One of the most requested products at the skincare brand I work for is something to eliminate dark circles. At best, a product can only alleviate them if indeed they are a side effect of irregular sleep and not a hereditary trait. Make-up is effective in covering up unwanted hues and even hiding some puffiness, but it does not actually address what my customers are asking for.
It calls to mind the fairytale title of Sleeping Beauty, highlighting the mysterious relationship between beauty and biology. We enter into ‘beauty sleep’ wherein the body repairs itself physically and offers mental rest. Our brain works in a more even-keeled manner during relaxation, balancing out the hormonal outputs that affect our inner and outer wellbeing. In particular, this affects our perceptions about outer beauty because of how it affects a youthful, outer appearance. It becomes apparent, then, that no beauty company can offer a replacement for sleep.
But have we established a biological foundation to beauty?
While the industry nods to health and personal care through greener brands and the considered use of natural ingredients, it does not bridge a biological link between the naturally refreshed body and the beauty and fashion industries—despite sleep being an intrinsic part of our wellness.
“It becomes apparent that no beauty company can offer a replacement for sleep.”
Her brand seeks to give a biological context to beauty products, but only secondary to valuing its customers and their human needs first. “Being more empathetic to what’s going on, I think that’s beauty,” says AC. Much like cosmetic companies who have stopped using detrimental chemicals in their beauty products, AC deserted her collection of sleeping pills because of their addictive nature and instead started researching natural remedies to help her catch up on sleep. She identified a need in the market with her audience reporting sleep being “a weird space” and society’s recognition that “…it’s really amazing but sometimes we don’t know when we need more of it.” The more work-oriented we become, the more we lose sight of this.
To illustrate, a sleep study was conducted by researchers in Stockholm, Sweden, to detect how we perceive the physical effects of less sleep. Since the human face is the main source for observing the social cues that prompt us to interact with each other, untrained subjects were asked to rate the perceived attractiveness of 24 adult men and women aged 18 and 61, photographed after a night of restful sleep and after exposure to sleep deprivation. The study participants reviewing the photographs rated the research subjects as appearing less attractive, seeming more tired, and giving the impression of poorer health. Here, a beauty product offers only a superficial fix, whereas the only permanent solution would have been a sufficient amount of sleep.
In fast-paced cities like Washington DC, AC mentions the presence of ambition and youthfulness within the corporate world, stating that this environment “…makes people want to be ahead of the game and want to be the best. There’s nothing wrong with that but what we don’t realise is we can’t catch up on our sleep. Because we’re so busy trying to make things work.” In other words: we can’t create more time, but have to learn to work with what time we’re given.
Beauty Sleep: A Study On The Perceived Health and Attractiveness Of Sleep Deprived People popup: yes by John Axelsson and team
The Power to Control Time popup: yes by Dr Alice Moon & Prof. Serena Chen
A Study of Mindfulness and Self-Care popup: yes by Dr Marina Dorian & Dr Jessica Evers Killebrew