Makeup and the Sick Chick: How Lupus Has Changed My Relationship with Beauty

 In Beauty Journeys

What can I say? I love being a girl! I’ve always enjoyed playing with nail colors and styles, skin care products, lip colors, eyeshadow palette, hairstyles with braids as well as weaves and wigs. I have a passion for these things. The problem is, I also have a need for these things.

I have lupus. An auto immune disease that reeks havoc on my body on the inside as well as the outside. Now, obviously I take my lupus very seriously. I am under the care of several doctors, and I consider myself to be the kind of patient who is motivated to take charge of my health and make responsible choices. But like I said above, I love being a girl.

It used to be so much fun to play with wigs. I would wake up in the morning deciding who I wanted to be that day and proceed with the costuming of my life. I would throw on a wig that would express how I was feeling that day, or simply because it looked really snazzy with a particular outfit. At the end of the day I would come home, pop off the wig, and go about my business.

Once I started lupus treatments, I started to lose my hair. Not just a little shedding here and there around the edges, my hair came out in huge handfuls. I soon found myself unable to even attach a weave and my only option was to wear a wig.

That’s where the psychology of all of this comes into play. It was absolutely fine with me to wear a wig when I knew I had hair underneath, but it was almost unbearable to come home and take off a wig and look at myself in the mirror balding and looking sickly. This is very much the same way my makeup rituals were affected.

It’s fantastic to have nice healthy skin. After struggling with acne as a teen, I finally found the products that I needed to keep my skin looking bright and healthy. I got compliments on my skin all the time. It made me feel great because I knew I was actively trying to have nice healthy skin. Even with healthy skin, I enjoyed playing with make up and colors. It’s one thing wearing make up because you’re playing and having a good time. It’s quite another thing to be wearing make up because you’re hiding behind something.

With lupus, you have things called flares. A lot of different things can happen to you when you have a flare, but for me, it seems as though my skin really takes the brunt of a flare outwardly. I get very nasty red raised patches on my arms and unfortunately on my face. I had very nasty patches of sores on the sides of my face as well as around one of my eyes. It took forever for those wounds to heal, and I’m still dealing with the effects of the scars.

I try to use prescription strength bleaching aids to take away the black dots that were left behind after the wounds closed. I was so excited with all of these concealers in the orange, to deep red category. I happened to be working with a make up artist one day who introduced me to these colors of concealers. They were life-changing. It felt so good to be able to hide what I considered to be terrible scars even though my friends’ opinions weren’t as harsh. We are always hardest on ourselves.

There was a time when make up was all about fun, and self-expression. As I have learned techniques to help me hide actual medical flaws make up has changed for me. It’s not always so important for me to have such a glamorous look. What’s more important to me now is having a healthy look.

The make up I liked to play with in my 20s was loud and playful. The make up I choose to use now is more about hiding scarring and just having a nice clean, glowing complexion. I also like products used to help slow down the aging process. The most important thing for me is my health.

I feel as though my skin at times can be a real reflection of my health. Lupus is a lifelong battle. I will probably always need wigs, and weaves and corrective make up. I can deal with it, just like I deal with the medical part. I just want to be able to have the right tools and the right make up and know how to make myself look as natural and fresh-faced as possible.


Lela Elam is an actress from Miami, FL. She is coming up on her 10th year anniversary of living with lupus. She is a well-known South Florida stage actress as well as television shows including “Bloodline” (Netflix) and “Wrecked” (TBS)

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