ADHD & Make Up

Understanding the Challenge of Makeup Routines for Those with ADHD

Living with ADHD can often mean routines like a makeup regimen are harder to adhere to due to challenges with consistency and focus. Individuals with ADHD may struggle with the daily discipline required for a beauty routine, finding it difficult to maintain regular habits. Recognizing this can lead to finding tailored strategies to make such routines more manageable.

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Why Do We Struggle With Makeup and Skincare Routines?

Have you ever wondered why something as seemingly simple as applying makeup or following a skincare routine can feel like an uphill battle when you have ADHD? The answer lies in the unique, often bizarre ways ADHD can impact our lives, even in the most ordinary tasks. 

Today, we’ll get into just why that is, including:

  • The surprising intersection between ADHD and beauty routines.
  • How puberty can make skincare routines even more essential (and difficult!).
  • The ADHD symptoms that make a difference, such as time management and impulsivity.
  • How to find joy in beauty routines, or ways to make the essentials easier.

Join me as we look at how we can build a healthy relationship with makeup and skincare with our ADHD.

The Intersection of ADHD and Beauty Routines

Living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), diagnosed or not, can amplify everyday experiences, regardless of gender. 

Some experiences, however, are typically (but not always!) more common in those who are female-presenting. These are usually the same people who are more likely to go undiagnosed until adulthood.

According to reports, boys are prescribed stimulant medications much earlier in life than girls.

This means that, as children and teenagers, a lot of girls are navigating life blindly. From the ups and downs of female friendship (teenage friendships are wild!) and academic performance to first crushes and breakups, there’s a lot to deal with already. 

One of the many pressures girls face for the first time during these years? Makeup. 

At a certain age, between learning about puberty and shopping for your first bra, you may start to notice your friends and classmates wearing makeup. And then comes the question - do I wear makeup or don’t I?  

Neurotypical people may think that due to our ADHD we always make things more complicated than necessary - even if it’s just makeup or skin and beauty routine in general. And while we don’t always have difficulties with them, there really are some struggles 🙁. 

And then there’s skincare, especially when puberty kicks in and your skin breaks out.

Introducing… Puberty

Everyone goes through puberty. And it’s an overwhelming time in our lives as our bodies physically and biologically change, raging hormones take over and our moods can swing faster than a monkey through a jungle. 

A lot is going on. Now imagine going through this rollercoaster and having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (well, if you’re reading this, you probably don’t have to imagine). It’s a dizzying experience. 💫

Because guess what, ADHD also affects your hormones. Specifically dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, the neurotransmitters that impact memory, focus, and mood.

But let’s get back to our bodies. Puberty affects our physical appearance, particularly the skin. Hormone changes and imbalances can cause pimples and acne, unwanted hair growth, and cause you to sweat more. Good hygiene and regular grooming become essential, particularly for your self-esteem and fitting in at school (which is the top priority of most pre-teens and teenagers).

Girls will start getting their periods and learn about all the feminine hygiene habits and products that come with that. 

It’s also the age when you actually start to care what you look like.

My Story: How a Face Mask Started My Love-Hate Relationship with Skincare 

Let me first preface this story by saying that when I was at school, there was far less skin positivity - or any kind of body positivity. I hope that these movements are helping teenagers of today. 

As a teenager, I was bullied for my pimples and acne, but maintaining a strict skin care routine just wasn’t practical for me. I struggled to stick to routines in general, and I didn’t like the idea of putting chemicals on my face.   

But this was giving me seriously low self-esteem, and impacting my confidence in all areas of life. I knew I had to do something to escape the bullying and stress that came with looking in the mirror.

Things changed for me a week before a big event. I can’t even remember what it was now. I knew I needed to look good. I wanted to dress to impress, to get that wow moment that only happens in the rom-coms I was a big fan of. You know, when the main character walks in for the first time looking unrecognizable. 

With seven days to go, I woke up with a breakout, which of course, led to a meltdown (teenager + ADHD = very little emotional control). Once I settled down, I decided to see how it went. There was enough time for them to go, right?


With my anxiety and fear of peer rejection at the wheel, I begged for a ride into town so I could find something to help. There in the beauty section, after trying on countless products, I found a face mask that promised to transform my skin. 

It worked, lessening the appearance of my acne. But then I noticed patches of dry skin, so my next step was to research the perfect moisturizer for my skin type. And from there, I fell down a rabbit hole of trying out different cosmetics.  

That's when my love-hate relationship with my skin and makeup routine began.

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How ADHD Symptoms Can Impact Your Makeup Routine (And Vice Versa)

Time Blindness and Running Late

If I’m late, there’s a good chance it’s because I spent too much time putting on my makeup. See, because of the ADHD tendency to be time blind (an unrealistic perception of time), I never know how long my makeup routine will take. 

I always assume it’s just a few minutes - and it can be some days. But sometimes, I’ll get super into it, concentrating on getting it perfect, or accidentally zone out, and suddenly half an hour has passed and I’m running late.

And often the unexpected happens, like uneven eyeliner or smudged lipstick. Fixing these things needs extra time I didn’t account for when choosing when to wake up or start getting ready. There’s also the mess, and the question of whether you clean it up now or later (much, much later).


Being late can be excusable, but it’s generally not a good idea to tell someone you were late because you were doing your makeup. It would be seen as unprofessional, or frivolous - even if you wear makeup to look more professional. It’s better to make up another excuse unless you tend to blurt out the truth anyway (like I do).  

Impulsivity and Impulse Buying

When I’m interested in something, I go all in. And I go through regular phases in life where makeup is one of those hobbies. Makeup is a good hobby: it’s artistic and requires skill and practice. When I need an outlet for self-expression and creativity, it becomes one of my new hyperfixations, and I think about it constantly. 

This is where impulsivity steps in. I’ll start researching and shopping around for new makeup and beauty products, different shades, formulas, or finishes. I often end up buying the wrong shade (if I shop online) and then have several versions of the same product. Or I’ll end up with multiple lipsticks, all the same color but different brands. It becomes excessive and wasteful - makeup is not cheap.

But the feeling of buying these products when it’s all I can think about is exciting and soothing. Like scratching an itch. 

The problem is, more often than not, I’ll use it once and then never again, or just lose it entirely. This is problematic because makeup expires over time. I’ll rediscover something I was so excited about at the moment, only to find it’s dried out and unusable. I might even buy it again and repeat the process. It happens.

Hyperfocus and Distractions

Neurodivergent people tend to get fixated on things. For makeup and beauty, that can look like watching an hour-long video about makeup color seasons, or how to find your skin’s undertone. Then there are makeup tutorials, product reviews, and Pinterest inspiration

If, like me, this is an interest you cycle through every few months or years, you may even forget what you’ve watched and have to rewatch. I always forget where bronzer, contour, blush, and highlighter are all supposed to be applied, so I’ll constantly be searching for this. 

As you can imagine, this all takes up a lot of time, especially if you’re supposed to be doing something else

Having ADHD means you’re likely easily distracted, and with makeup and beauty everywhere, especially if your YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram algorithms recommend it, it can be an issue. This can also happen if you leave your makeup out in your room, creating visual clutter. 

For example, if you’re trying to study or work, but your dopamine-chasing brain would rather find out your best shade of eyeshadow, this is unproductive and could hurt your performance, or leave you less time to meet deadlines.

Hyperactivity and Anxiety

The worst thing about makeup is that it doesn’t stay exactly the same all day long. Maybe expensive makeup products do, but I’ve never experienced it. Instead, every time I look in the mirror, there’s a new imperfection. Concealer isn’t concealing, I start to resemble a panda, etc. 

If I can’t reapply it (usually because I’ve forgotten my makeup bag), I often start to get self-conscious and anxious with racing thoughts. What do people think of me? How bad is it? I find myself fidgeting more and rubbing my face, usually ruining my previously perfectly fine makeup out of paranoia. 

These racing thoughts are part of ADHD hyperactivity. They can, as a result, make it difficult to focus on anything other than my face. I’ll make far more trips to the bathroom than necessary, and - honestly - it can completely mess up my day. 

All or Nothing: ADHD Extremes 

When it comes to my ADHD make-up relationship (and skincare in general), I have two modes; I either put on a full face of makeup every day and have a perfectly researched morning and night routine, or I barely remember to brush my teeth or shower once a day. 😂

This can fluctuate depending on my mood, or what phase of life I’m in. I typically go through cycles of self-care and neglect. 

There are, of course, moments of in-between where I’m happy with a bare face and embracing my natural beauty, but this is the goal, not always the reality. 

You Asked…

How do you manage skin care when you have ADHD?

For those with ADHD, managing skincare means sticking to a routine. Use visual reminders like notes or set alarms as cues to cleanse, moisturize, and protect daily. Keeping products in a visible spot and following a set order can help embed these habits.

Finding Joy in Everyday Routines

While the ADHD brain usually resists routines, they can be quite soothing. Predictability removes decision paralysis and fatigue while creating security and stability. 

I personally find my beauty routine to be soothing. I even try to turn it into a mindfulness practice. I concentrate on grounding myself in the present and feeling every sensation. 

That doesn’t mean I remember or want to do it every day though. I forget how much 

You may have a completely different experience. Some people find the sensation of makeup overwhelming and hate the feeling of it on their skin. It can even contribute to sensory overload

Not everyone experiences the same difficulties, but it's okay: that doesn't make yours less valid.

If skincare routines and make-up kits calm you down and help your mental health and self-esteem, then go for it. But if or when these things start to contribute more stress than they’re worth, maybe tone down a bit. 

A good middle ground is that if there’s one thing you do every day, make sure you apply SPF. That’s the minimum, and if it’s all you do, you’ve made your skin healthier. 

Anything else is up to you. 💕

You Asked…

Can people with ADHD stick to a schedule?

Individuals with ADHD can adhere to a schedule by establishing clear routines, utilizing tools like planners or apps for reminders, and creating an environment conducive to focus. Consistent timing and reducing the need to make decisions can also streamline the process.

Key Takeaways

  • ADHD symptoms can make everyday experiences, including beauty routines, more challenging.
  • Puberty exacerbates skincare challenges, with hormone changes leading to acne and hygiene concerns.
  • As teenagers, good hygiene and grooming become essential for self-esteem and fitting in, adding pressure to an already tough time.
  • Specific ADHD symptoms can impact makeup routines, like time management struggles, impulsivity, hyperfocus, distractibility, and hyperactive racing thoughts.
  • Makeup routines can fluctuate between extremes of meticulousness and poor hygiene, influenced by mood and energy levels.
  • Implementing structured routines and mindfulness practices can help manage ADHD-related challenges in beauty routines.
  • Despite difficulties, finding joy and self-expression in beauty routines can contribute positively to mental health and self-esteem.

Embrace your unique ADHD journey and find what brings you joy in beauty routines. Whether it's a meticulous skin care routine or a simple SPF application, prioritize self-care while being mindful of stress levels. 

Remember, your struggles are valid, and finding balance is key to managing ADHD effectively.

What’s Next?

Check out these related articles to the relationship between ADHD and skincare, make-up and overall self-care habits.

How to Prioritize Self-Care When You Have ADHD

Addressing Personal Hygiene Challenges in ADHD

ADHD and Special Interests

Mastering Spontaneous Shopping: Control Your Impulse Purchases & Save Money

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is there a connection between ADHD and applying makeup or having a beauty routine?

There’s no direct connection between ADHD and fondness for makeup and beauty routine. Since makeup can be calming, some people with ADHD may like them. Likewise, since wearing makeup can come with challenges, others may not be too fond of it.

What ADHD symptoms affect makeup and other beauty routines?

Several symptoms affect makeup application. For one, time blindness can make one apply makeup for a long time. Hyperfocus may make them fixate on video tutorials and brand reviews.

Will interest in makeup fluctuate when you have ADHD?

Even if you don’t have ADHD, your interest with makeup might fluctuate from time to time depending on the situation. For instance, if you’re tired, you might not put too much effort or skip it altogether. When you have ADHD, the fluctuations may be amplified due to the symptoms or traits. For instance, one might fixate on their makeup when they feel anxious because they don’t want to be judged.

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