It often feels like lupus and beauty do not go hand in hand. Before I was diagnosed I was rather okay with my physical appearance. Never 100% happy, always finding faults, but I felt like I could talk to guys with confidence and enjoy taking a selfie from time to time (priorities…)
All that changed when I was put on a lupie’s worst enemy – steroids. You gain weight on your belly and back, but most annoyingly your face. I’ve always had a wide face, but it became super wide. I couldn’t, and still can’t, fully recognise my face in the mirror and photos, and I wonder if it will ever go completely back to normal.
Not to mention the other things – what I thought were rosy cheeks turned out to be the butterfly rash, and so when people comment on my red cheeks now I know it’s not a cute feature but my skin being attacked by my immune system. Not so cute.
And what I thought was a normal amount of hair to fall out, well that turned out to be not so normal either. I had noticed my hair was thinning, and now this is a feature that comes and goes. Currently my hair is the thinnest I’ve known it to be. And it used to be so thick my ballet teacher would complain how it wouldn’t easily go into a bun.
Even the necessity to protect myself from the sun makes me self conscious about my pale skin – whereas before I took pride in having long legs now I don’t like to flaunt them in a skirt (well, it is winter at the moment).
So, at 22 it sometimes feels like my best looking days are behind me, and that lupus has taken from me what little self-confidence I had. Not great when you’re still starting out in life, meeting new people, and determined to have fun.
It seems daft to place so much importance on looks, but there’s no denying everyone thinks about it, what they like, what they would change. Even though I know I just have to be patient and wait step by step for my steroid dosage to be reduced, and it already has, it’s no fun knowing that a sudden flare up can take all that away again.
In the meantime, I’ve experimented with different ways to help give my confidence a boost. Cheap methods, because not all of us are Gwyneth Paltrow and her bizarre methods.
Aloe Vera Juice
Not the drink you can buy on the go, but the juice you can have a tablespoon of or add to water. Three times a day, it’s mainly used to help the digestive system but I read that it also works with thickening hair, so I first tried in in the summer and it really seemed to help. And a boost to the digestive system I don’t think can harm a lupie.
Olive Oil/Coconut Oil
Also helps with frizz, which my hair has never recovered from, but using one or the other as a heated hair mask before washing can help with the overall quality of your hair. Also great for cooking with.
A friend recommended to me nettle tea to also help with my kidney problems (now in total remission!), but I dare say any herbal tea (white is the healthiest) can help with all sorts of problems, including fatigue and acne. Much better than coffee, and also very comforting if you’re having a bad day.
To help counteract the redness of the butterfly rash, a green primer is best for this. I’ve started wearing more make up since my diagnosis in an attempt to feel pretty, but now I’m starting to reduce the days I go for a full face, because I’ve always been lazy. It’s good, however, for when I want to play around with make up.
I bought one in the belief that it would reduce the appearance of a moon face. It hasn’t really, but that might just be because I’m terrible at applying make up. So this is not a definite recommendation, but I feel that playing and experimenting with make up can help with confidence, because like picking an outfit – make up should be fun.
Face Cream with SPF
SO, SO important when sun sensitivity is an issue/medication increases risk of skin cancer, but a decent face cream is a must have for anyone. The average person can get away with a low SPF – 15 maybe, but everyone should use one to avoid too many wrinkles. I use SPF 30 to keep my skin soft and protected.
A decent haircut by a good hairdresser can help lessen the obvious moon face, and deal with hair loss. Plus a new hair cut will make anyone feel good about themselves. I always say I only have two good hair days a year – the days I get it cut.
TREAT YO SELF
If you’re feeling down, just think “fuck it” and do whatever makes you happy – be it a new outfit, cake, or a stiff drink. The best way to get over self conscious days is to not obsess, instead distract yourself.
But of course, its always important to remind yourself that lupus does not take away any of your awesomeness. It can feel like it sometimes, whether it’s your looks, independence, identity etc, but it never fully will. Underneath all that primer, oil and medication, the real you never goes. Flaunt that part of you, and those who matter won’t care if your face is poofy. Mainly you.