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GenC and Self-Care: The Role of Brands in Pandemic Burnout

04 Mar 2021 Elizabeth McHugh

in Beauty, Strategy, Glimmer

For almost a year now we have defined GenC as the group—now all of us—whose behaviors and preferences will be significantly and lastingly influenced by coronavirus. Over the past year, calls for attention to mental health have been louder, consumers have tried finding ways to relax at home during the pandemic, and families have struggled to balance WFH and Zoom school. Consumers are over it: the Google search term “covid burnout” skyrocketed in November, declined over the holidays, and started increasing again in February. Women have been especially impacted by challenges wrought by COVID, with nearly three million dropping out of the labor force. We speak regularly with the women of Glimmer, our social community, and turned to them again—this time for their thoughts on how they are (or are not) prioritizing themselves during this fraught time.

“I need to focus on self-care.

2020 was a hard year and I am recovering from it.”

-Glimmer Community Member

Our community reflects a broad awareness that self-care needs to be prioritized, but is not well defined, nor does it mean the same thing to everyone. For the women we spoke to, self-care means a variety of soothing experiences (note: women could describe more than one “favorite”):

    • 23%: Creating a spa-like experience at home*
    • 20%: Taking a bath 
    • 19%: Putting on a beauty mask
    • 16%: Reading (books/audio books/magazines)
    • 13%: Watching movies or TV
    • 12%: Working out: at home or outdoors
    • 10%: Arts (painting, music, puzzles, crafts)
    • 8%: Skincare
    • 4%: Meditating, Yoga, or journaling

*In most spa-like experiences, facials are mentioned, so while everyday skincare ranks lower, special skincare moments top the list.

For some women in the COVID era, self-care is also starting to look like good health:

I am indulging in high quality skincare and I'm paying more attention to my body by being more mindful about what I eat. I've been on a real smoothie kick, so I've been spending a little extra money to buy healthy ingredients to blend.”

Self-care has been about staying home and spending a lot more time with my dog and family to avoid any health issues due to COVID. Self-love has been drinking a glass of wine with a weighted blanket, mask on my face and feet, and enjoying movies or Netflix shows.”

For others, self-care is off the table:

“I don't have time to take care of myself. I am so busy with my work and taking care of my little one.”

“I’m still working on [self-care].”



Women are looking to prioritize their wellbeing—often more so now than pre-COVID. With uncertainty still the prevailing emotion, women are turning to self-care as a means of comfort, control, and structure. Brands can help by steering the conversation, re-focusing self-care around substance and better defining the practice. As we move forward, self-care cannot feel like a chore or come with guilt, but should be centered on time for oneself, gratitude, and balance.

What we now call COVID burnout will evolve: post-vaccine, consumers will again feel overwhelmed with choices as they were pre-pandemic, but with a new complexity. Brands will need to help consumers stay focused on the activities that lead to mental and physical wellbeing—with a strong dose of self-kindness. Brands have an important role to play in how self-care is and will be defined as we all face yet another set of unknowns. As we look forward to a new post-pandemic era, we at Stella believe that providing real value, rather than vague claims of support will be critical for brands. We also advise all our clients, across product category, that they must keep a keen focus on digital brand experience; consumers will continue to strongly prefer the low-friction transaction. Finally, we’re all looking forward to feeling more joy and zest for adventures and experiences after this time of restriction and constraint.

Beauty Strategy Glimmer