5. 12. 2020

English version | On behalf of the time spent with the mirror

by Ana Saldanha


Let 2020 be the year when the word skincare got closer to self-care and self-love. Let us continue putting self-love first, even when the world stops making us put our world on pause. 

The most beautiful love letter I ever wrote was to myself. The story started in a quiet corner, at the end of the day, under dim lights. A date arranged between me and my reflection. The story began with a habit with a purpose, but it didn’t take long before this ritual of layering products with different properties, textures and scents was secondary and, in the end, just an excuse. The real motive that drove me there was to stop. To pause. To stand there, head empty, me and my reflection in the mirror. I quickly became used to see myself in the mirror and more important: I learned to see my skin, a big insecurity, without over analyzing or criticizing. I managed to create a safe place where I could wonder about goals, reflect and vent about the lesser good. The attention switched from labels and the mechanical movements of opening jars and making products slide across my face. I created, in the silence facing the mirror, a moment without notifications, without task lists for the next day, without looking at the clock and without permission to question myself and to wonder if I am fulfilling the mission the stars aligned for me. This was not about preventing wrinkles, finally getting rid of pimples, accomplishing that glow or other #skingoals. It wasn’t about looks. And if I really think about it, it was never about looks. Nor vanity. And maybe it was those misconceptions that made me fear and avoid allowing myself to have that time. I could call this “Things I learned in conversations with the mirror” or “What my skincare routine thought me about myself”, but I don’t want to confuse you about what goes on in my skincare routine. I can call it meditation, sure, but I call it self-care, taking care of myself. And this self-care can come with ambient music, a TV show playing in the background to set the mood, a scented candle burning a cup of tea, or maybe a glass of wine if you feel like it. 

The First Alcibiades, the dialogue between Alcibiades and Socrates ascribed to Plato, is considered one of the best introductory papers on platonic philosophy. And no, this reference wasn’t placed here by mistake. This was also the first mention of the concept of self-care, published circa 350 BC. At the time, care to self was considered soul care, taking care of the soul, and it involved introspection, self-knowledge, self-exploration. Basically, improving yourself from the inside out. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? But this soul face, in its original meaning, wasn’t about massaging beauty products into the skin. It referred to therapy, controlled breathing, meditation, journaling and other forms of artistic expression. Exercises that, when maintained with discipline and perseverance, can push you to achieve that beauty from within. 

When I saw myself stuck at home, not being able to make plans for the days to come and in the middle of a pandemic, the 10 minutes I spent with myself in the mirror brought me normality  – and not this recently created “new normality”. It was the old normality, the normal normality I needed. The stress clogged my pores and thoughts and it was that time for myself that gave me back some control and true evidence that life would will? – be normal again. And I wasn’t the only one. Throughout social media, people opened windows directly to their vanities and bathroom shelfs and shared their beauty secrets. Communities were created around this relaxation ritual, routines and opinions were changed and a positivity and acceptance wave were born. The hate only had place there when it was sent towards ingredients too aggressive for the skin barrier. 

Self-care opened door to a new definition of self-love where we were able to mute Instagram beauty where reality and manipulation are separated by an almost invisible line and where we can so easily be swallowed by comparison and self-criticism. 

Choosing to put ourselves first even after a long day, a not so good day, an uncertain day (we’ve been having a lot of those), is an act of self-care and, therefore, self-love. Muting the world and re-learn to listen to what goes on inside ourselves is self-love. And if we must continue to justify, to others and to ourselves, that time for a break as if it is time wasted on double cleansing, chemical exfoliators, hydrating serums and anti-aging creams, so be it. May that moment of comfort and soul-care continue to exist while the world keeps falling apart and may that moment be light and carefree when the world allows it again. Until then, there will always be some comfort in knowing that, a few hours after the sun is set, we, without knowing, will get together, each one in their own room, for out ritual – like the witches that came before us did. 

*Translated from the original article from Vogue Portugal's Love issue, published December 2020.