An unusual investigation was recently carried out by researchers under the guidance of Tatiana Rebeko, Ph.D. at the Institute of Psychology, Russian Academy of Sciences. Their interest was beauty aids and what it could tell them about personality strains.

They determined that the types of beauty creams a woman uses can provide insight about how their owner copes with stresses, finds the way out of conflict situations and also about the person’s self-appraisal. The researchers call it the “structure of feminine identity.”

The investigation involved 28 women, ages 22 to 65 and the psychologists studied websites and catalog of the leading cosmetic companies to single out basic useful properties of creams produced by them. 39 useful properties were united into six groups: protection, purification, treatment, nourishment, anti-stress and age prevention.

Obviously asking direct questions was going to impact the results of the study so they instead placed the women in a game situation and asked them to represent 'a unique cosmetic cream' by describing its properties as if they were a cosmetician. It was important to understand what merits, in their opinion, an ideal cream should possess.

Then the outcomes of their presentations were brought into correlation with results of psychological tests, which had been offered to the women under investigation. The tests were intended to assess ways of getting out of a conflict situation, means of coping with fear and the self-appraisal.

Here are the outcomes:

* Preference for “protection” properties is evidence of psychological vulnerability and internal conflict, emotional responses to problems and inability to ask for help.

* The women who preferred the “purification” category are disposed to move their personal problems outside themselves.

* Women who believe that “antistress” properties are important would get particular pleasure from relaxation after fatigue.

* The “treatment” category is particularly important for women of advanced age.

* Women who consider “nutrition” to be most important are rational and successfully cope with resolving problems in a stressful situation.

The researchers acknowledge that their interpretation has some limitations but they believe their method allows consideration of the attitude towards the skin to be a self-defining one and is a reflection of relations with the outer world.

The skin (being the border of our body) is the boundary between our “self” and “non-self”. A woman's attitude towards her skin reflects the attitude towards herself and other people, they conclude.

That saves us all some time. Why buy dinners and go for long walks when you can just look in her purse?