With the world waking up to the importance of self-care so too has the beauty industry, with a meteoric rise in holistic brands - those concerned less with 'anti-ageing' and more with your state of mind and skin.
Positioned to work on both emotional and physical levels, this new wave of beauty buys harnessing time-honoured practices claim to create energy shifts, encourage peaceful slumber and aid anxiety. But how can they actually work?
Some products are put through clinical trials to back up their specific treatment claims, for example, This Works' boasts that 89% of testers fell asleep faster when using it and 89% woke less often in the night – whereas with other you're buying into the basis of belief and 'expectancy' – scientist speak for expectations that result in placebo benefits. How would you even test whether Rituals' brings 'peace and tranquility into your life' as its packaging promises? But if you believe in the emotional power of a product, or a specific beauty custom makes a significant difference to you – that's all that matters… surely?
Beyond the premise of a (which – by the way – we totally get), products anecdotally bringing calm – often complete with premium ingredients and Instagram-worthy packaging – mirrors our new attitude towards self-care. Here are some of the key ways the beauty industry wants to make you feel, and look, good.
1. Modern aromatherapeutic stress solutions
Aromatherapists believe that specific oils have certain health effects or holistic benefits – and aromatherapy is big business. It goes without saying that it's nothing new – many ancient civilisations practiced aromatherapy – but it's more popular than ever today; used for medical, massage and cosmetic purposes, as well as the obvious olfactory uses via inhalation (it basically means 'aroma-treatment').
Neal's Yard Remedies is our mecca for everything you need to create a spa-like environment at home harnessing aromatherapy, from the to use with your pure botanical , to the . We also love the from Tisserand Aromatherapy, plus their pocket-sized . 'Energy', 'Happy', 'Focus', 'De-Stress' and 'Sweet Dreams'… there's a blend for every feeling you want to encourage – and avoid (anxiety, we're looking at you).
The boom in beauty sleep aids produced by cosmetics companies is hooked on the premise of aromatherapy. Our highly-connected lives have sparked somewhat of a sleep crisis in today's world, and our skin is one thing to suffer as a consequence. Less stress equals better sleep, meaning a more energised complexion – so we're told. Whether remedied by a dreamy pillow spray (everyone's selling them), a ritual (try the Aromatherapy Associates , followed by the and ), or targeted solutions (such as This Works' with bio-botanical oils for beautifying and an aromatherapeutic blend to treat tension, or their , a treatment mist with encapsulated pure essential oils designed to release relaxing aromas whenever you toss and turn) there's a whole sector built around beauty sleep. Who needs Benzos, hey?
2. Crystal-infusion and gemstone gadgets
Crystal healing (, in our beginner's guide) has enjoyed a populist resurgence this decade, with A-listers from Adele to the Beckhams publicly professing their belief in the practice, and this branch of spirituality has since made its way into our skincare.
The famous face flying the flag for the benefits of crystals is supermodel-cum-beauty entrepreneur Miranda Kerr. 'I believe in the healing powers of crystals—and use them daily for meditation, throughout my home, and in my skincare line where we infuse ALL products with the soothing and healing energy of rose quartz,' she explains on Instagram. 'Crystals have been used for thousands of years and they have so many incredible benefits. Fun Fact: Cleopatra and ancient Egyptians were known to use Rose Quartz for its beauty and healing benefits, such as clearing the complexion and preventing wrinkles.'
In addition to proposed beauty benefits, 'healing' gemstones and crystals (which emit their own natural vibrations) are said to impact your energy and mood, so the use of them in products provides a mindful, holistic experience. Alongside rose quartz used by Kora Organics you'll find the likes of diamond in many skincare offerings, such as La Prairie's fancy , rhodochrosite in products like Dr. Hauschka's , ruby in Goldfaden MD's and clear quartz in the Crystal Clear aromatherapy range. (Fun fact – from us this time, not Kerr – clear quartz was given to the guests of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's recent fashion week show, for "universal harmony". But of course.)
However, it's not just the fancy crystals that should be celebrated, but the everyday ones too. Enter halite, a.k.a. salt, long loved for its skin benefits (from detoxifying to healing and hydrating if we're talking sea salt, which packs the good stuff). Sourcing salt from the coastal waters of Cornwall, 's bath and body range boasts over 60 minerals in their formulas (in comparison, the Dead Sea – said to be highly beneficial for the skin – is rich in 21 minerals). 'Replenishing our internal salts through bathing is vital for physical and mental health,' says salt expert Philip Tanswell of the Cornish Sea Salt Company –'s sister brand.
When it comes to harnessing gemstones as complete beauty tools, it's worth noting that , traditional derma rollers made from jade or rose quartz have seen a surge in popularity of late. In fact, researchers examining data from Pinterest's 48 million beauty lovers reported that 'derma roller' pins were saved a major 345% more last year. Presumably there's more to it than the fact they look pretty on a web page.
Another gem that marries skincare with self-care is the – not a roller but a manual massager made of pure Xiuyan jade, revered for its restorative properties. It's said to carry a whole host of benefits, from relaxing the facial muscles to reducing inflammation. Count us in.
3. Medicinal plant-based products
Products with remedial ingredients – by way of herbs, spices and medicinal plants – are positioned as working on both physical and emotional levels.
Take Ila Spa's new diffusion line, Ilapothecary, which is formulated with British grown herbs, aromatherapy oils and gemstones. Their therapeutic contains the adaptogenic herb maca, said to support our endocrine system and gives us energy. But, as a beauty product, can the formula itself do more than nourish needy skin? Maybe. 'If your energy feels particularly low you can also rub this oil into your kidneys and then place a hot water bottle over them,' the brand instructs.
Meanwhile, it's cannabis-derived ingredients that are grabbing the beauty news headlines. Co-founder of Cult Glory, , told us that, 'The legalisation of Marijuana [in many American states] has led to a flurry of research on the effects it has on the human body. It's widely celebrated for its medicinal properties, but one of the unexpected side effects was the discovery of how amazingly calming and anti-inflammatory certain cannabinoids are on the skin.' This year has launched cannabis-based brands including (out now) and Marley Natural (coming soon).
Also set to steal some of the beauty spotlight is the ancient practice of Ayurveda, a traditional Indian healing system dating back 5000 years that incorporates plant-based products. Aligned with our appetite for right now, the theory is guided by the belief that the skin mirrors what's happening in the body – therefore one size doesn't fit all and prevention of beauty complaints, over curing them, is prioritised.
Herbal skincare is far from exclusive to the niche beauty world – mass brands have also been doing it for years, from The Body Shop to Kiehl's, Aveda and Rituals (they actually have a range called ), whose whole premise is built on beauty being about 'meaningful moments'. 'We're not here to sell you beauty, we are here to make you feel good,' say the brand – which pretty much sums up the mood of this movement, whether you buy it or not.