Routine vs Ritual | What’s the difference?

For years the beauty industry has been promoting routines to get flawless skin and luscious hair – 10 step routine for slowing skin, 5 step bedtime routine, 12 steps proven to remove acne. The list is endless. At some point or the other I’m sure most of us have tried these routines and continue to do so. But routines seem so militant, disconnected, precise.

afro girl, self care, face care

Enter rituals. In fact, rituals have always been there, way before routines. Beauty rituals have been part of ancient civilizations since the beginning of time. From Cleopatra’s milk bath ritual to Roman bathhouses to haldi ceremonies in India, rituals have been engrained in cultures for thousands of years.

So then, what is the difference between the modern-day beauty routine and rituals rooted in history? The simple answer is mindfulness and intention. Routines are almost muscle memory – rushing in and out of the shower, dabbing on some make up, running the comb through your hair. Often times we are distracted as we go through our routines. Sometimes I catch myself using soap twice, because I don’t really remember if I used it the first time. These have become chores that are about ticking boxes – did I bathe this morning – tick, did I put on my make up – tick.

beauty routine, hair oil, hair spray, woman in front of mirror

Rituals are inherently different. It’s a conscious connection with your body and mind. Being aware of what you are doing and why. In a sense it is a form of meditation, because you are present in the here and now. It is internally motivated and focused on the process as opposed to the outcome. It is a celebration of life, of oneself. It is all about savouring, indulging your senses. It is the ultimate act of self-love.

flower bath, self care

So how does a routine transform into a ritual? Let’s take an example of body oiling. Instead of splashing oil on your body, slow down, take time to indulge as many of your senses as possible – breathe in its smell, feel its texture on your fingertips, look out for the details in its flow, the bubbles formed in it. Savour it with gratitude. Anoint yourself while reminding yourself why you are doing it, its benefits.

Rituals are a deeply rewarding way of connecting with yourself. It is a radical act of acceptance, rather than improvement. It frees you from unattainable beauty standards and societal expectations.


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