Beauty is skin deep

“Beauty is skin deep and I am in a sh!#-load of pain” -The Diva

WARNING: This blog is dedicated to the ladies of lupus (sorry dudes).

While getting my infusion of Benlysta, I came across an article on entitled “7 Great Make-up Tips for Ladies Undergoing Chemo…“. It made me think: “I wonder how many fabulous chicas in lupus pain look at themselves in the mirror and say ‘Geez, what has this disease done to me?!'” Maybe you haven’t because you are uber-fabulous, but I am going to be honest (and it may seem vain)… I have said those exact words. There have been moments when I look at myself in the mirror and do not even recognize myself. I know I am awesome but there are times where I cannot deny that my body image (defined as an attitude towards one’s body, especially appearance) is somewhat low. I blame lupus. I know I was NO MODEL pre-lupus but I have always loved my body and appearance. I had the attitude of “I can rock ______”, even if to others I looked like a damn fool.

Lupus and Poor Body Image: It is OK to Admit it

Lupus is a multi-systemic disease that mostly affect young women, and it is disfiguring. So it is no surprise that it may affect physical and emotional health. There are several reasons as to why lupus affects our body image… it’s because it affects how our body is looking! Are you on steroids (i.e., prednisone)? Go look in the mirror right now… is your face looking like the typical full-moon character that Disney usually draws up? Or, chew on this: Why is it that I am losing hair on my head but growing a mustache?! How about gaining 5 pounds within a 2-day span (how is that even possible when I barely can keep my food down from all the nausea)?!?! Do you jiggle? I DO.

Disease manifestations, disease activity, lupus treatment-related damage, comorbidities (i.e., other disease that tag along with lupus- osteoporosis, arthritis, renal failure, etc), and medications may adversely affect body image. Skin rashes, uneven pigmentation, vitiligo, scars, loss of teeth, alopecia (i.e., hair loss), facial hair, stretch marks, weight gain, fatigue, pain, depression, unpredictability of flares, or lack of independence all contribute poor body image in women suffering from lupus. This also can affect our quality of life. Although the literature on body image in lupus is scant and controversial, a recent article adds more evidence that body image in lupus patients is poor. If you would like a copy of this article, please contact me.

Younger patients and those with cutaneous disease activity or damage, or depression are more likely to have poor body image-related quality of life. The bottom line is that poor body image is a realistic problem that patients with lupus frequently face (i.e., I AM NOT ALONE… neither are you), and this needs to be addressed through focused research on these specific issues. Of course, body image-related quality of life can be dealt with through some effective interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy with a trained therapist (I have one… more to come on that).

How to Not Look Like You are in Miserable Pain

Back to the article that motivated me to pop in two vicodins and type away. Although it addresses the women on chemotherapy (remember methotrexate is a form of chemotherapy), this article gives some tips on how to keep that healthy glow even though you may feel like crap, and some Do’s and Don’ts to make-up. Don’t hate on it just yet… there is some truth to it, and I think the tips can apply to all of us (regardless of the medications we are taking …keep in mind, lupus alone does some silly sh!# to our body).

Although I feel like crap, I have had some people compliment on my skin. I know it is the new skin regimen I adopted once I started to loss my hair. When I was bald, my face was my new money maker. Yes, my hair is back but I have not abandoned the skin routine. This is what I do (in addition to the cardinal rule of keeping your face clean), it isn’t much but I hope it helps:

1. INVEST IN A MOISTURIZER. My skin started to feel dry once I started taking medications and I looked like I aged soooo fast! I know I am 30, but just because I have lupus I do not need to look like I am 55. I do not use a very heavy moisturizer because I did not want to induce a bigger acne breakout. Not only was my skin super dry, but there are days where my skin was an oily mess, a la puberty-years. There is no reasoning to it. So, I opt to use a gel-cream from Garnier “Moisture Rescue- Refreshing Gel Cream”.  For the really dry days, I use Philosophy “Take a Deep Breath”. This gel-cream is oil-free AND it helps calm those morning red-blotches.

2. JOIN THE BB CREAM TREND. IT IS WORTH IT! BB creams are suddenly everywhere… and there is a reason. BB stands for “Beauty Balm” or “Blemish Balm” depending on the formula, and they’re basically tinted moisturizers with skin care ingredients and SPF built in. The last thing you want to do to disguise the fact that you are feeling like caca is to pile on a bunch of make-up… then you start looking like a woman who looks flu-ridden and should be working a pole. The major plus of a BB cream is that in one bottle you have just the right amount of coverage, moisturizer AND sunscreen. We all know how important sunscreen is to us!! Basically, a BB cream is a tinted moisturizer with a little kick and extra benefits. The tinted moisturizer helps even-out my skin tone, even during those random occasions when the redness and uneven pigmentation conquers my face. My first BB cream was from Garnier, because it was $12.99 and I wanted to see what the big hype was about. Once I joined the bandwagon, I went to Sephora and bought Smashbox’s BB cream. Smashbox is best known for its primers. Their version is fragrance-free (unlike most of the others), so it’s ideal if you’re allergic or sensitive to fragrances. It feels fantastic going on and looks great even at the end of a long, hot Houston day. I can be sweaty but still have a fresh face.

3. BRONZER/BLUSH the Color Back in. This is probably common sense. The use of bronzer will add some glow and life back to your pale skin. A light-hand will give just the right touch of sun-kiss that is needed.

Fans, please don’t forget that despite the weight-gain, hair-loss, and other-body altering stuff that lupus does to us, we will always be fabulous. Why? Because we are strong enough to go through and SURPASS something that the majority cannot even imagine.  And we do it with a smile.

Stay fabulous.


7 thoughts on “Beauty is skin deep

  1. I can definitely relate to this. I’m not officially diagnosed yet but have been feeling the effects of some kind of autoimmune thing for 3 years now. My BB cream is my best friend. Too bad the highest SPF I can get here is 15+.

    • Best of luck to you on figuring out the mystery of “what is my diagnosis”. We have been there and I know it is frustrating… especially if you have been going through it for 3 years!! (YIKES!). I will be crossing my fingers for you. Thanks for commenting… I am OBSESSED with BB creams (borderline ridiculous). It is a shame that you can only get SPF 15. Stay fabulous honey.

  2. Thank you for posting this. Im about to be 24, was recently diagnosed and my body image is definitely one of the things that has suffered. Its really nice and encouraging to see that it does get easier to handle and there are things that can help. Do you have any recommendations for facewash? With all my meds I’m breaking out like a mad woman!

    • Hi honey! Thank you for your post. I understand how you are feeling. My slogan during my bald days (and still) is “My face is the money maker”. Great facial care can disguise any pain or discomfort you may be experiencing, while tricking those around you that you are “feeling well”. Let me recommend three products that I live by daily: 1) Flawless Skin face polish by Laura Mercier, 2) detoxifying black cleanser by Boscia, and 3) a gooooood moisturizer (I am currently addicted to Bobbi Brown’s cream).

      Thanks again! Let mw know if you have any questions. Stay tuned as I will be posting like a mad women soon.

  3. I just turned 49 this month have been seeing rheumatologist since January- put me on a regiment for Lupus-meds that is- went from 60mg/day of prednisone down to 5 mg/day, 400 mg plaquenil, emergency room visits for shots of morphine to decrease the pain —–and my skin- omg- like I should be quarantined. Three dermatologists later- it is finally clearing, one reason Vitamin supplementation that my rheumy recommended and probably one flare down, (Vit D 6000 IU per day, Ca+ tabs, Mg tabs, B-vitamins, Fish oil ) Finally dermatologist did a skin biopsy at the insistence of my rheumy , I think my dermatologist is finally on the same page that I have lupus. Originally put me on topicals, : steroid creams, metrogel & finacea and oral antibiotics( looks like rosacea but I know better) that seems to decrease but I still have these deep large welts that get red and bumpy like Cyclops. I avoid the sun- this really irritates the skin ( I found out walking at work during lunch time and came back with welts the size of apricots.) So needless to say I found your blog and thought wow- is there hope- I should be worried about wrinkles at this age but I just worry about frightening people during meetings because the way my skin looks. The looks I refer to , ” is she contagious”… etc… ” she obviously does not eat right”….. you know what I mean. And make- up—- forget it, I have drawers full of beautiful shadows, foundations, blush- that I cannot use any of them- I love makeup and tired to use some but it looks like I am just trying to cover up severe breakouts. Oh and yes the “jiggle” in places I thought were impossible to have. 1 1/2 years ago I was attending Bootcamp three days a week, hiking in the hills for 3 miles every Saturday and weightlifting – where did the jiggle come from?> How could I disappear so fast into this new “form”. I literally was in a public restroom that was lined with mirrors and as I washed my hands glanced up and thought oh wow I hope I do not look like that—- I was the only one in the restroom. You know you always see yourself differently in front of a public mirror then your home. So where to go from here- this is new to me as I am sure is still for so many- the fatigue sets in suddenly without explanation, somedays I feel like 1,000 lbs are tied to my back. I appreciate your blog and other forums – helps me realize this is not my imaginations and I am not being overly sensitive, because I have gone from – so, I have lupus—now what- pain, fatigue breakouts- suck it up , push through it- to -what the ———————


  4. just been dealing with my own case of discoid lupus. this is all so new to me! i appreciate blogs like these and have been inspired to write my own. I am on the search for the perfect paraben free facial moisturizer thats sensitive but tough enough to get it feeling better when the lesions are so dry and burny! Something I can apply often. Any ideas?

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