Put the “self” back in self-care

Gabriella Rouas

Sit down and type “self-care” into your browser. What do you see? For me, my desktop is covered with a plethora of different products, clothing sets, self-help books and other items that I am persuaded to buy to truly care for myself. I click on an “Ultimate Self-care Kit” filled with a mini facial oil set and a gua sha. On sale for $110. Next item, a B-Flat firming belly cream for only $49.99! 

Today, the self-care industry, a $450 billion market, is simply not built on self-care. Instead, it has mutated into a profit-driven industry committed to selling an image. Products like a face mask, jaw enhancer and essential oil body scrub, are solely designed to alter a physical appearance. It’s important that our society stops putting a price tag on self care. Marketing these products as a way to care for yourself directly equates self- care to a specific physical look and is dangerous to the self perception of women. 

While many of these products could work for a trivial amount of time, or a certain group of the population, it’s inaccurate for companies to market their beauty enhancing products as the primary way to care for a person’s mental and physical health. Is it ethical to make the claim that  buying that mental health journal can help to relieve the stress of the 20 percent of women in the United States who have experienced mental health conditions in the past year? 

Historically speaking, the idea of self-care is deeply rooted in the Black Panther party who practiced yoga and meditation as a way to strengthen their mental and physical health. The party was deeply concentrated on the fight for racial justice in America. They strived to make self-care easily accessible by creating food banks, health clinics and programs to educate the youth. Their goal was to help their communities unlock the power of the mind and invest in a stronger and healthier version of themselves. Many members nourished this skill by practicing yoga and meditation. 

The trend of trying to care for yourself has not changed, as 5 decades later on TikTok, the self-care hashtag section has now amassed 27.4 billion views. The difference is in the superficial way we practice that care. Videos fill up the screen displaying “how to organize your bathroom cabinet,” “slept on hygiene products” and “clean girl evening routine.” According to Wallaroo Media, a company that scales eCommerce brands, 32.5 percent of U.S. Tik Tok users viewing these videos are girls between the ages of 10-19. These young girls are being exposed to a standard of self-care that is not feasible to achieve, as sometimes caring for yourself goes beyond a 21 second video with a filter slapped over it. These influencers fail to recognize that self-care is not handled by simply adding another item to your cart. The Black Panther self-care movement illustrated the true value of caring for your mental health. Their practices conveyed the idea that self-care is truly felt when partaking in activities that will improve your mind and your mental stability. 

 JumpStart by WedMD claimed that walking routinely can help soothe chronic mental conditions such as anxiety and depression. This is just one inexpensive, easy task you can incorporate into an everyday routine that will help your mind.

For some people, increasing their amount of sleep can also be a form of self-care. Health and wellness media company Well+Good tested the effects that an extra 36 minutes of sleep time had on tired athletes. The results that came back showed that the players’ drowsiness and stress decreased by more than one third. On a cognitive processing speed test, the players with more rest improved by 13 percent. This is just one example that exhibits the substantial impact that listening to your body can have. While you might feel guilty for snoozing your alarm for that extra 20 minutes, your mind is actually thanking you. 

 With this in mind, next time you feel like you need to take some time for self-care, instead of turning to a product, know that there are simpler, more affordable ways to look after yourself. These practices are not focused on improving your skin barrier, instead they enhance the strength of your mind. They might not look as pretty as the ones you see online, but they will be much more effective for your long-term mental and physical health. It is time for women to reclaim the beautiful idea of self-care and use it to feel safe and powerful in their minds.