Are We Kidding Ourselves Into Believing "Self-Care" Is Fun?

Over the last few years, there's been a big trend in the use of beauty products, routines, and treatments being branded as "self-care." From the TikTok-famous "elevated shower" to having entire days dedicated to "maintenance," it's hard to scroll on any social media platform without being bombarded with information on how something can help you to live your most optimal life.

This makes sense, considering many people found hyperfocusing on their routines during the COVID-19 pandemic as their only form of refuge and control. Here's the thing: some might find getting a weekly manicure or doing their multistep skin-care routine at night relaxing. I, however, do not.

I know, I know; bad beauty editor. But if I'm being honest, so much of my beauty routine feels like a chore with dire consequences if ignored, as opposed to something that calms my mind and centers me after a long day. Every night, when I'm on the fourth step of my regimen with three more to go, body ready to levitate straight into bed, what is it that forces me to keep going? The answer: this is supposed to be my me time — no matter how torturous and not "for me" it actually feels.

This goes beyond a nightly postshower ritual. Everything from doing my nails to figuring out which hairstyle I want to do next feels like an obligation that I absolutely must keep doing . . . or else. I don't know what this dire consequence is, but it's almost as if I'm not functioning at my highest potential unless I keep a strict hair, nail, and facial schedule, among so many other things — and I'm not the only one. "My beauty-related self-care involves getting my nails done, tinting my eyebrows, and self-tanning," POPSUGAR's staff writer and social producer Renee Rodriguez says. "It's basically anything that will make me feel good once it's done."

Still, Rodriguez admits that she finds these tasks laborious. "I wish I could drop my hands off at the nail salon and pick them up in an hour — same with all my other self-care activities. It's so time-consuming, and the actual act of doing it is a f*cking hassle." She even admits there have been countless instances where she's realized in the middle of the night before a big event that she needs to do a beauty-related task and ended up doing it in a panic, making the experience feel like anything but self-care. Yet she keeps up with it because it makes her feel great in the end. "When you look good, you feel good," Rodriguez says. There is some truth to that: when you love the way you look, your self-esteem gets a boost. But Rodriguez admits that her routine probably wouldn't be as excessive if it weren't for outside influences. "Eyebrow tinting was the first beauty-related 'self-care' that I ever did, and it was after an excessive amount of waxing in sixth grade," she says. "For everything else, though, I definitely think social media, friends, and family influenced me into wanting to do them."

Self-care looks different for everybody — some people may actually enjoy the process of doing their hair, nails, and makeup regularly, but it's also OK if you don't. Not every aspect of your routine, beauty or otherwise, has to be in the name of self-improvement. At its core, "self-care" is supposed to be about taking care of yourself and showing up as your most authentic self. If having your hair curled daily, wearing a fresh Gel-X set, and getting a spray tan like clockwork allows you to do so, then by all means, enjoy yourself to the fullest extent. However, if you prefer to be more low-key, you're not doing anything wrong. If at any point your beauty routine starts to feel like a chore rather than a treat, maybe it's time to take a step back and think about what the term really means to you.