When you have a chronic illness, taking care of yourself is often hard. After my diagnosis, I found it extremely difficult to find myself attractive. Part of this was because self-grooming, makeup, hair care, and hygiene felt impossible. However, with a little experience and help from loved ones, I’ve come up with a few holy grail products and tricks to share with the chronically ill community to help us all feel and look our best.
This is a basic guide of products I use as a woman with chronic illness to help keep myself looking 2 percent decent, instead of 0 percent decent. Some of these products have saved my life. On my blog, I talk about body image and self-esteem, so I decided to write an article about how to cultivate that with easy things I do on good days. These are the bare minimum steps I do on good days when my chronic illness lets me.
First, please acknowledge I have oily skin and short, curly hair cut into a pixie. I typically wear the pixie natural so I will include ways to wear your hair natural and easy ways to straighten it, because when you have a chronic illness, ease and time are crucial.
1. Jinri Hot Air Brush
A hot air brush is basically an electric hairbrush that acts as a hair dryer, straightener and brush. I use the Jinri Hot Air Brush because it is 1 inch around the barrel, which is good for short hair. All you need to do is get out of the shower, brush your hair with this, and your hair will be silky smooth like a salon blowout. Instant spoonie style! If you have longer hair, I recommend the 3-inch Revlon Hot Air Brush.
Those of you immersed in the beauty world may also be familiar with Dyson and Drybar, but those cost hundreds of dollars. Spoonies are generally short on cash with all of our medical expenses, so I want to make this list pocket-friendly.
2. Cantu Shea Butter for Natural Hair Double Combo Shampoo and Conditioner
The Cantu Shampoo and Conditioner is only for ladies with wild curls! I am a big proponent of going natural with chronic illness. It saves you time in most scenarios, but a hot air brush is great for when you need to rush out the door. As a curly-haired vixen, this is what I use on my hair every day. It’s great whether I want to use my hot air brush or wear it natural, for which I will give a tutorial below.
My Pick: Cantu Shampoo and Conditioner
3. Cantu Shea Butter for Natural Hair Leave In Conditioning Repair Cream
I always use the Cantu Shea Butter Leave-In Conditioner whether I use my Hot Air brush or not. Because I have a pixie, I use a dime’s worth on one finger and run it through my hair. This stuff is powerful! When I want to wear it natural and air-dry, I use the same amount and run it through my hair. Then I brush it while wet. Next, I take sections of my hair and twirl it up into twisted sections with my fingers to hang loose in defined locks. Crimp and shake at the roots. Then I let it air dry, and I receive perfect ringlets. Just make sure you don’t use too much — if you have chin-length hair, it’s OK to use two dimes, shoulder length, a penny. Beyond that, never use a glob unless you have beyond shoulder length hair and a coiled, dry texture.
Please note the method above requires air drying, which means if you live somewhere with long and early winters, you will have wet hair on your neck. If you live in a hot climate year round, I would recommend the natural method to an air brush unless you must have a chic blow out in order to have that spoonie beauty. This takes even less effort than an air brush as it requires no repetitive motion, however, it only works for wavy or curly hair. Straight-haired chronic illness warriors, I suggest a hot air brush if you wish.
4. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Stress Control Triple-Action Toner
When I get out of the shower, I use this Neutrogena toner on a cotton pad on a good day. A very good day. My fellow chronic illness warriors, you know how those good days can come and go randomly. It helps keep the acne under control. Now I’m no beauty superstar. I use this maybe once a day, twice a week, but it helps.
My Pick: Neutrogena Toner
5. Pan Oxyl
Pan Oxyl was recommended to me as a teenager and it’s the only thing that does anything for my acne and body acne. This is for my oily-skinned chronic illness warriors. Note the price tag on this – but it’s a pack of five Pan Oxyls, and they are really hard to find in real life. The only place I’ve been able to find them is a few CVS stores. I used to apply this with a sponge, but I recommend simply using your hands. Sponges can hide bacteria. However, if you have finger or hand pain, you can use a beauty sponge to gently scrub.
My Pick: Pan Oxyl, Pack of 5
6. Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Facial Moisturizer
The Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Moisturizer is the only moisturizer that works for my spoonie oily skin. Yes, oily skin needs a moisturizer. Now I won’t claim to be high functioning enough that I do skin care every day – this is just for good days.
My Pick: Neutrogena Moisturizer
Sit down, if you can
If you haven’t closed this article in a rage because you can’t even shower, I hope you’ve come this far. In this section, I will go over spoonie hacks to apply the previous products. Any chronic illness warrior on the quest for beauty knows it usually comes with a price — pain, a flare up, a black out — and I want to acknowledge that with some answers. Without purchasing anything, if your toilet is near a shower or a sink, sit with the lid of your toilet closed while you apply toner, moisturizer or shea butter. When you are done applying the product, wash your hands over the sink from the toilet and dry your hands before moving on to the next task. Repeat.
If there are outlets near a chair or your bed, use your hot air brush there and place a small standup mirror where you can see it. Who says you have to use hair styling products in the bathroom? It’s dangerous and frankly, I never did before I became chronically ill. If you need help brushing your teeth, consider a Sonicare electric toothbrush and a backed medical stool to use in your bathroom if it’s large enough.
If you cannot afford a stool or your bathroom is too small, try the toilet seat method to brush your teeth and spit into the bathroom sink or shower. Please note you do not have to rinse your mouth after brushing your teeth — in fact, not rinsing is better for your teeth. I too have days when it’s hard for me to get out of bed, brush my teeth, or shower. I hope I don’t sound preachy, these are just ideas for good days — days that are almost in the “normal range,” but us chronically ill folks don’t want to push it too hard and end up in a pain flare. Please go at your own speed, and I hope the spoon masters provide you with plentiful soup-sized spoons to try these tips!
Now please remember: you are not who you look like. Another simple reminder: Looking good can take too many spoons. Exercise caution and prioritize when needed. Remember that you are not your body — but you might sometimes like to be pampered.