netflix’s new docuseries [Un}well then you know that scents are incredibly powerful. Scents hold a unique power to instantly transport us back to times of intimacy, joy or even despair. Over time the glass bottles that decorate our dressers can house something much more than the notes describing their contents; they become time capsules that can momentarily awaken emotions deep within our conscience. In our new 3-Part Psychology of Scents series, we’re investigating the scientific importance of scents. 

Scents hold memories.

Although each of our five senses contributes to the recollection and reconstruction of memories, scents are the most significant. A study by Dr Silvia Álava titled ‘Smells and Emotions’ found that people remember 35% of what they smell, but only 5% of what they see – and the majority of participants noted how specific scents reactivated happy memories.

This phenomenon can be otherwise known as the Proustian Memory Effect, the idea that scents evoke more emotional memories than other memory cues (Chu & Downes, 2000) is hardwired into human nature. Fast connections between brain regions are responsible for the processing of scents and retrieval of emotional information, or memories (Eichenbaum & Otto, 1992). For example, products are often more appealing when they are associated with pleasant scents, and so, they will also have a greater positive emotional appeal (Sugiyama et al., 2015). As there is a human tendency to remember highly emotional information, by association, it means the scent alone can trigger accurate recall of product information. But these associations don’t lie with objects alone.

We judge people based on their scent.

The fragrances we choose to wear could also influence other people’s impressions of our personalities. For example, one study had 90 women smell three perfume samples and rate their level of agreement/disagreement on the types of personality traits a hypothetical wearer would display, as well as their subjective liking of the scent. The results were precise; perceptions of a person’s personality differed depending on the composition of the fragrance – much like how visual differences in appearance can influence prejudgements.

In comparison to oriental (citrus) and chypre (herbal, woody) scents, wearers of floral perfumes were associated with those who hold fewer ‘masculine’ traits and are likely to be more inhibited (e.g. less flirtatious, dramatic, fashionable). What’s also interesting is that the more similar two fragrances’ were in scent, the more similar their wearers were in personality. Therefore, there may be more to managing your impression than the simple presence or absence of a fragrance – it’s specifically what you choose to wear that seems to count.

Scents can change how you act.

Sure, these fragrance-based first impressions could help secure a job or find a romantic partner, but they also affect how likely you are to be supported, or help another, in a time of need. Being surrounded by pleasant odours such as roasting coffee, pastries, or perfume can cause strangers to act more prosocially. We see this effect both in busy shopping malls and at pedestrian crossings (Baron, 1997; Guéguen, 2001). As a subtle sniff of a pleasant scent can trigger recollection of associated positive memories or feelings, it helps to lift our moods. This mood change subsequently increases prosocial behaviours, which can be for several reasons. 

Smell good, feel good, do good.

What’s equally important, and perhaps more relevant to day-to-day life, is how we can use fragrance to help ourselves. As the practice of mindfulness teaches, tuning into our senses can be incredibly grounding and ultimately, improve our mental wellbeing. It can be challenging to detach from past and future demands, but being surrounded by pleasant sights, sounds, tastes, touches or smells can make a significant difference when trying to create a moment of peace and relaxation. One study by Field and colleagues showed that after sniffing a lavender-infused cosmetic cleanser, adults became more relaxed, had an improved mood and completed maths calculations faster than before. Therefore, specific fragrances can be particularly useful at calming both the mind and body, improving focus on the present moment. Something as simple as using a lavender-scented fabric softener, or burning a candle in the evening could help to ease anxieties.

With this in mind, it is clear that fragrance has far more power and purpose than merely adding or masking an odour. The perfumes we all choose to wear can share something about who we are or change how we feel about ourselves. In the same way, we might think about what we are wearing; perhaps fragrance should be given more considerable thought; try asking yourself, how does this make me feel, or how do I want to feel.

Stay-tuned next week for Part 2 of the Psychology of Scents Series, when fragrance experts will reveal the key to finding your signature scent!

This post was featured on Links à la Mode fashion roundup by Independent Fashion Bloggers.

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Self-care is a term we are all aware of; its importance in maintaining psychological wellbeing is well-recognised, yet few of us seem to engage in it. Self-care can involve anything from cooking to cleaning, taking yourself on a walk in the woods or reading a book in the garden. However, one simple and easy way many of us could take care of minds and bodies is through the humble manicure.

However, there are far more benefits than first meet the eye when taking the time to care for your fingertips. By focusing on the intricacies of filing, shaping, moisturising and painting each individual nail encourages us to be mindful. By concentrating on the present, it gives our minds a moment to break away from the recurrent list of responsibilities we are regularly reminded of. As polish dries relish in the respite; for fifteen minutes there’s nothing to do but remain still. Even checking your phone can be difficult, which brings the rare opportunity to switch off from your online existence too.

But if this restful style of relaxation isn’t your idea of peace, painting your nails can also provide a way to bond with friends and family. Unlike other popular activities of indulgence like shopping, there is much less emphasis on body shape and size and therefore offer less of a chance to engage in unhealthy comparisons. Even when going to the salon isn’t an option, hosting virtual manicure sessions with friends could be a fun way to unwind and catch up.

The benefits of having neat and tidy nails extend further than the momentary mindfulness the process creates. Although only a small part of our appearances, our nails can in fact implicitly portray a particular image to others. Pleasantly presented hands and nails have been associated with holding a position of power and in 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported nail salons as being popular locations for meetings amongst professional women.

Much like the colours of clothes we wear, the shades we choose to place upon our nails can reflect aspects of our personality and influence our mood. Some scientists have suggested that certain colours can affect our heart rate and brain signals in different ways, and in turn how we think and feel. These biological influences seem to be reflected in our behaviour too – whether it is consciously or subconsciously. Patterns have been identified amongst nail salon customers when it comes to selecting the colour to decorate their nails with. People often opt for shades that either match or help to modify their current mood. Here are just a handful of ways your go-to nail varnish might be revealing aspects of yourself, you never even realised: 

  • Black – symbolises mystery and can be worn to share a slightly more rebellious, daring side of yourself.
  • Blue – is thought to reflect trust and peace; this sense colour’s sense of tranquillity can be soothing in times of uncertainty. 
  • Orange – is an optimistic colour, portraying someone who is self-assured and sociable. When confidence is running a little low, glancing down at your orange fingertips can instantly inject a sense of positivity! 
  • Pastels – provide a soft and delicate finish, perfect for times of relaxation, comfort and signifying new beginnings.
  • Yellow –an energetic, eye-catching shade often chosen by those who have a positive presence. This colour can be chosen when experiencing burnout, to reignite an inner energy.

In essence, there is far more than first meets the eye when it comes to manicures. Serving as an act of socialisation and self-care, the benefits of the beauty treatment can be significant for us all. If investing time and effort into your fingertips brings you joy, confidence and helps to wind-down after a busy day, there should be no shame in dedicating an evening each week to doing just this.

If you’ve ever suffered the misfortune of losing a loved one as well as witnessing a friend experience loss, then you’ll know that grief looks very different on different people. Although scientists such as Barbara Fane have revealed that individuals experiencing grief suffer from a similar disruption to the following brain areas, the outcome can vary. After losing someone the parasympathetic nervous system is impacted, resulting in insomnia and shallow breath. The effect on the prefrontal cortex/frontal lobe can impact your ability to express your emotions. The impact on the limbic system, can cause you to be easily triggered by things that remind you of your lost one. Whilst experiencing this biological onslaught, after losing someone, many people put their appearance to the back of their mind. However, as our contributing beauty writer Alysha Yates recounts, relief may come in the form of your beauty routine.

My mother would always dress herself in red. Her toenails gleamed with a glossy merlot finish come rain or shine.  In a reoccurring six-week effort to mask her relentless greys, she’d blitz intruders with her favourite semi-permanent dye, Crazy Colour- Fire. When she discovered my Sleek eyeshadow palettes, her request never wavered, “red with a little smoke on the sides.” Of all the ways she’d wear red, nothing served her better than sporting her signature scarlet smile.

So when I lost my mother in 2015 to the beast that is breast cancer, I couldn’t look at red the same for a while. My memories of overturned bloody dye bottles and dwindled lidless lipstick applicators brought me nothing but instant flashbacks of what I had lost.

Days after she passed, at each family gathering, I’d be swarmed by sympathetic apologies and faces filled with commissary for what could not be helped. With each pat on my back, I grew to fear the pain of my mother’s memory, serving only as a reminder for the unnerving fact that I’d no longer see her bright red smile again.

Alysha Yates Fashion Psychology
Alysha Yates Wearing Mac Dance With Me & Fenty Beauty Uncensored

Nevertheless, I had already agreed to write my mother’s eulogy for her funeral. I had run out of words while trying to finish writing and I decided to search for inspiration. I sat knee deep in photo albums, flicking through images of my mother, wadding my way through years of her life, buried in her memory. Hour after hour went by and I found myself with her again. She was aged 20 at a party, posed arm in arm with a best friend, both with matching classic square red manicures. Aged 25 on her wedding day, lips deep scarlet pursed and pouted for a glamorous flick.  She was aged 36, hair tinted and aflame, head down styling one of her clients at her hair salon.

Tears met my lips as I surrendered to her vivid red memories and I felt her with me once again. Fond memories rushed back and gave me the comfort I needed as I saw how attached my mother had been to this colour, how she would always endeavour to express herself throughout her life with these red accents.

At her funeral, we wore red rose brooches and our lips beamed a deep raspberry red. My mum loved to wear a mix of MAC’s Rebel with Russian Red. On that day, we brought her memory to life. Now, as her 4th year anniversary approaches, I soothe my grief by wearing red and my most treasured way of remembering her is by embracing a beauty routine that reflects my mother in spirit.

The world’s most influential makeup artist, Pat McGrath MBE recently left her mark all over Couture fashion week. Her delicate touch has resulted in many arresting looks in fashion weeks the world over, several of which were created with products from the self-titled Pat McGrath Labs. In order to gain a deeper insight into McGrath’s transformative powers we’ve conducted an investigation into the science behind some of her latest looks.

Extreme Eyelashes - Valentino

Fashion Psychology
Source: patmcgrathreal/Instagram

Delicate feathers fluttered down the runway with every blink at Valentino’s Spring 2019 Couture show. To create the bold look, the intricate feather-lash extensions were glued to the model’s lashes and coated with McGrath’s new FetishEyes™ Mascara.

So what does science say about this mesmerizing look?

Our collectively admiration for longer eyelashes dates back thousands of years. Researchers Mulhern and colleagues found that enhancing the appearance of women’s eyes through the use of eyelashes and mascara significantly increased attractiveness as rated by both male and female observers. Eyelash growth is also said to have a positive psychological effect on women (Jones, 2011).

Some researchers have reasoned that we find long eyelashes endearing because they are typically possessed by those who we are hardwired to find cute – babies! And as we have learnt from the Baby-Face Stereotype, adults are rated more favourably when they have features (such as long eyelashes) that draw similarity to infants.

Glitter and Gloss - Givenchy and Margiela

Fashion Psychology
Source: patmcgrathreal/Instagram
Fashion Psychology
Source: patmcgrathreal/Instagram

In a show that largely featured simple, minimalistic makeup looks, McGrath ensured that Cara Taylor took center stage. Following her third haute couture collection for Givenchy, Clare Waight Keller said “I tried to take the most modern approach possible with everything.” McGrath compliment the modernity of the garments by adding in this futuristic look that saw the top half of Taylor’s face covered entirely in glitter. Over at Margiela, the model’s faces were a playground for McGraths brushes. One look that particularly stood out were the smudged gradient fuchsia lips topped off with a glossy top coat worn by both male and female models.

And the science behind all this glitter and gloss?

Evolutionary psychologists claim that are attraction to shiny things is linked to our ingrained need for survival. For example, in a study on children, infants aged 7-12 months old were found to put their mouths to glossy plates much more than to dull ones. Children had also been seen lapping shiny toys on the ground, the way an animal might drink from a puddle. Researchers have concluded that the connection between drinking and shiny design was an evolutionary artifact–a sign that “our crush on glossy is rooted in a primitive desire for water as a vital resource” (Coss, Ruff & Simms, 2010).

Alongside the revival of gloss, glitter makeup is one trend that isn’t going away anytime soon. An easy way to incorporate both of these trends into your 2019 looks is with Pat McGrath Labs’ Lust Lip Gloss Kits.

Flower Power - Valentino

Back at Valentino, McGrath went to work to create an intricate floral makeup look to compliment the gorgeous floral gowns. While the petals were lightly dusted in glitter, McGrath used a small cluster of crystals for the flower’s pistil – a 3D element that helped bring the look to life.

Studies on adornment have long highlighted the positive impact that flowers and floral motifs have on attraction and wealth. In a study on tipping behaviour, researchers found that diners left larger tips for waitresses who wore flowers in their hair compared to when the same waitresses served them minus the flowers (Jacob, Guéguen & Delfosse, 2012).

To get these makeup looks and all of the psychological benefits that come with them, check out the stunning new collections over at Pat McGra