The Black Dog’s Spell

It was World Mental Health Day when I started writing this, but with a hectic work and freelance schedule and a 16 month old constantly getting sick from day care 🤒 – my writing took the back seat…in any case, I found my voice on this and feel it’s relevant, my intention is to address the weird symbiotic relationship that creatives, the Beauty Industry and mental health seemingly have…

Firstly I’d like to state that I have battled with the black dog, my earliest memories of poor mental health date back to when I was 8 and by 15 years old my 5’7 frame was 38kg and I almost became one of the grim statistics of Anorexia Nervosa, which of all mental health disorders, has the highest mortality rate in Australia – and I understand why…

Being a makeup educator I come across more makeup artists than the average, and are no longer surprised by the high percentage of makeup learners with severe and debilitating mental health disorders – it seems to come with the territory!

The link between creativity and psychosis has been well researched and documented with most psychologists and genealogists agreeing that creatives are more likely to be predisposed to mental health disorders.

And so it is with some understanding and experience when I say that I can see that the beauty industry can be both problematic and profoundly healing for mental health.

I think there are worse problems in the world than cute boys and girls posting pics of themselves on social media, but there have been some worrying findings…Now ‘Selfitis’ or the ‘Selfie Syndrome’ [the obsessive need to post selfies] is a recognised addiction of varying levels, but with posting selfies there also comes the reward of how many ‘likes’ the post receives which triggers the reward centres in our brains to light up as if we’re junkies: and how you look in selfies will influence the likes.

Add to that the Facetune, photoshopped non reality of instagramable imagery we devour everyday and in short, it’s made us even more obsessed with looking ‘amaze’!

Great news for the Beauty Industry 🤑

The Selfie Syndrome: According to the California State University: Excessive use of social networking may be connected to psychiatric problems:

    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
    Depression
    Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
    Narcissistic Personality Disorder
    Hypochondriasis
    Schizoaffective and Schizotypal Disorders
    Body Dysmorphia
    Voyeurism
    Addiction

Dr Natasha Cook dermatologist recently posted an insightful piece on ‘fillerexia’: the new dysmorphia fuelled by selfie syndrome, cheap accessible fillers and the normalisation and glamorisation of over enhanced features. With the pursuit of physical perfection being ‘a’ priority and the cosmetic filler train pumping clients full like never before, Dr Cook is urging clients to seek out cosmetic practitioners with ethics and integrity, like herself, to make informed and unbiased decisions for clients seeking fillers.

Not great huh? But it’s not all doom and gloom… Cosmetics can make a hugely positive impact on our confidence and moods – for me it’s a form of creative expression and is such a huge chuck of who I am.

On her road to recovery, an artist, a friend and battler of mental illness said that putting on her makeup each day was helping her find the way back to her life before her psychotic episode.

I’ve heard ignorant pseudo experts label us as ‘manic’ and ‘troubled’ as they try to cover their uncomfortableness with the whole topic.

Suffice to say, I’ve felt and watched poor mental health affect the lives of many creatives (and non creatives alike) and believe that like many ailments, with treatment it can be improved, you can even go into ‘remission’ – but for that to happen, we must drop the bullshit stigma that surrounds mental health and start normalising it by having open conversations 🖤

Confessions:#1

Dysmorphia is the worst client

As soon as I tell people that I’m a makeup artist, I’m always met with the same questions and can’t be alone here?? It’s always, ‘who are some stars you’ve made up?’ and ‘who are the worst clients?’, and let’s not forget, ‘OMG have you had any Bridezillas??’…

Surprisingly and resoundingly the answer is no, uhh, erm, maybe? Let me explain… I don’t generally find my clients to be like this ‘these days’ – because of a couple of instances (or incidents) which may have opened up me eyes…

Firstly let me just put it out there: nobody is impervious to a bad client experience – I don’t care who you are…but those instances are truly rare and have more to do with what’s going on inside that client’s head than the makeup or the artist.

Ok here’s one of the toughest times I’ve had, but which really opened up my eyes and at the risk of sounding all gushy, my heart. Let me set the scene: it was a special someone’s big day! Yes this is a bride story. I was on location, 8 makeups to do in a fast but comfortable time frame, 5am start (so 3:30 wake up)… Everything was going well and it came time for my bride to sit in my chair. She’d seemed nervy but she was ‘just like that’ according to her party, so I suggested some ‘champers’ (to let her relax a bit) – always a great idea, right? After doing her makeup just like her makeup trial, she started wanting more, More, MORE ‘white metallic pigment’ on her eyes. ‘MORE, MORE, MORE!’…

Too. Much. White. 😱

It was starting to look bad, I was worried, so I started pretending to add more but not really adding more… yes we all do it from time to time… I decided to change things up so I suggested we go outside to see the makeup in better lighting (and change the scenery, fresh air new perspective)…once we got outside, away from everybody, she broke down. Here was a strong, confident woman, outspoken and not afraid to demand what she wanted and the poor love broke down, ‘it’s not the makeup Kat, I just don’t feel pretty on the inside’ she cried, it was what I refer to as ‘ugly crying’, when there’s shuddering, broken words and tears (I do it all the time). I was all at once overcome with the urge to hug her and possibly terrified that I couldn’t snap her out of it…l made some lame joke about my not staying around later for touch-ups, so it was best to get all the tears out now and that ‘this was so normal’ and we hugged.

Later on, this got me thinking, and the more I thought about it, there wouldn’t be one client I’ve worked with, who loved everything about themselves and didn’t feel self conscious about something, having hang-ups which oddly enough, I would hardly even call noticeable. I’ve heard it all!: ‘hide my big ears behind my hair please’, ‘cover my 5-head (forehead) please’, ‘can you cover my skin?’, ‘can you fix my wrinkles, my bags, my lips, my eyes coz they’re as small as piss-holes in the snow (I’m not kidding! A client said that, about her own face – not me!)… The list could continue indefinitely…I’m being real here, there are aspects of my own face which I simply do not like, hand on my heart! Why else would I bother to enhance, cover, correct with makeup??

All of this reminded me of a 60 Minutes episode I’d once watched, it had been about dysmorphia and it really hit home. Dysmorphia: mental illness involving obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in appearance (source: Mayo Clinic). Did we all have just a little bit of dysmorphia?

“Feeling beautiful comes from within”

This made me realise something which sounds so cliche and that you would have heard a million times over – ‘beauty is only skin deep’ & ‘beauty comes from within’. I’d like to rephrase it to, ‘feeling beautiful comes from within’.

I’m a cosmetics lover not a hater, new products make me squeal like a school girl!… But somewhere there must be a time and place that we start loving and accepting ‘what is’ because if our happiness is tied to how we look? Well obviously there’s a problem!

Affirmation

So here’s the crux of it: we, all of us with these hang-ups, need to accept and love ‘what is’ – spots, lumps, bumps, wing-nut ears and all! – because beauty is not defined by a face, body or an industry – it’s a feeling. I dare you to look at yourself in the mirror without makeup or styled hair – make eye contact with yourself, with the lights on and say the words out loud – ‘i am beautiful’. It’s our (yours and mine) new affirmation. Say it with purpose. Say it until you mean it. How do you feel now? You feel beautiful? You should. Because you are. X