A cherished lipstick, shaped eyebrows, a bouncy blow-dry and a fancy moisturiser. Not so long ago, the demands we made of beauty were simple.
Its function was to provide a little war paint and a bit of pampering — and a good job it did of it, too.
Now, though, the stakes have risen and beauty is no longer focused solely on outside appearance. Today, the beauty industry wants to make us more beautiful on the inside, too.
Can a new foundation enhance our ‘emotional wellbeing’? Would you buy a skin serum as a stress-buster? Can make-up change the way we think? Research company Mintel, outlining the future of beauty in a recent report, predicts that an older overall population ‘will move the conversation beyond outward appearance and ageing to longevity and emotional and mental health’.
British beauty expert Inge Van Lotringen shared her pick of the best new neuro beauty treatments and products (file image)
The idea is that by using products and rituals that target our minds and senses in the right ways, our health and happiness — as well as our looks — can be positively affected.
It may sound far-fetched, but evangelists for the so-called ‘neuro beauty’ movement are even adding ‘gratitude’ into their daily skincare routines, giving thanks for anything from the state of their skin to the fact that they lived long enough to have wrinkles.
This, too, we are told, will make us more beautiful.
‘The “inside work” manifests as a whole new kind of glow that even the best highlighter in the world can’t give you,’ according to Lauren Gores Ireland, co-founder of beauty brand Summer Fridays.
And yet the more we discover about the connections between body and mind, the more logical it seems that what we put on our skin, and the way that we do it, will have an effect on our brain, too.
By selecting ingredients and strategies that target our senses and neurons, our health and our looks can be positively affected. It’s based on the idea that we can control our destiny by reshaping our minds and our emotional wellbeing.
‘This thinking is rooted in ancient Eastern traditions and is now backed up by neuroscience and behavioural psychology,’ says author and neuroscientist Dr Tara Swart.
In her book The Source, Dr Swart shows how practices such as yoga and meditation are physically and mentally transformative because they ‘rewire’ the body’s neural pathways.
Zoe Boikou named her 44 shades of Zoeva Authentik Skin Luminous Foundation (pictured) after positive affirmations
Catering to a chronically stressed-out clientele (and that was before coronavirus added to our woes), the beauty industry has already begun harnessing the concept to create products designed to boost not just our self-esteem, but our mood and minds as well, incorporating things such as brainwave-altering fragrance, touch and rituals into your potions and treatments.
Here’s my pick of the best new neuro beauty treatments and products . . .
FOUNDATION FOR HAPPINESS
Grace, Powerful, Determined …the 44 shades of Zoeva Authentik Skin Luminous Foundation (£25, zoevacosmetics.co.uk) are named after positive affirmations — encouraging or uplifting phrases or words to repeat to yourself on a regular basis.
Zoe Boikou, of Zoeva Cosmetics, created her make-up range after a childhood blighted by domestic abuse made her want to empower women to celebrate their individuality, not mask it.
‘I want to remind them of their strength every time they put on their make-up,’ she says.
Dermatologist Dr Tiina Meder, said Meder Beauty Science Red-Apax Concentrate (pictured) is designed to instantly block redness and discomfort of the skin
Similarly ‘empowering’ language is a key part in a Dr Murad facial (from £60, murad.co.uk), where positive affirmations (such as ‘Be imperfect, live longer’) are offered on colourful cards for each client to choose and take away with them after their treatment.
Dr Swart explains the science behind proactively channelling positive thoughts, which is a basic form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
‘It means you train your brain to notice information you need to achieve your goals,’ she says. ‘Consciously choosing to assign value to things that move you forward will bring opportunities. It’s not magic. You just learn to see possibilities that your brain hid from you previously.’
SKIN SHRINKS FOR THE STRESSED-OUT
Psychodermatology may be a word you’re unfamiliar with, but it is already an NHS-backed specialism. The brain/skin connection is a long-established one, says consultant psychodermatologist Dr Sohere Roked.
‘Stress and anxiety affect the immune system, drive allergic-type reactions and manufacture chemicals in the body that set off inflammation and disrupt the skin’s protec- tive barrier.’
The result: inflammatory skin diseases such as acne, rosacea, psoriasis and eczema, which are all on the rise.
In clinics, specialist doctors including Dr Roked combat these with a mix of therapy and prescriptive skincare.
Cannabinoids have been widely proven to calm the central nervous system, Montana No1 Everyday Wellness CBD Tincture (pictured) has 1,500 mg CBD
There are more over-the-counter cosmetic options for stress-besieged skin as well. Meder Beauty Science Red-Apax Concentrate, (£90, mederbeauty.com, below left) is a serum containing truffle-derived neurosubstances grifolin and neogrifolin.
‘These interact directly with skin nerve fibres responsible for pain and heat, instantly blocking redness and discomfort,’ says dermatologist Dr Tiina Meder, who calls skin the ‘external reflection of the neurological system.’
Garden of Wisdom Neurophroline Serum (£18, victoriahealth.com) is a rare product that directly reduces the level of stress hormone cortisol, which surges in skin cells at times of stress. A reduction in redness and a subsequent evening-out of your skin tone can be expected in two weeks.
Cannabinoids (the non-psychoactive compounds in cannabis) have been widely proven to calm the central nervous system when ingested, and quell inflammation when applied to the skin.
A quality product should mention ‘CBD’ or ‘cannabidiol’ (not ‘CBD oil’) in its ingredient list, and state its dose of CBD in mg. Montana No1 Everyday Wellness CBD Tincture (£95, montanawellness.co, left) has 1,500 mg CBD (a medium-strength dose) for both internal and topical use.
MINDFUL MASSAGE TO SOOTHE THE SOUL
The Renaissance treatment, £75, is the latest offering from Lush Spa (uk.lush.com). Billed as a ‘meditation on fragrance’, it involves body massage alongside guided meditation, using scent as a point of focus to help calm the mind.
The Spa also offers ‘sound baths’ to balance the nervous system and encourage cell renewal with dreamlike ‘alpha’ wave sound frequencies.
There are also ‘synaesthesia’ treatments that aim to activate all the senses with sound, touch, flavours and colours, taking you ‘out of your head’ to tap into the subconscious. Additional deep stretching sessions — a combination of movement and massage — release trauma and free the mind.
Aromatherapy Associates’ Forest Therapy Wellness Mist, (pictured)) bottles the life-affirming, soul-soothing benefits of a walk in the woods
In Harley Street, London, aesthetic doctor David Jack and hypnotherapist Malminder Gill have teamed up to offer the Mindful Facial, from £285. It aims to ‘detoxify the skin and the mind’ and dial down levels of stress hormone cortisol.
Gill will record a bespoke hypnosis after an initial phone consultation which plays during the in-clinic facial. A follow-up recording is sent for clients to listen to at home.
Results, it’s claimed, are like a ‘lifting of the soul’.
FRAGRANCE TO BLOW YOUR MIND
Proponents of aromatherapy have long reached for their bracing mint or sedative patchouli oils to regulate their moods in times of need.
Whether forged through personal or cultural associations, scent directly affects our emotions and contributes to the strength of memories.
Thin Wild Mercury Laurel Canyon 1966 Edt (pictured) contains seven anxiety-reducing aroma extracts
New studies have shown how this happens.
‘Brain-imaging tech- nology proves that certain aromas change people’s brainwave patterns, irrespective of their familiarity with the smell,’ says psychologist Dr Mark Moss of North- umbria University.
‘It suggests a mood- modulating effect that is more hard-wired than simple associations with scent.’
In other words, our response to aroma isn’t just psychological but physical. For example, the scent of specific wood essential oils (phytoncides) lowers blood pressure and stress hormone levels, and may even increase immune cell activity.
This has led fragrance companies to work hard on ‘functional fragrances’ — scents that work as anti-stress or confidence-boosting supplements.
ThisWorks Love Sleep Bedroom Blend (pictured) is designed to help you switch on your libido
Aromatherapy Associates’ Forest Therapy Wellness Mist, (£18, spacenk.com, above) bottles the life-affirming, soul-soothing benefits of a walk in the woods using the aromas of cypress, pink pepper and juniper berry.
Or try ThisWorks Love Sleep Bedroom Blend (£21, thisworks.com, above right), which is designed to help you switch on your libido by boosting confidence and sensuality.
A brain scan study at Carl Gustav Carus University Hospital in Dresden proves it lulls users’ neurons into a state of pleasure and calm.
For the ultimate chill-out, get your hands on Thin Wild Mercury Laurel Canyon 1966 Edt (from £38, shopthinwildmercury.com, left), which contains seven anxiety-reducing aroma extracts, including hemp terpenes, (which work in much the same way as cannabinoids).
ST TROPEZ SUNSHINE AND SLEEP IN A BOTTLE
Purity Vitamin Bronzing Water Mist (pictured) has active ingredients with sensory stimulants for a holistic effect
Didn’t make it abroad this summer? St Tropez, the tanning brand, has sought a way to bottle your holidays by blending proven active ingredients with sensory stimulants for a holistic effect.
Purity Vitamin Bronzing Water Mist (£31, Boots) is a self-tanner with skin-tone-evening vitamin C and a blend of fruit fibre and beetroot extract — which is where things get interesting.
‘The extract stimulates vitamin D receptors in the skin (which need sunshine to produce the essential vitamin in the body) to make more vitamin D,’ says Dr Paul Evans, St Tropez’s technology and innovation director. Since generally (heatwaves aside), vitamin D is in short supply in the UK, thanks to a chronic lack of rays, ramping up production can have a marked effect — and not just on skin.
‘It improves skin’s moisture-retaining and cell-renewal ability,’ says Dr Evans — but research shows it also plays a role in regulating mood and warding off depression.
Elsewhere, ‘happy skin’ brand Aime makes a Sleep & Glow tincture, (£39, aime.co), which is taken orally before bedtime. With 1 mg of sleep hormone melatonin and regenerative ashwagandha root, it promotes skin health via a better night’s sleep and a settled mind.
Aime Sleep & Glow (pictured) promotes skin health via a better night’s sleep and a settled mind