Lipstick & Luck: Feeling Fabulous with Rheumatoid Autoimmune Disease
If we try, will we feel fabulous with Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Feeling and looking fabulous with RA sells well, but how much can lipstick help? Most people living with Rheumatoid Arthritis have felt the sting of someone suggesting we don’t need to be as sick if we would only try _____. Hearing this can seem harsh, especially to those whom medications don’t help much. We feel like we’re doing all we can.
Many of us have some family or doctors who think RA is an exaggeration or friends and neighbors who don’t help much. It can sting to be compared to another person living with RA. How To Look And Feel Beautiful With Autoimmune Disease is a typical example of how RA is portrayed.
“You could feel fabulous today and horrible tomorrow,” YouBeauty reader Jane says about RA. When a bad day strikes, she’ll stay in bed. But most of the time, she puts her best face forward, even if she’s swollen and in pain. I make a point of looking my the best,” she says. “I always feel better when I put on my red lipstick.” (Grammar error in original.)
It’s luck, not lipstick
I’m glad Jane has days when she feels fabulous, but the article implies that’s a common experience. I know of a few patients who can still wear high heels – and others who daily use wheelchairs or crutches – and every level in between. This causes a lot of confusion and ridiculous assertions. Even some doctors say that biologics work on everyone or that an antidepressant works just as well. People with such views push books, videos, or vitamins every day.
Integrative Health Expert Jim Nicolai, M.D. agrees — you could lift your spirits with something as small as finding a really good set of cosmetics. “If there’s something you feel really good about and it makes you feel good, I promote it as a health strategy,” Dr. Nicolai says about working with patients at the Dr. Andrew Weil Integrative Wellness Program at the Miraval Spa in Tuscon, Arizona.
Remission or mild RA that flares periodically is the reality of some. But it’s not lipstick that makes it so – it’s most likely genetics. I know many people with severe RA and a good attitude – it’s not their fault. Lipstick is great; it’s just not much of a “health strategy” for a serious illness like RA. These articles might confuse people that mental strategies can fight RA: “Even on the ugly days, there are ways to try syncing your body and mind, so you start feeling as good as you look.”
3 Reasons to be wary of fabulous articles
For Jane: “when a bad day strikes, she’ll stay in bed.” But one can’t spend every day in bed; what if the bad days just continue? What if someone is physically incapable of applying makeup? Who can judge what is another person’s “best”? The article mentioned that “some people experience chronic, debilitating symptoms,” but that’s followed by a long article about those who “have the occasional flareup.”
- We mustn’t ignore the fact that Rheumatoid disease is not the same in every patient or in the same patient over time.
- We can’t assume an emotional cause. While many RA patients do get depressed, the majority do not have emotional problems. Moreover, the destructive results of the disease are not attitude related.
- I don’t think we should ever imply that anything about RA symptoms is a lifestyle choice.
Postblog: In addition to cosmetics, this article promoted meditation, attitude, and exercise as methods to improve RA – all good things. I realize people grow tired of feeling that they or their illness are invisible so they may respond enthusiastically to any article about it. However, I worry that it can do more harm than good to present lipstick as a “health strategy.” Most RA patients I know fight RA with plenty of grace and little complaining. Let’s be sure never to imply that their symptoms are their own fault or that they could feel better if they just tried harder.
- 20 Questions RA Patients Should Ask a Doctor
- Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis Versus Mild Rheumatoid Arthritis
- 3 Reasons Why the Public Image of RA Is So Rosy
47 thoughts on “Lipstick & Luck: Feeling Fabulous with Rheumatoid Autoimmune Disease”
You go, girl! I totally agree with you!
totally agree with the Warrior, i try to make an effort with dress-up friday when i wear make-up and not my ratty old jogging bottoms, we just do the best we can
So many of the articles in the media are like this. I know they mean well. They are offering small things that you can do that might help relieve pain and lift depression caused by chronic pain – and we all know that chronic pain can cause depression. But they fail at basic education about the disease. I have friends who read these articles who then try to encourage me to take up a tia chi class or something while I am still fighting to get my disease under enough control to feel well enough to have the energy for that. I would love to see an article that really explains the pain and that long road that so many travel. Some people get remission but so many don’t and for so many the disease continues to progress and cause disability and pain.
Yes! Totally agree…Little things can help some, but to imply that’s all it takes to make it ‘all better’ is so misguided and ignorant.
Once again your hitting the nail on the head.. Iam at one with this passage.
Lipstick cannot make me feel better.. it just makes my lips redder.
Kelly I just love how you validate us with this disease!!
Other day….repeatedly I told this group who voted me to be their representative, involving monthly and twice yearly travels of 1 to 5 hour duration, there may come a day that I worsen and may not be able to fulfill the 3 year commitment. The time came about 3 months ago…finally had to call a member of the group (had planned to be at a meeting and do this but was unable to drive that week)and tell her I had to resign…her response…”oh!! all that laying in bed hasn’t helped??!?!!”…in order for me to not get angry and stressed, I just chuckled to myself in disbelief!
Amazes me the lack of knowledge on how this is a chronic, debilitating disease. I took a minute to educate her on such, that’s all the energy I had to spend…
Have a great day!
I do the same thing, Marianne: Laugh so I won’t cry or shout. Good for you for telling them the truth and then letting it go as soon as possible.
While RA is a serious problem in my daily life, a dab of lipstick is NOT a way to make me feel better. It’s true that having a positive attitude helps, but mostly, I paste on my “smiley face”, because no one will EVER believe how rotten I feel or how much effort it took to even get up and dressed. I’ll also wear bright colors as a “mask”.
If someone were to actually ask me what it’s like to have RA, they would tire quickly of my list of aches, pains and fatigue. That’s probably why many of us “fake” our well-being in public and later at home pay, for our efforts. It may contribute to our invisible-ness, but as the old adage says, walk a mile in my shoes. . .no one ever offers.
If they had to walk a mile in our shoes, maybe they’d see that we CAN’T walk a mile. And maybe they’d finally understand why.
I have tried dressing up (sans the heels – couldn’t wear the PRE-RA!!), and the make-up thing – if it were only that simple. Doing those things doesn’t erase the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual pain that we can feel with this disease! Because people see that I work full time (thankfully), they think – oh, what pain! I do work because I HAVE to right now; I know the time for filing for SSDI is in my future – I’m just hoping not too soon! But for me, this is a necessity; also I work in health care, and for me, helping those who are sick/ill at the moment, gives me a sense of fulfillment. I see many others less fortunate than I. I simply do my best to help them out, which makes me feel good in the end. If/when I cannot do that and earn a living that way, I see volunteering like that somehow!!
I agree with Leslie above that education is the key – which is what you so wonderfully do here at RAWarrior, Kelly!!
Sure and I’ll put that size 8 dress on I used to look great in…wait a minute, where did all this extra belly come from???
Now that’s depressing, don’t think lipstick is going to make me feel better after seeing that. Any more than it’s going to make my feet and hands feel better or take pain away so I can walk like a normal person again.
You could not have been any more informative or direct if I threw the lipstick at you *wink*. I am medicine resistant to this point and I have been physically suffering for over 5 months now while my doctor aggressively tries to find a medium at least, which will work on me. I have had people continously not GET IT… it’s not my attitude. I have a good attitude. Venting is good for me. Go to my blog, dump my trash and leave it there and drive way. I just feel if I hold all this in, I will implode at some point. If it was as simple as a new haircut, a smile or a pretty pink lipstick, I’d be at the beauty shop now. Instead, I’m in a warm home when it’s 22 degree’s outside in fear of Rhynauds or worse yet, frozen joints. GREAT ARTICLE.
I’m so sorry you are a non-responder. It is an especially lonely place when we have friends who get better with medicine – we are gllad they do, but we are left alone at square one. And it’s not attitude – I believe you because I’m the most optimistic person I know. I hope it helps me get better somehow. It does help me not quit while it’s so bad – I know that.
I also love your “trash” analogy. To. The. Point.
I can’t believe that someone would really think that putting on lipstick would help us with RA feel better. You have got to be kidding me. Somedays I can’t even hold a toothbrush to brush my teeth. I think this does a great dis-service to us that have RA. It tells everyone around us if we just try harder to look nice that we will feel better. No amount of lipstick, mascara,blush or earrings is going take the pain out of my joints. Wish it were that easy. I am sorry that the public may read this and think that the RA pain in our heads and just a little lipstick is what we need.
You summed it up perfectly. Sure, a dose of our “favorite things” can temporarily elevate the spirits, but to tout that as a remedy is hog wash. Thanks for your comment.
I usually never comment on blogs, but I felt compelled to do so on this one because I’ve written on this topic before and I have a slightly differing opinion.
I always acknowledge the varying levels of disability in RA and similar conditions and I hate when articles downplay the severity of RA or when they generalize, but, on the other hand, I also advocate looking one’s best to give a boost of confidence or self-esteem that chronic illness and disability has stolen from us. It’s nice to feel pretty amidst a very ugly disease that often tries its darndest to rob us of our looks. So, I say “yes!” to throwing on lipstick, a stunning coat, fabulous pair of earrings or a killer scarf to make oneself feel fabulous…..even if that feeling is only mental/emotional and not physical.
I very rarely if EVER feel “fabulous” physically but I still usually make sure when going out in public that I at least look my best in order to portray the image that I want. The last thing I want is to look as bad as I feel. It’s bad enough having to give up your independence and freedom, your health and quality of life, your thin figure and your hair, along with your heels – if makeup or nice clothes make us feel better, then good – we deserve it!
So, I see no harm in these articles as long as they don’t blatantly generalize, which, I don’t think most do. I think what we see is often what we look for, and what we hear is just the same, so it’s all about how the reader takes it.
I also do not in any way think that these articles imply that putting on lipstick somehow takes away physical pain or cures us, and so I do not think that they are harmful or irresponsible, but rather encouraging us all to be our best self. Isn’t that what life is all about?
However, as you’ve alluded to before, there is a fine line between being positive and still being real. So, I’ll be the first to say that, while I enjoy looking good and appreciate any articles offering tips on how to feel pretty and look my best, I also am all too aware that there are many days where I would laugh in your face if you wanted me to style my hair, put on makeup, or, well, even get dressed. An interesting topic! 🙂 And as I always say, it’s not a contest or competition, there are not set rules, regulations or boundaries — we all just must live our life as best we can and cope how we may 🙂
Just my opinion and not trying to offend anyone. As always, Kelly, very nicely done. You’re a great writer and a great advocate for us all.
I agree, it really stings when someone will say that they know someone with RA and “she jogs every day” or “she gets by with just some ibuprofen” or “he takes cod liver oil and it helps him”. The day I was diagnosed a friend said “I know someone and they just take Celebrex, you’ll be fine”. All these things have been said to me and you bet it stings! The implications are that RA is not serious, I am exaggerating and don’t want to get better so obviously I need to be compared to someone else that has the same disease so I will see the light. Mild RA and severe RA can be like the difference between a sweet bell pepper and a habanero hot pepper. Although these articles don’t mean harm they do downplay the seriousness of this disease and it’s not like this type of article is a rarity, quite to the contrary!
Hi Lisa. It does sting if you hear that and you are not able & you’re trying to get that point across. What a great word picture with the peppers – that is the dis-connect I think! Great point!
I get so tired of people saying, “but you look great!” I’m grateful for the compliment, but the comment often implies that it’s in my head–if I feel lousy, I should look lousy. Let’s face it, every single publication for women talks about looking your best…big deal. Can you imagine someone responding to a recent diagnosis of cancer with, “but you look great!”? “Some nice lipstick will lessen the impact of chemotherapy…put your best face forward.” I don’t think so. Thanks for your articles–I don’t feel so alone anymore!
Great point, Donna. It would not be said about cancer, MS, or other diseases because people know what they are: diseases. It would be insulting to say that to sick people.
Just taking a shower and putting on clean pajamas makes me feel great when I’m not doing well. Lipstick doesn’t.
I’m with you. Just getting a bath or shower & getting into clean PJ’s is a major accomplishment on most days. That completely exhausts me. Make up is reserved for special family events & them my daughter usually does my hair & make up. As usual Kelly your right on target with this article.
Imagine someone writing this same story about cancer. Or AIDS. Advocating red lipstick as a “health strategy?” He or she would be vilified as irresponsible & minimizing! Or making a mockery of a very serious battle! Even worse? If it came at a time when the general public & patients alike are starved for substantive coverage by the media about the realities of the illness. Sadly this IS the current status for RA/RAD (Rheumatoid Autoimmune Disease).
What also bothers me about this article is its brevity, and thus frivolity. It brushes the surface of a highly nuanced subject and could have used a lot more fleshing out to avoid being cliched and to be more comprehensive and inclusive.
None of the suggestions are inherently bad coping strategies. But the corollary to crediting a positive attitude with being able to help improve disease symptoms is that one’s increased disease severity must be caused by a negative attitude. That is bad medicine, hearkening back to when women were commonly labelled “hysterical” in place of a legitimate medical diagnosis.
This corollary also provides a fallback position whenever modern medicine fails to successfully treat all patients. We seek to find a reason why one patient improves and another does not. We seek to control what we cannot. Placing the credit on our own actions allows us to preserve the illusion that we have control – rather than the genetic lotto that can mean the difference between achieving remission or living with severe RAD.
Shannon, You have hit the Nail. On. The. Head! The whole feeling that the article gives is to minimize the seriousness of the disease. Anyone who is facing a disease that has changed their life over night and leaves them facing possible disability and constantly fighting pain and limited mobility doesn’t want their battle to be minimized into a cosmetic ad. Yes, you can feel better psychologically if you look better, but this is certainly not a health strategy. I want articles that make people understand this disease not articles that propagate the myths.
Hrm. Parts of it I liked, but every time, just when they had me liking the article for telling it as it is, they’d lead into suggestions that came pretty close to recommending a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell approach to living with autoimmune disease. Liked half, but the other half was so wonky it overshadowed the good parts.
I agree with you wholeheartedly
How stupid is that guy. Makeup never helped me feel better. I still hurt with or without it. That is.,if i can get it on! When will people that dont have this terrible torturous diesease, quit speaking for us? The clueless carry on and we March on! You gave us a forum to display our strengths! Thanks Kelly
I agree with you, Kelly. We have an invisible illness, and THAT is the best coverage we can get?? From meeting different people with RA, I have realized how different we all are. Why does the media lump us into 1 category? I feel like even my doctor does the same thing- forgets that pain is subjective and I can only handle what I can handle. Not only that, but many factors affect HOW I handle my pain- my exhaustion!! Work!! Stress!!…I personally do my hair and put on my make-up for work, and it wears me out before my day even starts. My pink lipstick doesn’t make me feel better, but serves as a “cover” so my students don’t see how my RA is affecting me…however, it doesn’t matter. I think I still look sick, and exhausted right through the make-up and lipstick!!
Im glad they think everyone has the day available to just stay in bed if it is a bad day. Not everyone is independently wealthy. If it isnt Saturday or Sunday, staying in bed all day doesn’t go over well with ones boss. I don’t know about the rest of you, but i get up out of bed when i can finally move & at that point I am out the door to be at work on time. I don’t have the energy to mess with the other stuff, I am lucky to get a brush thru my hair most of the time!!! 🙂
I don’t think I have had a marvelous day since the RA began. Yes, I have some days when I feel better; but marvelous or wonderful — no.
Me too, Pat B., me too.
Thank you for writing this. Through horrific breakouts from steroids, methotrexate etc. and sun damage from the skin sensitivity caused by the meds, I have constantly had to “load up” on cosmetics to feel like I appeared semi-normal in public and the workplace. It never made me feel better when, during my worst flares, I would have to get up early every morning to try to cover up severe blemishes so that I would be less judged at work and walking (limping) on the streets. It made me feel worse – more stressed – more ashamed – like a prisoner in a mask. It is bad enough to deal with the “invisible” pain, but the physical/external manifestations that get you strange looks when NO ONE understands this disease make it all the more painful. Education and medical advances are the answer…not cosmetics….
Nicole, I too am being sun damaged from the meds. I love being outdoors when the weather is nice but now the sun just tans me within minutes. Luckily I don’t burn. I was leaving a store the other day and a woman walking by me to go into the store commented on the fact that I must have been on a long vacation because I am so tanned. I thought to myself that I would gladly give up this tan, the medication side effects, etc. to have my life back. Instead, I just smiled and nodded in agreement.
Agree totally Kelly! Lipstick what is that? For the past two years I have struggled to even walk at times. The only time i have felt reasonably normal is 3 months whe Humira was working, then it stopped working and nothing has worked since except steroids. I can count on my right hand the number of times I have put even lip gloss on! Now I am all for trying to look,my best, but people just do NOT understand the totaly devastation of this disease. Foe me? I am in survival mode, and one does not even think of lipstick when they re just trying to, survive!
Whoops..i meant to type “For Me” ….fumble fingers!
Great article! I’m still new in dealing with RA (just diagnosed in May 2012), and have found that “putting on lipstick” (and makeup in general) makes me feel better. At least, on the inside. I am going through issues at work about me being out because of the RA. Just because I’m “made up” does NOT mean that I feel great. I am simply trying to make it to work, trying to earn money, trying to survive day by day. If they only knew how much I ache in my knees, my wrists, my back, my feet/ankles, and wherever it feels like hurting on any particular day . . . if only they knew.
((((((((((HUGS)))))))))) to all of my fellow RA’ers out there. God bless you all. May you find comfort of some kind to make it through the day.
We all have one thing in common with RAD, we all can agree on the fact that it is painful, and we can say with experience that you really can be sick and tired at the same time. RAD changes your life and the life of your family members. As individuals we have to find what works best for us while we are learning to live with it. My heart goes out to my RAD friends who have to get up and go to work daily and care for their little ones. I don’t work on a job, nor do I have little ones who require more of me. I just got brave enough to continue my college education however, my classes will be online until I gain the confidence to manuever around campus with my cane and possibly having to purchase a portable scooter for those classes I may not have a choice but to go inside the classroom. I can’t wear high heeled shoes, there’s times when I don’t feel like applying my makeup or taking a shower, I don’t exercise like I would like, my immune systems is working aganist me, and I rely on my family’s support. RAD is unpredictable, I was doing so well a few months until March, it’s like I started all over again, the meds made me sick, I was fatigue, I was diagnosed with Tinnitus (constant ringing in ear) due to affects of meds (Methotrexate). As I speak, I recently was diagnosed with Shingles and taking two different types of antibiotics for a total of 14 days and ofter meds to attack the Shingles virus. So now I can’t take Methotrexate at all until off antibiotics. I haven’t been able to put on make-up because the rash is in my face underneath my eye. I know you didn’t ask for all of this but RAD is teaching me something all the time and I’m trying to learn how to live my life to the full in the midst of it!
I cant even begin to tell you how much this article hits home … some days I want to crawl under a rock … lipstick … no … doesnt work for me … but the worse is the people who tell me all the things you stated in your article … in a sense you can work through it … I love my RA Dr … he sits and listens and tries to help me with whatever I am feeling …. But I have another Dr who dismisses me sometimes and some family and friends who do that also … I dont tell them when its really bad … they would simply roll their eyes … its not fun being judged … but I agree that each person is different .. I am having difficulty in wanting to agree to particular meds because of their side effects yet but many will say well it works for me .. yeah ? .. well good you dont have the same history my family has … makes me angry
I’m just another person recently diagnosed with RA, February 2012. I am on methotrexate and trying my second biological, didn’t tolerate Enbrel. Dealing with fatigue and pain in many joints but still able to push through and do most things. I do get dressed up and put make-up on to go out hoping it will make me feel better, as many of my well-intentioned friends suggest. Most of the time, I can’t wait to get home and wash my face and put my comfy, house-clothes back on. Oh and guess what? I feel the same no matter what I’m wearing but you already knew that.
Next I think I will try a few more suggestions people have given my: drinking some cherry juice, maybe changing my diet, losing some weight, going to the gym or trying to think more positively. I’ll let you know how that all works out. It didn’t take me long to stop telling people I was diagnosed with RA. I’ll leave how I’m feeling for my primary care physician and rheumatologist.
Some days I don;t ware a bra nor make-up and that has to be ok for that day. I still try to remain modest, but comfort is the key for me. I sure would not wear high heels since I’m almost 6 feet tall.
My brother who has never been sick in his life has told me more than once that just exercise would cure me!!! I had to educate him. My DR. doesn’t even want me to have PT or do yoga. I’d love to be able to swim, but I’m sensitive to chlorine,and bromine. If I could afford a hot tub I’d get one that I can swim in and use hydrogen peroxide for a sanitizer.
I agree that makeup is not going to cure my RA. But… I would like to share my thoughts.
I have had surgery on one of my hands to re-attach broken ligaments on two of my fingers(thanks to my RA) and my hands are also obviously disfigured. So looking down at the scars and the swollen twisted joints is not very pleasant. I find if I do my nails or get a manicure (sans the massage of course – way too painful) and make them look pretty, I can better deal with the ugliness of the rest of my hands (and I don’t consider myself vain).
I find it much nicer to hear “wow your nails are so pretty, where did you have them done?” rather than “oh my your hands look so painful, what happened?” That’s just me.
Beautiful and important point Julie! Thanks for adding it.
And I do love lipstick too! I recently was so happy to find the bright pink l’oreal that I used to wear in high school – and I bought it. My problem is with those who minimize the actual disease by treating cosmetics or psychotherapy or anything else as an actual treatment for a deadly disease.
If it were not too painful to have my hands held, I’d love to have my nails done. I still hope maybe someday – as with running or a bicycle…
I agree. Social media often portray RA as a mild inconvenience. I think man of us have been victims of statements about trying diet changes, drinking a miracle drink for joints, and popping a homeopathic pill and it hurts. As much as my mother seems to understand about my RA, she just said to me last week, “I was reading a article that said if you’d cut out gluten’s in your diet it would help your RA significantly.” First I was astounded my mother would say something like that and I could feel anger and resent boil up and I immediately squashed it b/c she is my Mom and I love her and I can only imagine how she must feel having a child with a chronic illness she can’t fix. So, I just nodded my head and said, “humm” and she changed the subject, thank God, because I knew if I opened my mouth on the subject I wouldn’t be able to control the litany of statements that would have spewed forth like a volcano eruption! She meant well. That’s what I have to keep telling myself .. people mean well. It’s just a lack of education. I am not sensitive to gluten’s. I already have LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes in adults) which is a form of Type I diabetes that they misdiagnosed for 10 years until the RA and some of it’s ugly stepsisters popped up. I’m limited to carbs and sugar so I’m eating my gluten’s … darnit! Sigh…. but they mean well.
I feel I’m darned if I do and darned if I don’t-wear makeup that is. First of all, by the time I get up and get my act together I have no energy for what I used to love to do-put on my makeup. I’ve always been a glam type gal. So I try to go at least minimal makeup for a ‘fresh’ look but I guess with all the meds I take my skin is changing or something but I sure don’t look ‘fresh’ in minimal makeup anymore. I just turned 51 but have a baby type face if that means anything and people always take me for younger than my age. But my point is the other day I had on my minimal look and was stopped in the hall by a male coworker who is a friend but has not seen me in awhile and he knows I have RA-he has a family member who does. He stopped me and said “Kristina, what’s going on? You, look, you look..” and I finished it off saying “I look bad don’t I?” He looked me up and down and commented how I’ve lost weight and he told me I look exhausted. Yes, I told him I am in a nasty flare right now brought on by gardening work that I ‘over killed’ on and now am paying the price. I am quickly learning that I can no longer do what I used to they way I used to. If I go to work looking ‘fab’ all dolled up I get comments from people like “wow you look great, guess that you are feeling much better.” Of course I don’t and that’s when I wish that I never opened my mouth to anyone about RA. Thanks for reading.