More Than Skin Deep: How Makeup Can Actually Help with Depression

by Polaris Teen Center | Aug 30, 2017 | Depression, Mental Health, Resources

makeup and teen mental health

The teenage years are difficult for both parents and teens alike. As a teenager, you are still trying to figure out who you are and how you want to display yourself to the world. As a parent, you want to give your teenager enough space to express themselves. Although, you also want to help them make the right decisions. The line between what is and isn’t okay for your teenager to be doing is difficult to determine. For example, wearing makeup to help fight depression is a common form of “therapy” for some teens.

When is it okay for my daughter to start dating? When is it okay for my daughter to start wearing makeup? When is it okay for me to put my foot down as a parent, and when have I gone too far?

None of these questions have answers that are the same for every family. When your daughter comes to you and says she wants to start wearing makeup, you might not know what to say. You want her to be free. But you also still feel she is too young. If your teenager is suffering from depression, anxiety, or self-esteem issues, making this inevitable decision becomes even harder.

Studies have shown that having the freedom to wear makeup can help teenage girls with a variety of mental health conditions. Makeup can help them overcome the feelings of self-consciousness they get when they look in the mirror. It can also help them begin to establish a more lasting sense of identity.

In this article, we will cover why allowing your teen to wear makeup at a younger age isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it actually does help combat depression for some individuals. Before you decide to put your foot down and decide to deliver a definite “no,” take some time to talk to your teen. Try to understand what they are feeling. They just might have something important to say.

Makeup gives individuals a sense of self-control and empowerment.

One of the factors that contribute to the vast number of teenagers suffering from depression and anxiety is that they feel as if their life is beyond their ability to control. Depression is a condition that is characterized by a severe lack of motivation. Although motivation is a complex thing, it is obvious that without an ability to control her own life, your daughter will feel severely demotivated.

If someone can directly control something in their life, they can begin to be more motivated to actually do so. Makeup enables teens to control their appearance. Makeup—as trivial as it may sometimes seem—is something that can inspire a sense of self-control and empowerment. For teenagers suffering from depression, wearing makeup can indeed make a big difference.

A lack of control can also worsen symptoms of anxiety. Things such as the death of a loved one, trouble in school or finding a job, and not knowing what other people may think of them are all things that can increase the severity of anxiety someone experiences. These things, largely, might be beyond your own free will. But the way in which your teen styles their hair, wears makeup, or decides to dress is something that remains entirely in their hands.

Maybe your teen might look a little bit ridiculous at times. That’s completely okay.

If you are a parent of a teenager who is experimenting with different types of self-expression, as long as they are not causing harm to themselves nor others, then you ought to just let them be. By asserting yourself as the supreme authority regarding how they choose to present themselves to the world, you are effectively diminishing their free will—something that can potentially lead to attachment or dependency issues later in life.

In a world in which teenagers are quite frequently overwhelmed with things that are beyond their control, it is important to empower them to make their own choices.

Makeup helps individuals gain stability by establishing a routine.

Recently, Navy Admiral William McRaven gained public applause for a speech he gave in which he emphasizes how one of the most important things you can do in your life is to make your bed every day. Admiral McRaven is far from being alone when it comes to holding this position. But why is it, exactly, that making your bed can be so beneficial?

It seems it is certainly not the blankets, sheets, nor pillows that seem to really matter. It is something far more important. Making your bed every day, right when you wake up, can help establish a simple routine that can inject a sense of stability and self-discipline. Such a sense can be uniquely beneficial to individuals who are actively suffering from symptoms of pstd or chronic depression.

Like making your bed, putting on makeup in the morning can help create this very same productive daily routine. An individual who is suffering from anxiety can be relieved by the fact there is at least some sort of stable constant in their otherwise very hectic day-to-day life. An individual suffering from depression can also be motivated to get out of bed and immediately be able to accomplish something, and although this particular something may seem rather small or mundane, it can certainly make a big difference.

Makeup can help individuals increase their confidence and sense of self-worth.

The teenage years are particularly challenging because—as many parents will remember—these are the years in which we all struggle to establish a lasting sense of self. These very formative years are often distinguished by individuals cycling through a number of different “phases” where we are trying to figure out who we are as people, and how we want to present ourselves to the world.

Because of the ample number of social, biological, and physical changes teens are naturally forced to endure, they are particularly likely to suffer from a distorted self-image. Very few people look in the mirror at their seventh-grade self and think, “This is my peak physical appearance.”

By being able to experiment, express themselves, and learn to improve their appearance in a way that they see fit, wearing makeup can often make teenagers feel better about the way they look. This can be particularly important for those who are battling a variety of mental health conditions.

When teens feel confident in the way they look, they are more likely to do well in school, make friends, and be motivated to get out of bed in the morning. If they sincerely feel that this confidence comes from wearing makeup—even if it is just from the placebo effect—there is really no just reason to deny it from them.

The effects of wearing makeup are more than skin deep.

Though an obsession with self-appearance is obviously not a good thing, most teenagers—female, male, and non-binaries alike—who are wanting to wear makeup are likely, not obsessed, they are merely learning about who they are as a changing person. As children grew into teenagers, they ought to be given more freedom to act upon their own free will over time. Being able to choose the way in which they express themselves is an important step in becoming a functioning adult.

Clearly, there are a number of potential benefits from allowing teenagers who suffer from depression and anxiety to wear makeup. Because of the potential increases in self-confidence, routine building, and self-determination, parents of teenagers who want to experiment with wearing makeup ought to allow them to do so.

If you suspect your child is suffering from a distorted self-image, there is hope. Polaris Teen Center is a highly specialized, accredited Residential Treatment Center for Teens in the greater Los Angeles area. We help adolescents and their families overcome serious psychiatric disorders, including teen eating disorders. To learn more about our programs, or to speak to an admissions specialist, call today at 1 (844) 836-0222.


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Polaris Teen Center is a residential treatment facility for teens and adolescents suffering from severe mental health disorders. Our highly accredited facility is fully licensed and certified in Trauma Informed Care and is a part of the Behavioral Health Association of Providers (formerly AATA).