If your joints are aching from a flare of rheumatoid arthritis, you'll need to rethink your morning beauty routine. Some simple tips and tools can let you fix your hair and put your makeup on just the way you like it, and send you out the door looking your best.
Molly Schreiber, 37, from Baltimore, knows all about the challenges of getting herself ready in the morning. Her diagnosis with RA 5 years ago changed how she started her day.
"I quickly realized how tough it was to do my typical beauty routine," she says. "Before I was diagnosed, I would start every day with a full shower, blow-drying and straightening my hair, and putting on a full face of makeup. But with my rheumatoid arthritis, I knew I couldn't keep doing that. It was painful, and everything took so much longer."
A New Hair Routine
Schreiber learned to simplify her approach. One way to do it: stop washing your hair every day.
"I only wash my hair about three times a week and use dry shampoo the rest of the time," she says. "I just spray the dry shampoo on, rub it in, and brush my hair." And when she does do her whole hair routine, she takes lots of breaks.
Schreiber also bought some products that made her tasks easier. "Holding a hair dryer up for a long time isn't realistic with my shoulder, so I splurged on a fancy hair product that helps my hair dry straighter," she says. "It means I don't have to do as much with the round brush and can take lots of breaks."
There's another reason dry shampoo is so good: "Some medications for rheumatoid arthritis can cause hair thinning, so less frequent washing is a good thing," says Erin Arnold, MD, a rheumatologist at Orthopaedics and Rheumatology of the North Shore in Skokie, IL.
Get the Right Tools to Put on Makeup
Schreiber also seeks out products that do double duty, so she can cut down on her total routine. "I started using a BB cream instead of doing both a primer and a foundation," she says. "Holding makeup sponges can hurt my hand, and this one cream combines coverage and moisturizer in one application."
She also washes her face using premoistened face wipes. "I know I need to take my makeup off at night for my skin to be healthy, so no matter how tired or in pain I am, I always wipe my face with the makeup remover wipes," she says. "They are so much easier on my hands than using normal face wash."
Another way to make putting on cosmetics easier is to change your brushes. "We have patients buy makeup brushes that have a larger grip," Arnold says. "This was a big thing in cooking tools a while ago, but now makeup brushes are coming out that are easier to hold on to."
Can't find one? Make your own by adding a few layers of overgrip tape to your brush handles.
Schreiber makes sure to find brushes with long handles. "I never use the little brushes that come with the eye shadow," she says. "It's too hard for my fingers to grip. I just buy long-handled brushes because they're so much easier to hold."
It's also helpful to make a few adjustments when you have someone else do some beauty work on you, like when you get your nails done at a salon.
"Go somewhere where they use a warm wax treatment. It feels so good on joints," Arnold says. "And explain to your nail specialist that you have arthritis and that a deep massage on your hands might not feel very good."
On top of all that, it's important to take care of your overall health. "Think about how you can take care of your body by sleeping well, staying hydrated, eating good food. It all has an impact on how your hair and skin looks," Arnold says. "It's not about being perfect, it's about trying to have a good balance."