How Makeup and Skincare Got Me Through Law School

There is no beating around the bush- law school is stressful. It may be the most stressful thing you do in your life. If I could go back and tell my 1L self one thing, it would be to prioritize self care far more than I did.

I remember beginning 1L and being so overwhelmed that all of things I’d promised myself I would do when I moved to Boston (find a gym, join a choir and a soccer team and a hiking club) just fell by the wayside. And then all of a sudden it was February of 1L and I was grasping at straws for something I could do to remind me that life existed outside of law school.

I should say that by February of 1L, you sort of forget that you’re a human being. You eat, sleep, and breathe law. I would fall asleep with highlighters open in my hands, I owned more textbooks and supplements than pairs of socks, and I would have dreams about 12(b)(6) motions. Things I was not thinking about included: what I wore, what I ate in a day (seriously- my mom would say “what did you eat today” and I wouldn’t be able to tell her because I genuinely didn’t know), and certainly not what I looked like.

Around this time, in an attempt to clear my mind one evening, I made a little recording of a song on one of those apps where you can harmonize with yourself. I thought it was quite festive and posted it on Instagram. And within a day, I had received about 14 messages from friends and family all inconspicuously asking how I was, how I was handling law school, and if my health was ok. I was a bit taken aback, and checked out the Instagram post again… and there it was. I looked AWFUL. Ok, I probably didn’t look THAT bad, but my hair needed trimming, I had the WORST dark circles under my eyes, my skin looked sallow, I was wearing an oversized sweatshirt, and I hadn’t worn makeup in weeks. Basically, I looked exactly how I was feeling- overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed, but I didn’t look like who I thought I was- someone who is organized, upbeat, on top of everything, and who attacks all challenges head-on. Using the cliche phrase… I’d let myself go.

My immediate thought was to go buy out the skincare section of Target, run 20 miles, and cut my hair myself, and then join CrossFit, three a cappella groups, and a book club. But realistically… I didn’t have time for all that! It was 1L! So I focused on what I could do to feel like I had control over my life again.

I decided I would wear makeup every day. Even if it was just a BB cream and some tinted chapstick, I would take 5 minutes in the morning to give my face a little attention. I also figured it might be time to really pay attention to my skincare (and to start using eye cream, ha). So I did. I’ve always liked makeup; I think there is something artsy about it, and contrary to popular belief, I think it helps you focus on positive aspects of yourself. When I put on makeup, I don’t think so much about “hiding” my flaws, changing the shape of my face, making my eyes look bigger, or any of that. I tend to think about the features I like about myself and how I can highlight them the best.

Makeup in the morning became a positive aspect of my routine. Even on the days I was so overwhelmed that every other aspect of my life “routine” just couldn’t get done, I would sit down for a few minutes to take care of my face before I left the house. This is not to say I didn’t “fail” often… I had quite a few days during 2L where I pretty much went to school in the clothes I fell asleep in the night before and the only thing on my face was probably toothpaste in the corner of my mouth. But makeup and skincare was something I could do. I could handle it. And I could do it every single day, no matter where I was or what I was doing.

These little sessions because cathartic. For 10 minutes every evening, I would focus on makeup remover and cotton balls, on lotion and toner, and not on the 7 cases I needed to brief before the next morning. For those 10 minutes, I would think about the weather in Boston, whether it was dry or humid, windy or wet, and how my skin was reacting based on the weather. In the mornings, I would sit at my little vanity, that I was finally using AS a vanity and not a second desk, and I would think about why my eyelashes hit my brow bone or whether or not I had the mole by my eye when I was born, and what color eyeshadow would make me feel happy. I didn’t think about the 900 emails I needed to answer that day or the 18 pages I had left to write on my student note.

Now, as 3L comes to an end, I still follow my nightly skincare routine and my morning makeup routine. These routines have changed as my life has changed- moving to Paris where the weather and the water and drugstore products are all different, etc- but I still relish those few moments a day where I know my mind will wander, I will think positive thoughts, and I will be doing something that is for me, myself, and I. They are some of my favorite moments, where I think the most creative and uninhibited thoughts. And they are moments that have truly gotten me through the last 2 1/2 years. Having one thing I do without fail, no matter how stressful life gets, has been essential to my mental health.

Self care is so important, but it does not have to be limited to the standard “yoga class, exercise, massage” recommendations you see in pamphlets. Find something that makes you happy and that is exclusively about you. Do it whenever you can without making your life more stressful. There is no right or wrong! Just take 10 minutes a day to think positive thoughts about yourself and to make yourself happy.

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