A Sick Artist's Guide to Fabulous

Me on a Fabulous Day
As many of you know, I have battled an illness called Lyme Disease. It has been a very difficult journey deal with it. But one of the things people tell me often is this: You don't look sick.

No, I don't. Why? Because I refuse to let my illness define me. Instead, I define myself by my ability to be fabulous despite how I feel on any given day. The fact is 100% of your ability to deal with illness is your mindset. Whether you are facing a chronic or terminal illness or even a simple cold, you will fair a lot better if you play a little psychology on yourself.

My illness is not my identity. Neither is yours. Illness is a side effect of being alive. And I find that I am generally more positive and optimistic if I don't look sick when I look in the mirror. Granted I am not a makeup artist or a fashionista. This picture here should show you my style is more "careless quirky" or "artsy librarian" than "chic," for example. But here are a few things I've learned:

1.  Money is not the answer. Save your dollars for your medications. If you are like me, you've likely spent a portion of your illness with little or no income. Give yourself $10 to spend on beauty products a month. Then make eBay your friend and search for trial sizes. A lot of times you will find brand name products this way at low cost with free shipping. I also buy N.Y.C., L.A. Colors and other inexpensive makeup brands to experiment with rather than blowing a lot of money on a bunch of things I may not like later.

2.  Get comfortable with vitamins. Vitamin B+ complex and E are great for skin health. I also take Primrose oil supplements which cut down on the rashes and acne my condition caused. Visit your local health food store and start doing some research about which vitamins are best for you.

3. Know your undertones and avoid them. Illness brings a sick parlor to the skin. Pale blues, greens, yellows, and grays are usually the undertones of light to dark skin. Avoid wearing the color of your undertone because it will make you look worse.

4.  A great moisturizer is the foundation of a better looking you. It is also a necessary purchase, not a splurge. Illness often creates dry skin, especially on the face, hands, and feet. Medication can also cause additional dryness, cracking and even acne. My suggestions: Lumene, Lubraderm, L'occitane, and coconut oil. And before your eyebrows disappear into your hairline over some of those prices, remember I shop on eBay for samples!

5.  A great primer is the next step of that better looking you. Illness creates premature wrinkles and little fissures in your skin. I use Smashmouth primer on problem areas. A trial size container will last me three months because I don't use it on my whole face.

6.  Black is not always flattering. If you are sick, too much black makeup will make you appear vampire pale or just worn out. Exchange black eyeliner, brow pencils and mascara for colors like brown or navy. The softer colors will reflect better in the light. The same rule applies for black attire. The paler you are, the more black clothing will highlight your illness. I also avoid liner on my lower eyelid as this can make dark circles look worse.

7.  Fix your beauty weak spot first. The circles beneath my eyes require 3 different types of foundation. Once I started putting makeup on them, the comments about how sick I look stopped on Day 1. So think about the feature most people comment on during your sick days. Use this as your first spot to experiment on with makeup.

8.  Be wild. On my sickest days, my makeup and outfits are the most elaborate. I will use a good bit of color and have fun. Even if I can make it no further than my couch, the effort makes a difference in my attitude and those who interact with me.

9.  Shimmer and shine. Another great distraction is to use makeup that has a bit of shimmer to it or shine. The reflection of light on makeup like this can mask the parlor or tiredness your face may have on the regular. I use shimmering lip gloss by Burt's Bees because I can no longer wear lipstick as my lips are too dry from medications. Work with what you've got.

10. Remember the hair rule of 3. If you dye your hair, color it no more than 3 shades lighter or darker than your natural color. Sick hair often can't take harsh chemicals, so don't traumatize your hair more than it is already. I find that African Pride, Creme of Nature, Tresemme, Pantene, VO5 extra body, coconut oil and carrot oil are the best for me. Also don't be ashamed to buy Rogaine. That's how I got my hair back.

11. Show your roots. If your hair falls out like mine did twice, you may have to go purchase a wig. Two-tone wigs are great because it looks like the hair is growing out from a color you dyed it, which makes people less likely to think it's not your own hair. You can also get a wig in the same shade as your own hair for the same purpose. But if colorful hair is your thing, do that, too! I had a blond short wig for days I felt particularly feisty.

11.  Patterns are your friend. Wear clothing with funky patterns that make you smile. Go retro. Be glam. If you can afford it, give yourself $10 a month to visit a local thrift shop like Goodwill and find an outfit that makes you feel groovy. Before I was sick, I wore clothes mostly for functionality. Now I wear clothes I really like because I've got nothing to lose. Neither do you.

12.  Take unusual colors for a spin. Sick people have odd coloring. That's those pesky undertones coming into play again. Experiment with colors that you didn't wear before your illness. I used to avoid green, purple, and red. Guess what? Those three colors are the ones that make me look the most healthy now. So try on a bunch of stuff you normally wouldn't go for and see what happens.

13.  When in doubt, watch Youtube. There are so many wonderful tutorials you can watch to give you tips on how to perfect your look. I credit my journey into this unknown world of makeup to my hero Talia Castellano, a 13-year-old cancer patient who passed away in 2013. Talia and her family gave so many of us the courage to look fabulous while fighting impossible illnesses. Her videos taught me how to fix my eyes, for instance.

14. Beauty comes in all sizes. Your medications will make you gain or lose weight. So will your condition. I have been a size 4, a size 18 and all the sizes in between. Guess what? Fabulous has no dress size. It just is. So be fabulous, stay fabulous and exude fabulous regardless of what size you happen to be.

15. Be fashionable about your medical equipment. At several points during the year, I have to use a cane. So I get funky canes and umbrellas so that it's a style accessory. Same goes for the braces and compression attire I also wear. I have met people who even get funky designs for their wheelchairs and oxygen tanks. Dressing this stuff up isn't going to change the fact that you have to use any of it. But it may just alter your attitude about having to do so.

The point of all of this is just to feel beautiful in the skin you're in. And don't let anybody body shame you into wearing any look you don't feel comfortable wearing. After 9 years on this journey, I feel better hearing a "you don't look sick" than a "you look awful."

Be you.
Light and Love on your path.

Respectfully, 
O.M.

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