There’s this idea that meditation has to be this ritualistic, repetitive production. That we have to sit on a mat, be perfectly still, and perform it in the exact ways that everyone else does.
But meditation can be anything that we do, with intention. And for the last few months, I’ve begun to think about how skin care can be its own meditative practice.
Despite how overwhelming skin care routines can appear, these cleansing rituals actually bring about benefits beyond glowing skin and reducing problem areas.
Especially as I started to incorporate mindfulness into my routine, I realized that skin care has become an important part of my wellness practice — here’s how:
Studies have shown that touch hunger — the “deep desire for physical contact with another person” — has become a deeply rooted byproduct of our society. We reserve physical touch for romantic relationships, but this leaves out so many opportunities for positive, much-needed touch.
Though skin care is still a highly gendered niche, it is one of the few opportunities where touch is required and socially encouraged for everyone. But this touch goes deeper than surface cleansing.
The intentional touch behind practicing skin care regularly — from massaging the skin to treating it softly with serums and sunscreen — promotes the need for touch as an important part of our care routines.
Touch benefits can go beyond our skin care as well. We can see its influence on self-love — as we familiarize ourselves with a welcoming touch, we begin to feel more comfortable in our skin and identify how we want to be cared for.
Even mindful touch with body lotion or oil can be a good way to ease into this practice.
Speaking of intentional touch… how often do we really have the opportunity to slow down and be present? So many of us are constantly on the go that we forget to take a breath, slow down, and be in the moment.
Something that reminded me of this within skin care has been the “sixty-second rule,” coined by Nayamka Roberts-Smith of LABeautyologist.
“Cleansing your face (with your fingers) for 60 seconds allows the ingredients in the cleanser to actually work,” she writes in a viral tweet. “Most [people] wash their face for like 15 seconds max. [Sixty seconds] softens the skin [and] dissolves sebum blockages better. Texture overall evenness improves.”
Besides the obvious benefits that can come from implementing this (free) rule, it also had me thinking about what it costs to rush through things. The stress of rushing to get everything done has often left us feeling dissatisfied, disconnected.
So how do we remedy that? By slowing down to tether ourselves back to the present.
Following the 60-second rule can be an encouraging part of your skin care routine, but it can also be helpful to remind us that skin care can be the reminder we need to slow down and be present in what we’re doing.
Turn off your lights. I found this trick from a mutual online, and it’s also changed breaking skin care out of being a menial routine to something that I looked forward to. I turn off the lights when I’m doing my skin care, especially at night.
There’s this idea that skin care is simply for vanity, for reaching this idea of having perfectly even, glass skin. But that’s not it at all.
I turn off the lights and look away from the mirror. If I’m feeling extra, I’ll even light a candle and let the candlelight encourage me to keep my eyes off of the mirror.
For me, turning off the lights not only helps incorporate the above tips, but it also grounds me in feeling good for myself, rather than an image of what I should look like.
It places skin care back into being a relaxing practice that I do for my well-being, rather than something to chase a beauty ideal that doesn’t quite fit.
Another note about ideals: it takes us out of the present part of the journey, rather than being fixated on a certain point along the way. Skin care gets this rep for being centered on perfectionism, but I don’t think that needs to be the case.
It’s nice to focus on the feeling, to have a part of our routine that is centered on our feeling and enjoyment.
It’s not about being perfect — it’s about the progress of committing to a practice that brings us joy, that commits to our well-being.
A friend of mine, Sam Escobar, was really the one who taught me to see that skin care can be part of a meditative practice. Their words have carried with me.
When they have a really bad day, washing their face, moisturizing, and doing their makeup routine can be a comforting ritual to turn to. As mentioned in Nylon:
“My eyes began leaking, then streaming. When I arrived home, my cats promptly cuddled next to me until my sobs subsided. I then did what I always do when I’ve been crying: washed my face and moisturized, then carefully did my makeup routine. It’s a ritual I have always found comforting. It’s so nice to have a step-by-step process — a little personal production where I know and love all the characters — er, products. Some see beauty as silly, but it can almost be healing at times.”
This idea of being worth of care and believing it as I use my serums and balms is probably my favorite part of having the routine.
It’s an opportunity to restore one’s self, get back to the root of who we are. That’s why the emphasis on skin care is done before bed and before we leave the house to greet the day; it helps us to be more restful and grounded in ourselves.
We can more confidently greet the next day when we are rooted firmly in ourselves — and ultimately, that’s what mindfulness, in any incorporation, aims to do.
Cameron Glover is a writer, sex educator, and digital superhero. You can connect with her on Twitter.