“You look well” used to be nothing more than a platitude. In the midst of the pandemic, however, ‘looking well’ has become a form of social currency – an entry requirement for any form of interaction or contact. “It’s known as health signalling,” says makeup artist Lisa Eldridge,, who is referring to the urges we feel to send indicators proving our fitness and wellbeing – such as sharing photos of your homemade, healthy banana bread, or broadcasting the step count from your wholesome country walk, or sending screenshots of your Strava running times to the family WhatsApp group.
“It started in ancient Greece, when women were meant to have blushing cheeks in order to look fertile and youthful,” says Lisa. “That’s where the idea of blush being about health was born.” She adds that health signalling was also popular in the medieval era to try and show someone was free from disease – a striking resemblance to the emerging trend of today. “It’s interesting that this trend of using your appearance and, ultimately, makeup to imply you’re free from disease has come round again, but not surprising given the circumstances,” Lisa says. As a result, there’s been a flurry of beauty-boosting launches, from blushers to natural-finish highlighters, which promise to lift the complexion and create the illusion of instant wellness.
But this new wave of health signalling isn’t just skin deep. “Health signalling is the new humble brag,” says Alexia Inge, co-founder of Cult Beauty. In other words, we’re so desperate to prove our Covid-negative status that we gleefully share every indicator of health as widely as possible. You just have to count the number of “I’ve been vaccinated” stickers you’ve seen posted on social media to see health signalling at its finest.
Beyond the boasting aspect of health signalling, it’s also a sign of an important attitude shift. “The pandemic has prompted a deeper awareness of the need to care for both mental and physical health and we’re starting to see a re-prioritising of wellness,” says Alexia. According to Alexia, wellness is expanding to encompass all aspects of our lives, from our beauty products to our diets. “If there’s one positive to emerge from the pandemic it will be the elevation of wellness to something more than just a hobby for the affluent.”
Keep scrolling to discover the beauty buys that will do all your health signalling for you (so you can actually focus on feeling good)…