By now we’re all well-versed in dopamine dressing, a name given to the mood-boosting effect fashion can have on the brain. Responsible for edging out the black and beige staples of yesteryear, the trend has seen zingy pops of colour splashed across the well-heeled sartorialists of Copenhagen and Milan; a flash of tulle here, an outré heel in anything-but-black, a Bottega green Mini Cabet, and – pink! (Thank you, Mr. Piccioli.)
But while the past two years have given rise to rainbow-hued wardrobes the world over, our beauty cabinets weren’t joining in the movement, bathing in skincare like “we’ll sit this round out, thanks”. Until now.
TikTok will tell you the clean girl aesthetic is still going strong, but the heart-thumping runways tell a very different story, and indeed cement the notion that the move towards “fun” has well and truly begun. Maybe it’s the vibe shift, the Y2K resurgence, belated Euphoria appreciation – or perhaps it’s that beauty is finally ready for its butterfly era. Whatever the reason, we are here for it, and so is makeup artist, Mikele Simone. “Makeup is all about self-expression, an extension of fashion,” he tells us. “People are becoming more and more comfortable to experiment, have fun and be individuals.”
THE HISTORY OF THE HIGH
For the uninitiated, dopamine dressing was a phrase coined by the world’s first Fashion Psychologist Dr. Dawnn Karen in her 2020 book Dress Your Best Life. Published during the pandemic, it was the antidote to week-old activewear and the drudgery of it all, a research-driven blueprint for not just making clothes fun again – but dressing to enhance your mood. Though the field is emerging, the book is now also required reading at Sydney’s Fashion Institute of Technology. “Mood enhancement dressing is dressing to optimise your mood,” Dr. Karen explains. “When you place a certain colour, fabric, texture or pattern on your body, it releases chemicals in your brain and one of the chemicals that can be released is dopamine, better known as the ‘happy hormone.’”
But what does this all have to do with makeup? Well, as Dr. Karen notes, makeup is just as impactful as clothing. “Cosmetics and even fragrance can have a psychological impact on your body, and a significant effect on how you feel,” she elaborates, adding that when she first began studying fashion psychology, people were largely unaware of the impact that fashion had on their mood, whereas with makeup, people already knew of its power. We all know the magic of a good red lip.
And this is not a modern-day phenomena either – it’s a universal truth. As far back as the Great Depression, cosmetic sales (specifically, lipstick) continued to rise despite the economic downturn. We saw the trend emerge again in the recession in the early 2000s, as Estée Lauder’s Leonard Lauder coined the phrase “the lipstick index”. When the economy took a dive, Lauder noticed an increase in sales, as women reached for more affordable luxuries to perk up their lives.
DIOR Backstage Face and Body Flash Foundation in N°3W Warm and N°4N Neutral It could be argued that what they were actually reaching for wasn’t luxury at all but in fact, a dopamine hit. Of course, mandatory mask wearing in the last few years made all those lipsticks kind of redundant, so instead the 2021 iteration was a kind of “fragrance index” which saw the category skyrocket.
THE RUNWAY TO REALWAY
But now we’re back, mask-free and, if the runways have anything to do with it, flashier than ever. Mikele name checks Thom Browne’s Fall 2022 collection, a show which saw its makeup artists “pushing the limits with yellow blush, graphic shapes around the lips, and eyes in primary colours like reds and blues.” Mikele also references LaQuan Smith’s brazen Fall 2022 show and its “sexy cat eyes using red shades.” And of course there was Valentino Fall 2022, a various array of pinks which really solidified Barbiecore as a thing. On the beauty side, brands are already on board with dopamine glam. Dior’s Fall 2022 makeup collection, Dior En Rouge, had both a red mascara and bold palettes which Mikele insists “really pushes the boundary for such a classic beauty brand”, while relative newcomer to the cosmetic market, Byredo released a line which is already a favourite with Mikele. (The Colour Sticks which come in a range of shades and can be used anywhere.)
So, how does one do the whole dopamine-dressing-for-your-face thing without looking like an Euphoria extra? Well, first of all, you have to find the hue that resonates with you. Dr. Karen explains, that while colours can generally have universal perceptions and feelings attached to them (read: yellow is a happy colour, red is more dominant, black is intimidating, white is the colour of innocence, orange is the colour of vitality, blue is the colour of trust) it’s not a one-stop-shop. “It’s important to caution that if someone has had a terrible time in a particular pattern or texture or colour, it may not release dopamine in the same way it would for someone who had a positive experience with it.” Because your association with the colour will naturally have a huge effect on how you feel when wearing it.
OVERCOMING BEING COLOUR SHY
We all understand that wearing colour can enhance your mood, but how does that translate to every day? With clothing, even minimalists can dip a toe in with accessories, patterns or texture. But when it comes to being beauty colour shy, it can be a little harder. “Using a lip colour you wouldn’t normally wear is the perfect gateway [to wearing a small dopamine via glam hit],” says Mikele. “Or try a colourful eyeliner on the top lid. It’s easy and not too scary”. Still sound too much? If you aren’t big on bold, Simone suggests trying metallic shades like golds and silvers. While still neutral, they will pop and give you something a little different.
Beauty has – and probably always will – swing in roundabouts with trends. Colours come and go like seasonal hemlines and designer whims. But unlike fashion, makeup has always made us feel good – from the very first swipe of a strawberry Lipsmacker as a teenager, to the peachy, golden glow of Nars O. Perhaps beauty wasn’t late to the dopamine dressing party at all. Maybe it was always beauty’s party to begin with