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Quarantined beauty junkies are breaking their no-buys –– a therapist explains reasons behind panic buying

Quarantined beauty junkies are breaking their no-buys –– a therapist explains reasons behind panic buying

Rice, instant noodles, loo rolls, and makeup.

Text: Guan Tan


Shout out to our Buro. beauty fam: how are y'all doing and coping now that Covid-19 has officially been dubbed a pandemic? Are you still out and about loitering around Sephora in search of the latest Drunk Elephant body and haircare range? Or have you been working from home, self-quarantined with bottles of hand sanitisers and disinfectants for company?

Well, I belong to the latter and am either cooped in the office or at home over the weekends, combing through whatever websites I can lay my hands on. It's been DORSCON red for my wallet –– after making sure my three bags of rice, three months' worth of loo rolls, and cleaning tools were taken care of, I wishlisted peaches and aubergines on Lush, and carted out face wipesgel polishes and makeup sponges on Sephora. Hoarding skincare and makeup too? Almost.

So, when I was scrolling through the makeup rehabilitation support community on Reddit last evening, a trending thread caught my attention. "Breaking my no buy when high anxiety," the title read. "Too close to home," I thought and clicked in.

Now, in all seriousness, this support group serves beauty junkies who genuinely want to improve their purchasing and hoarding habits. So, breaking a no-buy year is a grave trespass –– and the ongoing Covid-19 situation has thrown it all off the rails.

Basically, the author has been on a no-buy since December 2019. Girl was determined (and we're so proud of you). All was going well... until Covid-19 broke out in her home-country, Italy. Here's what she wrote:

"However, right now my anxiety is through the roof. In my country we are living a very difficult time, we cannot leave our home for the next 15 days and the overall situation is very...heartbreaking.

So, stuck at home, I have been finding myself browsing for makeup all day. Especially for palettes which are definitely the last item I need to add to my home.

Last year, I have bought so much makeup as a way to escape a reality I didn't want to face, and I think it is exactly what I am doing right now. My anxiety was connected to my purchasing pattern. I thought my nobuy would be smooth, but this is really testing me. Makeup is so pretty and so... light, and here everything feels very heavy."

It was heartbreaking. Fellow readers echoed her struggles:

"Hi. I'm in the exact same situation. This whole Coronavirus thing is really driving me crazy. It's only been three days of quarantine but I'm already going nuts here at home. The highlight of my day is going grocery shopping, basically the only reason I am allowed to leave the house.

I also feel the strong urge to buy makeup. It's such a nice distraction, it's so sparkly and colorful and light. It keeps my mind off this freaking insane reality I don't want to face."

Here's another:

"I am now battling the same urge to buy something nice and it is hard to resist because I'm seeing more and more coworkers being sent home just in case, cinemas are cancelling screenings, there's talk of closing restaurants - I don't know what will come next and it's so tempting to buy something that I think will bring me a bit of joy."

Depressed, I logged off and made a call to the sweetest psychotherapist, Nicole Chew-Helbig, in a bid to make sense of the chaos, pessimism, and excessive panic buying that's enveloping all of us since Covid-19 happened. Here are some things you need to know:

1. We, as a global community, are experiencing fear and trauma collectively.

"In a situation like Covid-19: first of all, there's a virus that came up suddenly. Your grandparents and parents are worried. The government says to be careful. You see it on the news that people have died," says Nicole. While we don't see the virus with our naked eye, we see and feel the collective fear. "And when it comes to fear, it's traumatic. Trauma –– it can not only come in a big catastrophe, but [also] when you witness others in a situation and feel the helplessness."

So, whether you're someone who has been tested positive, a family member of an infected patient, a quarantined individual, or an on-looker, "what we are all experiencing is some kind of trauma," Nicole quips.

2. We are panic buying because we are coping with (the prospect of) loss.

It all starts from the trauma –– we experience helplessness, we realise that we do not have control over a pandemic. We're, too, faced with the prospect of loss of more lives, our livelihoods, our way of lives. "When you lose, you feel empty," Nicole continues. So, you try to fill up that gaping emptiness in life. "What do you do to fill up?"

Buying things –– rice, instant noodles (calories that will sustain life), toilet rolls (a feeling of self-care), skincare and makeup (self-image, sense of security, and avoidance of shame).

3. It's okay to buy if it's not hurting your bank account or relationships.

To Nicole, if this is how you're coping with anxiety, stress, and helplessness, then so be it –– so long it doesn't get in the way of daily life. "You should be compassionate to yourself: 'I do this to feel better so I don't pick on my kid and spouse. It makes me feel better'," says Nicole. "We are already afraid of being judged. Then, you buy something to make yourself feel better and then, you judge yourself for it? ... Isn't life stressful enough?"

Take it from Nicole, it is okay. "People are not materialistic. People accumulate things to avoid feeling pain, shame, and loneliness."

4. If it is getting in the way of life, seek help.

Don't just Google. See an actual therapist. While every therapist has his or her working style, here's a broad stroke of what to expect: "You learn to find answers –– both the pleasant and unpleasant," says Nicole. "Why am I spending so much money on these things? What is it doing to my relationships? What are the benefits of this behaviour?"

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