Why Makeup Can Be Valuable for Those With Chronic Illness


I will fully admit to being a closet fashionista. But at just over six feet tall, I can’t really indulge in this particular passion, nor would I necessarily want to. Though I love the modern styles, I do not love the idea of magazines setting standards women can’t fit into. Except when it comes to makeup. I love the playfulness and creativity of makeup! And when you live with a chronic illness, there are times when makeup can be more helpful than any drug.

You see, makeup may seem frivolous to many people, but when you live every day battling illness and pain, your idea of self can become skewed. It’s like you develop two separate identities. The “you” who hurts and is sick, and the “you” who is not. But because most of us are symptomatic more often, we tend to identify with the chronically ill part of ourselves more easily. And that can cause us to lose a big part of ourselves. The confidence and self-esteem that came with the ease of our lives before we became sick. That sense of self is eroded every time we have to fight just to get through the day or struggle to complete a simple task such as taking a shower. But this is where the concept of makeup being a shallow, narcissistic product can be challenged.

How many times have any of you reading this gotten up feeling like a train ran you over and dragged you to the next town? And when you see yourself in the mirror that’s exactly what it looks like? Now imagine fighting an illness that relentlessly attacks your own body and causes daily pain. What will you look like then? Dull, tired skin and dark circles? And that’s aside from any rashes the disease itself may cause. What a great confidence booster after struggling just to remain standing.

Are you seeing where I’m going with all this? While I fully understand that the act of utilizing makeup for some is exhausting – been there – I am suggesting that the overall mental boost it can give is well worth it. Makeup can cover our lack of sleep. It can hide a butterfly rash. It can even fill in the creases that our pain faces have caused. Sure, laugh lines are sexy. Grimace ditches? Not so much.

So this has become another area where I have become a collector. I collect colors. I collect brushes. I collect articles and I collect techniques. Yeah, I know, a woman over 50 should not wear glittery eye shadow. Blah, blah, blah. I love my glittery copper shadow! I also love my plum colored eyeliner and mascara. I watch makeover shows and makeup competitions all the time. I use white highlighter tricks I learned on reality TV. My eyes are my best feature so I play with them all the time. Pretty eyes make me feel pretty. They make me forget the purple circles and puffy bags under the makeup. Or at least they allow me to believe people are looking at the new green-gold shadow I’m trying instead.

The caveat to all this has been my learning curve. I’d be fooling myself and shortchanging readers if I didn’t mention the issues I’ve encountered. I wear full face makeup when I go out. I react to sunlight so I protect my entire face. But I also have very sensitive skin. (Maybe autoimmune-related, I don’t know.) So in wearing full face makeup, it has taken much trial and error finding brands that do not cause reactions to my skin and especially my eyes. I now look for as much all natural as possible.

I also use SPF 15 or 30 everything. Even lip gloss and lipstick if I can find it. I have Sjogren’s and my lips crack and peel. I will mix moisturizer with my makeup base as I use cover stick and powder too. I have even created my own eyeliner with hypoallergenic eyeshadow and Neosporin gel to prevent infections.

It took a long time to learn what blush colors match my skin when I rash out, but I always carry that with me to fill in between a rash if it occurs. I will occasionally use lip gloss on my cheeks for a more natural look. It’s easier to find with natural ingredients and SPF. I’ve mixed my own colors of glosses and lipsticks too. But mostly, once everything has been proven, I play.

So I encourage all of you to play. You don’t need to wear a full face of makeup like I do. I have my own reasons for doing so. But play. Indulge. Find a look that is totally you and perfect it so you can do it easily. Looking good gives a boost and may be the tipping point between staying in or getting out. It was for me this morning. And I know we all need to get out a lot more than we do!


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