Tell me if this sounds familiar: You're reading a blog post in which the author describes her favorite self-care practices. Often it begins with the author describing a particularly stressful day or week; she knew she needed to practice self-care, so she went in search of the perfect face mask. It seems like self-care has become synonymous with skin-care and spa products. Feeling stressed? Just take a bubble bath, treat yourself to a pedicure, or try out the latest serum that guarantees glowing skin.

You see this in ads for skin-care products, in blog posts, and in general pop culture. As Constance Grady writes in an article for Vox, the skin-care industry has “corporatized” self-care. In other words, skin-care companies tell you that by using their products, you are investing in yourself and your overall well being. Brightening your skin makes you a better person; it puts you on the path to being the best version of yourself. And they earn a profit off of your pursuit of personal growth.

What these campaigns get right and what they don’t

In some sense, yes, a skin-care routine is part of self-care. Taking care of your physical health should be part of a well-rounded self-care routine, and skin care is a part of physical self-care. Face masks and bubble baths can serve as a relaxing routine at the end of a busy day and can certainly reduce stress and help you feel better.

But it’s important to acknowledge that skin care as physical self-care is just a fraction of a comprehensive self-care plan. Self-care is not just skin deep.

Whether it’s trying a new bath bomb, going for a pedicure, or using a face mask, these types of physical self-care definitely provide instant relaxation and stress reduction. For example, I went for a pedicure recently after running a 10K with friends in order to relax after pounding the pavement; it was the best decision for my sore feet. But these types of self-care don’t address the root cause of your stress and only provide a temporary stress reduction. They are great in-the-moment stress relievers but, once your pedicure is over or your face mask is off, unaddressed stress can and likely will return at some point.

Getting to the root of stress

When skin care is equated with authentic self-care, it sends the message that self-care is purely self-indulgent. From this viewpoint, if you’re stressed, you need to take a time out to pamper yourself. But self-care isn’t just about choosing what feels decadent and self-indulgent. Self-care is often a discipline that requires an investment of time and effort. And it isn’t always easy.

For example, getting adequate sleep is a key component of stress management. But we all know how much of a struggle it actually is to get to bed on time. Whether it’s staying up late to finish up a work project, watching just one (or four) more episode of your favorite show, or battling kids who are doing their absolute best to resist bedtime, getting those coveted eight hours of quality sleep can be difficult to do on a regular basis. It requires both intentionality and discipline and is a far cry from a self-indulgent practice.

Your skincare routine, though fun, doesn’t have to be your only option for self-care. If you’re looking to move beyond skin care and to go deeper with your self-care routine, consider giving these strategies a try to help reduce stress and feel your best:

  • Go for a walk around your neighborhood each evening (exercise has been shown to reduce stress and spending time in nature has been shown to increase energy).
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine to make it easier for you to get those much-needed eight hours of sleep.
  • Revamp your home to promote a comforting and relaxing environment. (Subscribe to the Verily Home newsletter for ideas!)
  • Take up a relaxing and creative hobby such as writing, painting, or knitting.
  • Journal at the end of each day to help you notice any patterns to your day that can help you better address stress.