16 Tips for Feeling Sexy Even When You're Sick


These pictures were taken of me after I got lupus, and they are probably some of the best pictures of me (in my opinion) that have ever been taken (thanks, Melissa Alcena). I look sexier here than I ever did before I got sick and that’s because I learned a lot more about being sexy and what that means after I got sick than I ever knew before having lupus.

People often assume that being sick means you can’t be sexy (weird, right?). We all know this myth about being sexy and sick isn’t true, but sometimes it is up to us to teach others the opposite. This means we may have to work twice as hard to prove ourselves, especially if and when we already have being sick to deal with.

woman dressed in black and laughing
Photo credit: Melissa Alcena

I have lots of stories about how being sick has at one time or the other affected things in the bedroom, and about how I wish it didn’t, or how that made me feel.

I also have lots of stories about how it made the sex that happened when it happened 10 times better – and about how I had to learn to feel and be sexy in a different way than I had been before, because sometimes my skills or abilities would be entirely different, so I would literally have to exude it and cast a confidence I’d never before had (and so had to develop).

I can also count on more than both hands how many times I have wanted to have sex and then haven’t been able to because I was in too much pain, and then felt like less of a woman since I couldn’t carry out the act.

I basically had to relearn how to be sexy while being sick, and how to be with my partner in a way that worked with my new illness. And in that time I figured out it isn’t so much about the stuff I thought it was about as it is about confidence and loving yourself in the face of stuff that makes you not want to.

I’ve learned that being sexy and sick at the same time is a challenge, but I think that makes people all the more sexy. It shows gumption and strength – stuff I think makes people sexy to begin with.

So. Here are some ways to look and feel sexy while being sick at the same time – because that balance can be hard at times.

1. It is a battle, but we all know that when you feel you look good, you feel better about yourself. Following that rule of thumb, it makes sense to always try to look and feel your best. Put the extra effort – if you can – into getting dresses and clothes that will make you feel nice, be easy to wear and work with your illness so you always look put-together with little effort.

2. Take the extra time to adapt a beauty routine that works for you and is easy to complete. On days that are really bad, sure, skip these steps, but get into the habit of facial wipes, hair brushing, moisturizing, etc., because these simple things which cut down on a lot of energy expenditure will really make it much easier for you to feel confident and good about yourself. Pick things that are simple and cut down on time but also work with your energy level. There is often a lot of downtime when you are sick and if you want, you can use some of that time to look up some YouTube videos and learn a quick and easy hairstyle that you can do or a partner can help you do in the mornings that will make you feel confident. When I was in flares, my partner offered to learn to braid my hair for me and that made me feel much better and happier – even just that he had offered. He would oftentimes paint my nails and help me do things I was too sick to do when in a flare or not up to going to get done at times. It really made me feel better, and you will never know unless you ask a friend or partner for their help. Make it fun, have a makeover day.

3. Glow from within. Treat yourself with kindness and you will exude radiance and joy.

woman in a bikini in a pool at night
Photo credit: Melissa Alcena

4. Treat yourself (nails, etc). If you are really unwell right now, this may sound like a far off idea, but it is important to aim for. This is paramount to do when you have a good day because then you will be all dolled up and not have to worry about hair and nails during bad days and still feel super beautiful. It will make you feel like your good days are extra special, too.

5. Make pleasure a priority. (This may mean putting a predominant focus on managing your pain, etc. so you can actually have a moment where you feel something that isn’t pain.)

6. Do research so you can accomplish the above goal in a way that fits you and your illness and makes you feel confident and comfortable in carrying it out. (Ex. Are there positions that would be better if you have sore joints? Or, if you have a dry mouth, what can be done to help with that?)

7. Accept that people still see you as spectacular and they probably don’t focus on your illness as a defining characteristic – they just see you for you. We (the ones with illness) may not always see ourselves this way, and assume others don’t either. This can make you feel unsexy and undesirable, so it is crucial to recognize that the people who are interested and love us genuinely often see only our best parts (they may also see the not-best parts, but they love those parts too). That’s what sexiness is about: owning all the parts and being fearless. Know your worth, and exude that fact.

8. Talk to your doctors about sex. Get advice on how to maximize the efficacy of your pain control with pain medications and physiotherapy to benefit you and your sex life. (Ex. How does the timing or scheduling of your pain meds align with when you try to have sex? Is this a factor for you?)

9. Involve your partner in a conversation (no matter how awkward it is) about your needs regarding your health (if there are any) and how to adapt or make sex easier to make you feel more comfortable in the moment when asking for things. For example, some illnesses or medications can cause dry mouth and this can make some sexual circumstances hard. It is important to speak up and discuss this beforehand rather than get caught in the moment. Talk about solutions or do your research to get advice on how to handle it.

10. Find new ways to be sexy and new things that make you feel sexy and channel your energy into developing those areas of your life. Hone your brain! Smart is sexy. Develop a new hobby. There are lots of ways to be sexy. It doesn’t have to be six-inch heels (which are hard to wear with a walker and joint pain!).

11. If you have them, glam up your assistive walking devices or tools to make you feel more confident and empowered.

12. Remember who you were before your illness, and what it feels like to be empowered by feeling sexy and loving yourself. That person and that feeling aren’t gone just because your abilities have changed or because you do things differently now. You just have to relearn the keys to that feeling and approach it differently now, just like you everything else you relearned in life post-illness. Doing that is much easier than never feeling it again.

woman in a bikini pulling on her shirt
Photo credit: Melissa Alcena

13. Above everything else, remember to love yourself no matter what and to be confident in what you do. Even if it is silly or ridiculous or clumsy, do it confidently and carry it out with grace. This confidence will attract people to you – when you doubt yourself it sends the opposite signal and others pick up on that. (Everyone doubts themselves, but try to do it few and far between, and when you do, remember everyone does it.)

14. Don’t be ashamed. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself, and be fearless about it. Have a sense of humor about what’s going on – try to lighten things up a bit if you can, but it isn’t necessary. Whatever you do, do it with confidence and do not ever be ashamed of what you need to do for your health and happiness. Let yourself have days where you aren’t the sexiest, and don’t feel bad about it. Wear sweats and leggings, don’t do your hair and don’t apologize for it. Find beauty in the moments where you don’t feel your best and love yourself anyway – you don’t need to be “on” all the time.

15. Don’t stress so much! Don’t stress about being sick. Try to laugh more. Watch a comedian on Netflix. Finally have those friends over. Get out a board game, order that pizza, and make whatever effort you can to help yourself feel beautiful. All of these things make a difference. Don’t let being sick run your life: let yourself be who you were before, and learn how to be sick and sexy at the same time.

16. Make it work for you. Where needed, do the research, and put in the work to adapt it and the necessary changes to your life.

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