Beauty and Mental Health: A Quick Look at How the Two Intertwine

Published in: Guest Post, Just For Fun, Makeup

Wouldn't you rather stay in bed with this?

Wouldn’t you rather stay in bed with this?

As someone without steady employment, and not a lot of other responsibilities, I often find myself in bed well past noon on a weekday. I don’t do this on purpose, and it’s not even because I want to be there. But while texting my boyfriend (from our bed) one late morning, I found myself saying, “I don’t want to get up, because my problems are out there.”

Simple reasoning, right?


But I can’t avoid my problems forever. I have to get up. I have to eat. I have to continue to look for a job. I have to consolidate my loans and make doctors appointments.

For most of my adult life, I have dealt with chronic depression and anxiety. I’ve used many methods to combat these things, but lately, I’ve found that getting myself into a routine has been one of the best things for me. The main part of my routine that has been the most enjoyable and given me the best feeling?

Doing my makeup and/or pampering myself.

It’s common knowledge that you feel good when you take care of yourself. But for a lot of people, and for many women, it’s often seen as vain and unnecessary to do our makeup, or to spend a lot of time on ourselves. At the same time, we’re being told that if we don’t look a certain way, we’re not trying hard enough. If we look tired, or pale, or sick, then there is something wrong with us. If we don’t smile at every stranger that passes us, we are mean, unfriendly, cold. This was something I ran into often when I worked retail, and a reason I got into makeup in the first place. I figured if people were going to think I was awful, I might as well look fabulous while they did it, right?

After I quit that job and went to graduate school, I stopped wearing makeup as much, mainly because I didn’t have the time. I reserved it for special occasions only. Then I stopped wearing it because I felt tired, my skin was awful, I didn’t want to be noticed. A million and one reasons to not take care of myself hung over my head every day.

The past few weeks, while I’ve been writing and reviewing for you guys, I’ve been looking forward to getting up and doing my makeup. I’ve been excited about taking care of my skin, of my body, and of my mind. I haven’t felt that in a very long time. Because of these changes in my routine, my other habits have changed as well. Instead of not eating most of the day, I actually got up all of last week, ate breakfast every day, drank a cup of coffee, and did my makeup. I was proud of myself for actually finishing a quart of milk without it spoiling in the fridge!

These changes might not feel that significant, but to me, they’re monumental. Even if I’m just going to Starbucks to work on some writing, I try to make sure I put on some lipstick or a little blush. These things make me feel a little more put together, and push the worrisome thoughts out of my head for the day.

My beauty routine and the “rituals” that I find myself performing every day (and night) are often what I find get me going at the beginning of the day and calm me down at the end of it. While there’s nothing more enthralling than putting on my makeup and trying a new look, nothing is as calming as taking off all that work at the end of the day, and slathering my bare face in my favorite moisturizer.

I’m so glad that I’ve been able to rekindle my love affair with makeup and that I’ve been able to write about it along the way. Even if I don’t have life entirely planned out right now, I’m at least going to look/feel great while I try to figure it out. 😉

Marcella Yakalis

Marcella Yakalis is a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn, New York, with two cats, one snake, and one very patient boyfriend. She writes about family, relationships, and oppressive retail culture. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram.


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So far, 40 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Jaclyn levy says:

    What a fabulous post and message! Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. I’m a stay at home mom with 2 young boys. While many assume that means I can “let myself go” and it’s acceptable and even expected for me to show up in public in yoga pants, stained shirts, and unbrushed hair I like taking time to put myself together even if I only have a minute to swipe on lipstick! Even the days I’m home all day and don’t leave the house I often put on makeup because it makes me feel more like myself. That’s so important to me because it’s easy to lose yourself in young motherhood and I’m determined not to let that happen. Whew, I didn’t expect to respond so personally to this post. I love the idea that something some people (like my dad) see as unimportant and frivolous (like makeup) can actually be life giving and affirming to many others. Carry on, sister!

  2. Andrea Vecchione says:

    I will try to make this brief:

    I too suffer from depression & anxiety for the last 30 years and the last 2 years have been the absolute worst for me. Both my parents died a month within each other and my cat of 16 passed after 2 years after some bad health. For over the last year, I haven’t worn a speck of makeup (I do try to still do my nails) after having using cosmetics as a way to uplift my spirits during depression and a ritual coping mechanism for social disorder. I’m finally finding that I miss giving a crap about how I look and miss makeup. It seems like a silly thing, but it was something very important in my habit of getting ready to face the outside world. It helps to know that I’m now the only one that’s dealing with this issue, so thank you for posting on Karen’s Blog about it.

  3. So sorry to hear you’ve been battling with depression and anxiety for so long. But I agree that little things can make a difference and I absolutely believe that make-up and beauty and pampering yourself are a great way to (learn to) feel good about yourself again. Look shitty, feel shitty. Look fabulous, feel fabulous. At least that’s how it is for me.
    And yes, having a routine and something to do and look forward to everyday is absolutely vital, I couldn’t agree more.
    Kiss & Make-up recently posted … Review | Bobbi Brown Nourishing Lip Color Oil-Infused Shine in Coral Pop (+ free lipgloss for you!)

  4. Vanessa says:

    So true about the makeup… And making that leap to get out of bed. Cheers to you, lady friend <3

  5. Jennifer says:

    Have you ever listened to Miranda Lambert? Your post reminded me a little bit of one of my favorite songs of her’s, Mama’s Broken Heart.

    Here are the last refrains:

    “Go and fix your make up girl it’s, just a break up run an’
    Hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady ’cause I
    Raised you better, gotta keep it together even when you fall apart,
    But this ain’t my mama’s broken heart

    Powder your nose, paint your toes line your lips and keep ’em closed
    Cross your legs, dot your I’s and never let ’em see you cry

    Go and fix your make up well it’s, just a break up run an’
    Hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady ’cause I
    Raised you better, gotta keep it together even when you fall apart,
    But this ain’t my mama’s broken heart.”
    Jennifer recently posted … Pepsi 1893: The Wrong Generation

    • Marcella Yakalis says:

      Hey Jennifer! I actually LOVE Miranda Lambert. She’s one of my favorite country singers. This is one of my favorite songs. She gets me through some hard times <3

  6. Rachel says:

    I so understand this! I have autoimmune disease and self care is hard to even do some days. Makeup is my passion, though, and I used to do it for a living. Now I blog when I feel like it just to share the love. Just yesterday I shared a post about my cute pill case I got, because being sick doesn’t mean I can’t be fabulous! LOL! I think it’s so important to take care of yourself in whatever way makes you feel better, whether that be a little color or skincare or whatever.
    Rachel recently posted … On being fabulous – vintage style Orchids pill case by Houlder 

  7. Kim says:

    I’m proud of you, too, Marcella. 🙂 You’re doing a great job with the posts and it’s great that they’re also helping you to feel better. Are you familiar with Jenny Lawson (the Bloggess)? She’s a fabulous writer who also suffers from anxiety and depression, and her stories help so many people. If you’re not averse to colorful language, check her out!

  8. jessica says:

    Hi Brooklyn! And kitties! 🙂

    I relate to the feeling down. It does help to pamper ourselves. It really does. It doesn’t make things better, and you still feel awful, but it is better to feel like shit with green eyeshadow.

    I was thinking, when you wrote about smiling at everyone, “she should live in NYC, we don’t give a crap about that kind of thing”, but you do already.


    xoxo from Queens. Well, Times Sq at the moment.
    jessica recently posted … Did & Did Not

    • Marcella Yakalis says:

      Hey lady! I’m an NYC transplant from upstate, so I can’t claim originality on that front but it definitely has helped living in a place where honestly no one cares!

  9. Gina B. says:

    Good for you Marcella. I struggle too – and I completely understand! Our rituals mean everything….. I struggle with depression and anxiety also — and can identify with everything that you stated, including staying in bed. I’m working six days a week – and cannot believe that I’ve actually pulled it off. I’m just three weeks (almost four) out of a bad breakup, and that’s been really hard. I’ve had to increase my anti-depressant and my booster. I’ve been in a mental agony. He won’t communicate with me, at all and many things were left unsaid – just wide open. So I’m left to cope with no answers. It’s very hard. It gets a little easier everyday – thank God for work. Here’s hoping that you find work soon – because if I didn’t have it now, I’d be bonkers. Thanks for writing for us while Ms. Karen is on maternity leave, and sharing you story. We all have to stick together, and support each other. One day at a time hon, sometimes – a few moments – a task…. just get thru what’s in front of you…. with grace. That’s all I try and do — and don’t screw it up!!!! Much Love!!!!!

    • andrea says:

      I had a bad break up that left me wondering for MONTHS, maybe years, what went wrong, what I did wrong, and what I could have done to save the relationship…It took me a long long time to realize, I had given it my all and there was nothing wrong with me, and I did my best to help work things out. My best. I gave it all, and once I finally realized that, it gave me some closure. I know your break up is recent, but don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t let that bug you too much trying to get answers from someone who is not ready to communicate.
      Give it time…

      • Gina B. says:

        Thank you Andrea!! It has been so difficult!!! I think my friends think I’m nuts. I’ve felt nuts. He left and said “I’ll call you…” and I got nothing. The relationship wasn’t even supposed to be over. However, it was. It is, over. Even though I can’t seem to let go. It feels unfinished to me. Maybe I am crazy girl!!! I know that I love him, and that feels nuts too… and he’d have to be from my home town. I see him from time to time walking. It has felt like a soul murder. Just horrible, like hell on earth. I am trying.

        • ellyp says:

          Oh man, I am hurting right along with you, Gina, as I read your comment. :'( All we can do is take one day at a time. Focus on you. Makes dates with yourself to enjoy yourself and your own company. Cry, be mad, be silly, whatever but go with the process because your heart will never heal if you try to force anything (asking for answers from some one avoiding you) or if you deny how broken you feel inside. My 12 year old son has an agressive, incurable form of heart cancer plus I have a *host* of other bad problems at the same time. I buy a lot of lipstick right now but it is my coping mechanism. No matter what, I put on my makeup, try to dress nice and I face each day determined to not give up. As the days pass, I find myself stronger, more content with the presence of the bad stuff and more joyful for the good stuff. You are MUCH stronger than you realize! Don’t stop taking that one step at a time forward. Freshen up your lipstick, girl, and keep movin’! This too shall pass, I promise! 🙂 ♡

          • Gina Bullard says:

            Dear ELLYP,

            Thank you! Bless your heart!!! I totally understand lipstick as a coping mechanism!!! I just have to watch because I’ll spend every dime I have if I’m not careful… I love spending and in the shape I’ve been in it sure seems to help. Bless your heart, and many, many prayers for you and your son… what a warrior you are! It certainly makes this little break-up seem so small. I know that we all have our issues, but goodness hon you have such grace to even reach out to me. I will take your advice, I am in therapy (thank goodness) and I am processing this as best I can, being basically abandoned is hard for anyone – especially the brutal rejection with no end in the relationship… it has been a month now. It’s getting a little easier. I just still can’t get it out of my mind – that is what bothers me… all the unanswered questions. I guess this is normal…? Thank goodness for a new job to focus on. However that is more stress too! Ah, I’ll be okay… eventually, everything is temporary – and as you said it will pass. It is just hard for me to accept that anyone could be so cruel. It doesn’t feel finished and I guess it wasn’t…. at least not for me. It is finished for him! So as you said, I just need to keep getting up, getting fixed up and facing each day. When God closes a door, He usually provides another BETTER opportunity. That’s what I’m counting on…. Blessings to you sweetie, and prayers all the way around…. thanks for taking time to write and think of me…. much appreciated!!! <3

          • ellyp says:

            Gina, I have an idea! I do not know anyone into makeup, honestly. I live in Colorado and people here do more of the natural thing. I have a lot of stuff I don’t need but I bought for therapy to try new things and to keep myself positive. Would you mind if I sent you a little care package of fun items? It would be so nice to share my unused goodies with someone!! You can email me at and we can talk colors. I would love the chance to share makeup with someone like me!! 🙂

  10. Kwmechelle says:

    This is so timely for me. And I couldn’t agree more. I no longer work but I’ve realized that doing little things to pamper myself, like giving myself a manicure, going to get a pedicure, browsing through Sephora & Ulta, buying new makeup, writing- all of these things are outlets for me. And I occasionally treat myself to Starbucks. It’s such a fine line, in society’s eyes anyway, between pampering & taking care of ourselves as women, and being told that playing in makeup is vain. Kudos to you for taking control of your self-worth & choosing to do what uplifts you. Thoroughly enjoyed this read 🙂

  11. Jessica Revitte says:

    I love this post Marcella. I think the message is very powerful. Society wants us to think that makeup makes us shallow, that it’s wrong to take pride in the way you look and all sorts of foolish messages. I think that’s a very victorian view to take. I, too, feel so much more confident and happy when I do my makeup. This isn’t so much associated with how I look, but more with the routine of taking care of myself and treating my body well.

    Cheers my love!

  12. Luckily, I’ve never had to deal with depression and anxiety, but there was a time of my life where I had trouble falling asleep because the worst, most negative thoughts would just pop in my head. The only way I could find to push those thoughts back was to focus on makeup… I would create new looks in my mind or try to mentally recreate with my own products any tutorials I had seen. It might sound silly, but it actually worked!
    It’s great to hear that makeup has been helping you, too. 🙂
    Carolina Braina recently posted … La Roche-Posay Effaclar BB Blur: an Instagram Filter for Your Complexion

  13. Grace says:

    I, too want to thank you for being so open and honest so publicly and others who left comments. I also find it very hard to find that silver lining, and I have no idea why, but for me, just looking at makeup helps. I was always a visual person, so I think the colours and textures stimulate the happy part of my brain lol. Best thing about beauty blogs, is I don’t have to find space to hold all of it! hehe.. so reading up on the latest stuff that will come out and seeing what the collection holds helps me in that, if it’s something I really like, will get me up to physically go out into society and get it.

  14. Tamara says:

    This is something I deal with on and off all the time. My interest in makeup and getting ready for the day ebbs and flows and I notice it correlates with my mood and sometimes even the weather. It’s funny because when I’m coming out of one of my less-interested times, I am always surprised how much better I feel after taking some time for myself to look more put together. It’s like amnesia LOL. It’s refreshing to hear that there are others out there that feel the same.

  15. Katie says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I can relate to all that you are saying. I have struggled with cronic depression and anxiety very badly for the past three years. One of the only things that brought me joy through it all was music and makeup.
    Thanks again for sharing this with us!

  16. Ruchita says:

    Such a great post! I know I go through periods of depression and the last thing I want to do is fix my hair or wear makeup. But then when I do make the effort, I do feel better.

    I’m so glad you’re doing better and finding routines that are able to help you feel better physically and mentally! Take care and best wishes on this journey.

  17. andrea says:

    So happy for all the positive changes that are happening for you.

    makeup is so beautiful, and like you, it relaxes me and helps me get ready for the day, as well as wind down for bed at night when I go through my makeup removal and cleansing routine.

    And don’t worry, I don’t think anyone has everything figured out, no one is perfect. we are all different and have our own struggles and our own ways to cope. Makeup has definitely helped me in the past to get through tough times. Glad it is helping you and others as well.

  18. Sakura says:

    I always look forward to your posts, even if I don’t comment.

    I know that struggle. What gets me though it is running and routines, and looking at the positive things. (I remind myself that I only live once.) I put on makeup for myself, although I am not totally immune to what others think.

    I’m happy that writing to us has helped! Everyday is a new beginning and chance to make things different. I’m glad things are turning up for you. Happy Spring!

  19. Erin says:

    I struggle with some similar issues. I had/have BDD. It’s mostly in hand, but I still often ignore taking care of myself sometimes because occasionally I don’t like myself. Not so much my personality but my shell. It took a lot of therapy in my teens and occasionally I find myself in old patterns.
    Erin recently posted … Juliette Has A Gun Gentlewoman

  20. Colleen says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Your honestly is so compelling. I love your posts. Depression is so hard, I’ve been there. Sending you love and peace.

  21. Rachel R. says:

    Excellent post, Marcella! You’re not alone. I have had severe general anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder my entire life (that’s been improving, at least). I have bouts of depression, and there are a few dark times where I was slipping into agoraphobia.

    I completely agree about having a routine. There is a huge therapeutic value to me in putting on makeup: It’s calming and creative. Just looking at the pretty colors makes me happy. Putting on makeup makes me feel like I put in some effort. It makes me feel awake and alive. Getting compliments on my makeup doesn’t hurt, either!

  22. Chris25 says:

    Thankyou so much for sharing with us, Marcella. I find myself relating to a lot of what you’ve written here. I agree so much that it’s invaluable to find something joyful or fulfilling to get you out of bed or out of the house whenever you can- even the most seemingly small things can make a huge difference when you’re struggling with depression and anxiety.
    Chris25 recently posted … German Skincare Haul

  23. This is a very honest and brave post. As someone that never had any issues with depression and anxiety I can still relate to the need of rituals and looking put together. I stayed home with my daughter for one year, and in my second pregnancy health issues forced me to stay at home quite early. My husband never understood why I didnt stay in bed, but instead got up, got showered and put on some makeup, but it was very important to me to still feel myself. It is not that I don’t like my face without makeup, I will happily go barefaced on a summer beach holiday, but the fact that I need to feel like I have taken care of myself.
    I am glad to hear that writing on this blog has given you at least one reason to get out of bed this morning, especially as we get to benefit from your excellent reviews and honest insights into your life.
    LindaLibraLoca recently posted … Inspired by… Dolce & Gabbana the one

  24. Steffinie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I relate to this so much and it’s nice knowing I’m not completely alone. I just graduated not too long ago and I’m still in the process of looking for a job. I have days where I literally can’t get myself out of bed, much less eat or get dressed, but I too have found that forcing myself into a routine has helped so much.
    I also completely agree with you about still getting dressed and pampering yourself. I felt guilty buying makeup and clothes since I wasn’t actually working or going anywhere. However, recently I’ve been getting back into makeup and beauty and it’s been such a mood booster. Whether it seems vain or not, taking care of my appearance has always been important to me and it’s helped so much getting back into all of that. It’s still a work in progress but I’m getting there and it’s so great to hear you’re feeling better too! Thank you again for sharing and just know you’re not alone 🙂

  25. Domi says:

    Have you read The body keeps the score? It is a good read.
    I hope you manage to beat it!
    It is therapeutic not only to have a routine or to add color but also the tactile experience when you apply makeup, remove makeup or do something involving skin care. It is the act of taking care of yourself, that you are important enough to be taken cared off and the shift of focus out of our heads into our hands. It is nothing vain or frivolous about it, don’t feel guilty or allow yourself to be judged by others. Of course their is many ways to take care of oneself and to get out from the head into the hands but makeup and skin care is as good as any other way!

  26. Katherine M says:

    I really resonate with your honesty and vulnerability. It can be hard to open up, but by doing so, you never know who you could reach. I have never personally battled depression and anxiety but I am a survivor of significant trauma and I can understand what it’s like to find it difficult to face the world at times. The world can be a very judgmental place. I have been in jobs my whole life where I’ve had to have the professional poker face, if you will, and put my emotions on the backburner. I have to have the professional poker face even more as a female in law enforcement (transitioning from the emergency/trauma medicine world). Most days I will be ok, but some days it can be very tough, especially when I really realize what I have seen and been through.

    Hang in there on the job search and know that you are reaching people through your honesty in writing. You never know if your writing could lead to a great paying job. I totally agree with you on makeup making one feel very put together and ready to conquer the world. It’s always interesting to hear different perspectives on that.

  27. Lauren says:

    Yes…routine is key!! Great post. Thank you for sharing, and keep up your routine!

  28. Bella says:

    This post really resonated with me. I also have depression and anxiety, and I always know when I’ve hit the low point because I just don’t care about painting my nails or doing my make up. Looking after myself like that is my self love so I’m either super sick or super depressed if I’m leaving my nails bare or skipping my skincare routine. (Although, even if I’m having a good day, it is far too tempting to stay in bed with cats. They just make it look so cozy!)

  29. catrina says:

    I love the open vulnerability that you and those who commented share. We women often feel we are alone in the “Beauty Battle” and we often hide our heart’s “Image Issues” but it is nothing to be ashamed of. We were designed for beauty and our longing for it is a reflection of the heart of God. Well done, all of you, for encouraging each other! We are not alone!

  30. Marcella Yakalis says:

    Thank you all SO MUCH for you comments and encouragement on this post. I really appreciate it. 🙂 it was a difficult topic to write on and this feedback inspires me to no end!

  31. Adia says:

    This is such a thoughtful and well-written post, and something we don’t discuss much in the world of beauty blogging. Kudos to you for opening up about feelings that many of us have but aren’t able to express!!

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