Putting Beauty
To Bed

Is there a place for sleep amongst our cabinet's selection of beauty and makeup remedies?

Words by Taaka Ogoola

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.

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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.

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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.

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It’s hard to ignore the cultural phenomenon of a lack of sleep because the value placed on sleep in the modern era is decreasing. Under social pressure, we’re encouraged to work harder to coax achievement out of thin air and at record speeds. To overwork our bodies yet to ‘sleep when we’re dead.’ Without sleep however, our melatonin (the hormone that gives us clarity in our daily functions) does not allow us to think as straight or make better decisions. This is most applicable in the urban jungles sprawled across our biggest cities, where sleep is often treated as a reward for a ‘job well done’ instead of the very reason your job was done well.

HAJINSKY interviewed Good Night Darling & Co. (GNDCO) founder Aycee (AC) Brown, who is a beauty industry practitioner engaging with sleep as the central pillar for her Washington D.C.-based brand.

“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.

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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.

We have the opportunity to change the perception of sleep’s value as an inextricable part of our beauty routines.

AC’s collections includes candles, tinctures and teas that induce a state of rest and relaxation to encourage a natural way to fall asleep and serve as an alternative to using chemically addictive sleep medication. We’re invited to become ritualistic with sleep in a way that is not so much spiritual as it is a regular necessity. GNDCO’s brand ethos echoes this by reminding us to create the space and time for sleep every single day. If sleep is the primary form of regulating the body, it can be argued that the sources of both our inner sense of balance and the outwardly perceived qualities of beauty are in fact biological.

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.

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Where beauty is concerned, time is often viewed as the enemy; hence catchphrases like ‘anti-aging’ that direct us to an over-reliance on cosmetics to undo the effects of time. Our Clash of The Ages article elaborates on how longing for youthful traits leaves us with having a low expressive value for beauty in any other form. But a shift in viewpoint could allow us to see time as providing the space to reassess nature’s investment in beauty. A space of healthy dialogues about natural ways we can care for our bodies and how the physical results feed into what we redefine as ‘beautiful’. My mind can’t help but remix that famous jingle, ‘maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s her sleep routine.’

Further Reading:

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

You Absolutely Do Not Have As Many Hours in the Day As Beyoncé popup: yes* by Melissa Dahl

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Written by Taaka Ogoola Model Amber Jean RowanPhotographer Jenae StrettonPhotography Assistant TJ StrettonMUA Rebecca AbrahamArt Director Judith Achumba-WöllensteinProducer Pak Chiu

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