The researchers defined cosmetic care as activities that include the use of make-up, as well as any cosmetic procedures such as facials, hair styling, and manicures.
These activities, the team highlighted have historically had positive effects on women, including and not limited to enhancing feelings of confidence, assertiveness, and youthfulness.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused adverse effects on skin health. For instance, the increased use of protective masks and other personal protective equipment have triggering acne in some people.
The decline in skin health would also be worsened by the lockdowns and quarantines, which barred access to professionals such as dermatologists and facial therapists.
As such, the researchers from the Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Nepal has hypothesised that the inability to maintain cosmetic care of themselves might be an important but unexplored reason for the negative mental health impacts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study was conducted as an online questionnaire and sent out to 218 undergraduate female medical students from both rural and urban areas of the country.
The online survey comprised of questions about changes in basic cosmetic care of skin, hair, and nail during the COVID-19 pandemic and psychosocial impact because of them.
Among them, only about one-third (34%) of participants said they were continuing to take care of their skin, hair, and nails as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.
A majority of the group that stopped cosmetic care habits said they were no longer using eye cosmetics (93.8%) and face cosmetics (91.7%).
On a similar trend, exactly three-quarters said they were no longer performing any hair-related cosmetic routines.
However, nail care has persisted and prioritised among both groups despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than half (57.6%) of those who are not performing their cosmetic habits still continued with nail care. Among those that continued their cosmetic habits, 77% reported paying attention to nail care.
With an emphasis on hygiene during the pandemic, the researchers said it was not surprising that participants might be overly conscious to maintain hand and nail care, noting that “nail care is primarily involved in hygiene than any fashion symbol”.
The mental impact
All respondents who reported dropping the ball on their usual cosmetic care habits felt that this change had some form of negative impact on their mental well-being.
Exactly half of the respondents felt that they had lost self-satisfaction. Additionally, 43.8% noticed they were increasingly irritable and 34.7% said stress levels also increased.
The authors of the study noted that it was possible that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as prolonged isolation, could also have triggered these psychological effects.
They suggested that in the future, a study with a larger sample size, case-control study design, and specific tools that measure psychological impacts would have given a clearer picture of this topic.
Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology
Self-cosmetic care during the COVID-19 pandemic and its psychological impacts: Facts behind the closed doors
Marahatta et al.