Amid stressful times, the simple act of surrounding oneself in beauty can do wonders. Just having fresh flowers in the home has been shown in research to boost mood and even accelerate healing. So it follows that seeing our best selves reflected back in the mirror is just as important amid a global crisis as it is on a regular day.

Here is my permission slip to consider your skincare and makeup regimen a mission-critical must—not a frivolous luxury—during this time of isolation. You’ll be in good company. 

During World War II, European women at the heart of conflict continued to pursue personal beauty, with full support from Churchill himself, who limited rationing on clothing and makeup to maintain a sense of normalcy. 

Stateside, cosmetics were more easily available in the US during WWII, but not that popular at this time. Many women had relatives fighting abroad and weren’t in the mood for excess, celebration, or showing off their wealth. They also had to pick up the jobs men had left behind. To retain their femininity and boost their morale, women put on makeup. They went for a subdued, natural look that was sophisticated and glamorous.

On the eyes, a touch of natural eyeshadows in brown and grey tones, a line of eyeliner and a dash of mascara. The brows were thick, perfectly arched and defined with an eyebrow pencil.

On the face, women applied a dark but warm foundation and, on top of it, a powder that was actually lighter than their skintone. This would give skin a rosy glow.

They used natural pink shades on the cheeks while the lips popped. Elizabeth Arden’s makeup kit for the American Marine Corps Women’s Reserve helped put red lipstick (created to match their uniforms) on the map. It was considered a sort of patriotic duty to keep up appearances. Because there’s a simple dignity in that—and what’s more hopeful than a swipe of red lipstick?

It may sound silly to some, but a swipe of lipstick was a way to retain humanity, dignity and femininity, to put on a brave face, to boost their morale as well as that of the soldiers. 

With COVID-19 raging war against our minds, our bodies, our economy, our spirits – this is a time for restraint, moderation, and austerity. Most of us can’t spend money right now like we used to on cosmetics. I think about what my grandmothers went through during world war II and I’m grateful for the blessings that I do have. We are very lucky in many ways. 

So while we are on lock down in NYC, and my practice has put cosmetic procedures on hold for now, let’s embrace personal beauty for what it is: an expression of optimism during an impossible time. Take that extra skincare step. Apply the makeup you normally would wear. And maybe a swipe of red lipstick, for good measure.