I haven’t had much luck with doctors in my lifetime--and I’ve seen a lot of them. But the perfume counters at Sephora? That, my friends, is sanctuary.
I have Sephora Union Square saved as Mom on my Google Maps, and when I feel particularly anxious or I’m having an off day, I invariably punch in my coordinates and end up on the black perspex floor of Sephora, sniffing the bottle caps of the latest Tom Ford concoction with noise canceling headphones on. I do this, I think, at least twice a month.
Perfume is actually something that both triggers my anxiety and quells it, depending on the scent and the sillage.
For example: rose makes me neurotic and reminds me of lateness, the cold, and grandmothers. This can pretty easily be traced back to having a wet towel slapped onto my face and then sprayed with rose and other floral notes from Estée Lauder travel atomizers in high school (my parents really had to find inventive ways to wake me up). My hair would still be wet when I got to class, and consistently smelled like a bouquet of flowers and teen rage. Now, to no one’s surprise, none of my perfumes share the same opening notes of mid-2000’s Estée Lauder perfumes.
I do actually like some florals though--one of my favorite perfumes to concentrate on when I’m anxious is Illamasqua’s Freak.
It is a “white floral,” but it smells infinitely darker than the florals of my grumpy, traumatic adolescent mornings. It’s the blood orange in the heart, and the plum in the opening. I like it because it’s kind of like the sleepier, gothic alternative to the perky Lauder perfumes that used to make me nauseous.
It’s a floral for night owls and it stays close to the body, like a secret. When I’m going someplace alone where I don’t know anybody, I find myself spraying this on beforehand and sniffing my wrists when no one’s looking. The smell opens pretty quickly, two hours to the heart, and it gets warmer and quieter--like a happy cat, stretching in front of something warm. It makes me feel self-assured.
Another thing I deeply care about when I’m panicking is the interaction between things and my skin. I get overly-stimulated by what-ifs, mentally, and it makes me physically clumsy and frenetic, and I get smaller and quicker and sharper to be around.
Something that calms me down is brushing my hands and my face with a fluffy, gigantic brush.
The Real Techniques Blush Brush is perfect for this. It disperses and blends liquid, cream, and powder perfectly--even if you've accidentally tapped on too much. Nothing is ever too wrong for this brush to handle. Even without any product it’s just soft, generous, and firm at the same time. When my best friend is stressed out, I sit her down and brush her face with this and hum until she’s JELL-O.
Both she and I love examining texture of skin and transforming it.
I hate the idea of pores because I hate the idea that the human body is so open and vulnerable all the time, so I'm attracted to makeup that makes these constant holes of vulnerability disappear.
I love gel masks and how they cover pores entirely until you’re a shiny, glossy pod of a person. But I especially love liquid luminizer and how it makes you shiny and radiant, like a wet jewel of some kind. My favorite is Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Illuminator SPF 25+. It comes in a bunch of different shades. I use pearl to tap on my veins and cheekbones. Pearls are cool because they’re beautiful, but you can’t bite them to break them. They’re made in a high pressure circumstance--it’s the fake ones that scratch, that’s the tell. When I use this Pearl I feel like I’m being initiated into being unstoppable. I don’t feel so fragile and open anymore.
My latest obsession, though, is massaging my face for minutes at a time, both when I’m cleansing and when I’m moisturizing.
I prefer massaging pressure points on my face with my fingers and warming my face up, lodging out the stress and toxins. The Beautycounter Nourishing Cleansing Balm is great for this.
It’s kind of waxy at first touch, then you warm it and it melts on your skin. When I panic, and always before bed, I cleanse my face with this for five to ten minutes, and try not to think about anything at all. Afterwards, my face feels warmer, and softer, and juicier--like I’ve recharged my batteries. It’s the vitamin C in this that makes it great, I think. Vitamin C helps your body produce collagen which in turn makes your skin strong and firm. I like to think that when I use this, I’m giving my body extra energy to regenerate itself into something stronger, and kinder, and wiser.
There’s no way to photograph the face balm without looking bizarre--this Lisa Eldridge video is what I follow when I use my balm.
The less in control I feel about the world around me, the more I want to be kind to my body. So I smell nice things to distract my brain, or I pet my body with a soft brush, or I massage it into sleepy submission while I wait out whatever neurosis I’m on about. And it works! I might look weird and anti-social smelling caps in public, huddled in a corner, but it helps me survive my worries.
- What do you do when you’re panicking?
- Do you have an anxiety-related beauty ritual?