.gif by lindsay hattrick, images courtesy of lush, tata harper, l'occitane, and origins


Can Stress-Relieving Beauty Products Actually Work?

It might be all in your head, but so’s everything

by Hafeezah Nazim

The mind is the body's most powerful tool, but that tool, well, it gets a lot of use, and so it makes sense that it gets stressed-out. A lot. So it also makes sense that we should take care of our stressed-out minds while we're taking care of the rest of our body. There are many ways of doing this, from going to therapy to engaging in healthier habits to taking exercise classes, but a lot of people have been turning to products like essential oils to help with their stress. But I have to say, before trying any stress-relieving mists or face steams, I was skeptical: Did they really work or did they only make for good #shelfies?

Dr. Alicia Hodge, a Maryland-based licensed clinical psychologist, says that beauty and wellness products that promote anti-anxiety properties aren't backed up by scientific proof. "Beauty products that tout stress-relief claims may be relying more on the power of suggestion than actual efficacy," she says. "Although aromatherapy is an effective practice, research is often divided or inconclusive about how these scents work on the brain or nervous system."

That said, she adds, having a self-care ritual surrounding these products can be a big help in alleviating negative feelings. "I believe that the results with beauty products are related to taking intentional moments to self-care and mental effort to reduce stressful feelings," she continues. "If someone is overwhelmed and reaches for their lavender lotion, they have actively engaged in a coping skill to manage their feelings. There is also a strong connection of scent to memories, so if using a tea tree mask brings on a happy evening, smelling it again can recreate those emotions. So, overall, I am a fan of engaging in a relaxing beauty routine that promotes positive self-care. Ultimately, if it works... it works!"

Dr. Gabrielle Francis, a New York-based naturopathic doctor, chiropractor, acupuncturist, and licensed massage therapist, says beauty products that contain cannabidiol, or CBD oil, are effective in relieving tension and stress. “Decades of research indicate that cannabinoids like CBD interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, a complex system that contributes to a variety of biological processes like inflammation responses, relaxation, sleeping, and appetite. By linking with the two main types of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, which are found on cells throughout the body, CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, helping it in the regulation of homeostasis—the body’s natural state of balance."

Dr. Francis adds that, though the Food and Drug Administration “does not allow the suggestion of CBD oils as a treatment for any diseases," she often encourages people to do research on its benefits. "The exciting research on CBD has opened up a new window into the endocannabinoid system and its interaction with our immune systems, nervous systems, and endocrine systems. This is only the beginning of a new field of research and discovery on healing.”

Claudia Colombo, a New York-based aesthetician, says that making a quiet space for yourself to perform self-care is a really soothing ritual of its own: "Create a home sanctuary and a quiet place to perform the rituals and use products. Part of why they are doing it is to slow down, to breathe and enjoy the sensations. Don’t rush the process."

She also suggests using products like Herbal Recovery Face Oil by Eminence Organics due to its blend of clary, sage, and lavender, which not only promotes anti-inflammatory benefits for the skin but whose scent and properties work as a natural antidepressant. And she uses Natural Vitality's Calm Bath Salts because they are loaded with magnesium. "Depletion of magnesium can be caused by mental, emotional, and environmental stressors and medications," she explains. "It's an important mineral that needs to be replenished for overall beauty, well-being, and radiant skin." 

If you're interested in trying out some stress-relieving beauty and wellness products for yourself, click through the gallery below to see our favorites. 

photo courtesy of l'occitane

L'Occitane, Aromachologie Essential Oil Relaxing Pillow Mist, $24, available at L'Occitane.

When my anxiety peaks at the end of the weekend (I'm looking at you, Sunday Scaries), this pillow mist helps calm me down. After you spray your pillows, make yourself a cup of (caffeine-free!) tea. You'll be asleep faster than you know it and ready to take the work week by storm. 

photo courtesy of vitruvi

Vitruvi, Lavender Essential Oil, $15, available at vitruvi.

One of the most commonly used ingredients in stress-relief beauty products is lavender, so why not just go straight to the source with this essential oil blend by vitruvi, which is good to sprinkle into a warm bath.

photo courtesy of crop natural

Crop Natural, Purifying Turmeric Mask, $30, available at Crop Natural.

Putting on a face mask is a soothing act in itself but this mask from Crop Natural contains curcumin (derived from turmeric), which helps to relieve chronic stress.

photo courtesy of tata harper

Tata Harper, Aromatic Stress Treatment, $80, available at Tata Harper.

This aromatic roll-on treatment from Tata Harper is something I always keep on my desk to use before a big meeting or when I'm stressing over deadlines. After one whiff, I feel more at ease.

photo courtesy of lush

Lush, Dream Steam, $2.95, available at Lush.

This adorable face steam does wonders for the skin, especially if you live in a heavily polluted city. Boil a hot pot of water and dissolve the tab inside, then let the steam absorb in your pores. It contains both lavender and chamomile and will leave you feeling refreshed. 

photo courtesy of origins

Origins, Peace of Mind On-The-Spot Relief, $14, available at Origins.

This treatment is definitely one of my favorites, and it's super-affordable, too! I like to dab this on my pressure points when I feel a migraine coming on or just need to take a breather. The tingling sensation it gives feels like stress actually leaving my body.

photo courtesy of the herbal chemist

The Herbal Chemist, Defined Moisturizer, $55, available at The Herbal Chemist.

This moisturizer contains CBD hemp and jojoba oil, which will keep you feeling hydrated and, says the line's founder, relaxed.