Stephy Loves…

When I Can’t Afford To Look Sick

Let’s face it, no matter how sick you are, there are going to be times when you have to pass for healthy. Whether it’s for work, an interview, visiting people whose comments you really don’t want, or any other life event that will go more smoothly without people noticing how awful you feel, sometimes it’s just in your best interests. In my own case, I work on a team of mostly women, and there are some people on the team who have opinions about everyone and no shame about spreading them. So I spend a lot of time hiding how awful I feel, because it’s not worth feeding the trolls. I have found that if I’m showing my illness in any way other than the limp and sometimes the cane (I usually try to leave it in my car, because I’m concerned about appearing unable to do the job), it’s in specific ways, so I have a few tricks I use to work around them. Note: starred links are affiliate links, which allow me to afford to keep the blog running, but everything recommended here is something I actually use.

Problem: I didn’t have the spoons to wash my hair before work.
With the brightly colored hair, I don’t wash it but about twice a week anyway. In between, I wear a plastic shower cap every time I shower, to make the dye last longer. Between the weight of my hair and the porosity of hair that has been bleached, it takes forever to dry, and sometimes I stretch it a little farther between washes than I should. There aren’t always enough spoons at the end of the day to spend an hour washing, drying, and attempting to tame my hair for the next day. Dry shampoo only goes so far, so I’ve learned to get really comfortable with head scarves. When it’s long enough (it’s currently not, due to a godawful hack job haircut I got last week–so many regrets!), I throw it into the scarf roll that Tasha Moss demonstrated a few years back at By Gum, By Golly, though I tie my scarf at the back so the knot doesn’t show. Otherwise, I take a big, bright square scarf, fold it diagonally, and tie it in a way that covers the whole thing. With a pair of funky, vintage-inspired earrings, either option will look more “retro chic” than “too tired to wash it.” What’s really fun is when the bright knit prints end up in the remnant bin at work for 50-75% off, because knits don’t fray. So if I can find a yard of printed knit as a remnant and cut the excess width to make a 36×36 square, there’s a scarf right there.

Problem: My eyes look sunken.
Everybody knows about covering up dark circles with concealer, but most people miss that hollow at the inner corner of the eye, which can also look dark and sunken. To brighten that up, I take a concealer that’s a little more yellow than my natural color, dab it lightly, and blend. Then I take a little bit of light colored eyeliner at the corner of the eye to open up the look of my eyes–white if my eyes themselves look okay, or a very pale blue or gray like the ones in NYX’s Faux Whites eye pencil collection if I need to cancel out some redness. Also, these are the days when I take the extra step to curl my lashes, which I normally can’t be bothered with.

Problem: My skin tone looks dull and washed out.
The ways I address this really depend on how much time I have and how bad it looks. If I’ve got an hour or two before I have to start getting ready to go, I grab a good brightening sheet mask. If it’s really bad, I go for Karuna Antioxidant+ Mask ($8, Amazon*). That’s the most expensive mask in my arsenal, so I only use it when I need to pull out the big guns. If the boost I need isn’t quite that extreme, I go for something like Leaders Vita Brightening Mask, which is much more reasonably priced but still gives me the hydration and brightening that I need ($24.99 for 10, Amazon*).

If I am pressed for time and need to hide the dullness, there are a couple of little tweaks to my makeup that I use to make my skin appear brighter than it is, starting with a primer. If my skin texture needs as much help as my tone, I use a silicone based primer with a lavender tint to correct the color and make it appear smoother. Smashbox makes the most famous one, but it’s expensive for that tiny little tube! Instead, I go for NYX Studio Perfect Primer in Lavender, for a third of the price. If the texture is fine, I use a water based formula like Almay Smart Shade*, which color corrects without being as heavy or as potentially pore-clogging as the silicone.  I also swap out my usual creamy blush for a shimmery formula, because people associate glowing skin with being healthy. One I have really liked lately is Nars The Multiple in Orgasm, but the NYX Bright Idea sticks go on the same way and are so much more affordable. (I love a stick blush! Saves time and spoons, and it’s easier to see where you put it to blend.) A highlighter across the tops of the cheekbones also helps, but since it’s been so hard to find a shade that actually shows up on my fair skin, I haven’t made that a regular part of my routine. I use a shimmery lip color instead of my usual matte liquid, in shades of pink or red–I have so many that I couldn’t pick a favorite, but the important thing is saving the shades that read as brown or gray for days when I don’t already look washed out.

Problem: I’m so fatigued that my clothes feel heavy.
At this point, stretch knit is my friend, especially if it has some rayon in it. I have a rayon/spandex blend maxi skirt that I got at Target a few years ago that sees a lot of wear for exactly this reason. I also have a dress I got at the New York and Company outlet that is a knee length stretch knit, WITH POCKETS!, and looks appropriate for a range of professional environments. I really loved the moment that palazzo pants had recently, because those are as comfy as pajamas but can easily be dressed up. And if you’re going to be in a super-casual situation but still need to cover up the whole “feel like death” issue, there is nothing wrong with leggings and a tunic, as long as they fit properly and the tunic comes down past your butt, to avoid the “I woke up in this outfit” look. If you look for soft, stretchy fabrics when buying your clothes, you can absolutely dress nicely and still be as comfortable as your body is able to be. I will caution, though, that for me, if something is too baggy a fit, that can be as uncomfortable as if it’s too tight, so make sure you’re buying your actual size.

No one is likely to mistake me for someone without health issues, because even on days when I don’t need the cane, the limp is hard to miss. However, these tricks make me feel more confident in the body I have, and I hope they can help others.


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