Is Beauty Really Only Skin-Deep? The Latest Studies on Skin Therapy

By Allison O'Connor

pic12Over “coffee tawk” last weekend, several friends and I discussed little things we do to cheer ourselves up when feeling down. Interestingly, a common theme emerged: When women get down in the dumps, enhancing our appearance instantly lifts our spirits.

For example, one friend says buying a new pair of shoes makes her giddy, while another says getting her hair styled at the salon cures her blues. Obviously, these are temporary fixes for minor mood swings and not long-term treatments for deeply rooted problems, but it’s amazing how little things can make us feel better. 

pic32Making Our Lives ‘Prettier’  

In her landmark bestseller, Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy, cancer survivor Geralyn Lucas writes that wearing red lipstick during her treatment was a way to send a life-affirming message to herself and others even as she was facing death.

“Lipstick was about living,” Lucas says. “Lipstick was being hopeful and having a future. I think lipstick is the antithesis of all the things breast cancer patients go through, and to somehow reclaim it, to wear it on my terms, felt so crazy but also made perfect sense.”

pic22Impact on Self-Image

Recent scientific research also suggests that looking good makes you feel good. In a study of people with facial pigmented spots, a Japanese research team found that subjects whose facial pigments were successfully concealed with makeup experienced a measurable boost to their immune system versus those who did not wear concealing makeup.

Other notable examples are obese people who dramatically change their clothing styles, jobs and even romantic partners after losing large amounts of weight. It’s as if looking better gave them the confidence and motivation to make positive changes in other areas of their lives. As superficial as that may sound, it’s further proof that looks do matter, not only to how others perceive and receive us, but how we feel about and perceive ourselves.

We’ve all experienced how stress can wreak havoc on our nervous system, immune system and sleep patterns. And oftentimes, when we’re stressed out, we look terrible. Conversely, scientists say that the “positive stress” induced by an improved self-image can boost an individual’s overall health. Just as taking a walk outdoors on a beautiful sunny day can invigorate the body, wearing flattering makeup or soaking in a luxurious bath can improve the psyche. Caring for one’s body contributes to personal stability and self-confidence, researchers say.

“The art of handling your self-image can take on a great deal of importance in the healthcare field,” according to Professor Louis Dubertret of the Saint-Louis Hospital in Paris. Cosmetics specially developed for older people – not to rejuvenate them, but just allow them to remain attractive – have relevance for healthcare. We have all seen the correlation between self-neglect, depression, de-socialization, and loss of intellectual and emotional capacities in the elderly.”

Mind-Body Connection  

The time we devote to taking care of our appearance can help enhance harmony between the body and the mind and improve self-image, researchers say. That’s why hospital staffers emphasize washing and shaving as key to restoring a patient’s good health. In fact, the British Red Cross has recently begun incorporating cosmetology and makeup in hospital care programs to help improve patients’ physical well-being and self-esteem.

Similarly, the Look Good, Feel Better program that has been running in the U.S. for the past 19 years offers beauty care treatments to chemotherapy patients. The boost in self-image that accompanies the attentive application of makeup has been found to have a powerful effect on accelerating recovery, scientists say. Why? Because looking good can help you feel good.


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