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Chasing Pretty: The Importance of Girl-Grooming for Women with MS

Chasing Pretty: The Importance of Girl-Grooming for Women with MS

No matter our age, having multiple sclerosis screws with a woman’s glamor. When I was still working, I showered, chose clothing from a closetful of casual or office attire, sometimes wore strappy 2-inch heels, and put on make-up almost every day. But with retirement and a 2009 MS relapse that zapped my leg strength, bladder function, balance and energy, my grooming habits drastically changed. I was lucky if I showered twice a week. I stayed in my lounging clothes upon rising and all the way up to bedtime. I rarely left the house. Since I didn’t have to be anywhere and my social life, such as it was, dried up, why bother? When I stopped looking for jobs I was 52 and had already experienced age discrimination in the workplace for several years, on top of MS ultimately slowing down my performance enough to be noticeable and pointed out by several temp employers. By the time my SSDI payments started, I felt old, disabled, ugly, fat and getting fatter, and a burden on society. Irrelevant is the word. Needless to say, the mirror became my enemy.

We are a product of conditioning and there’s no way around it

I won’t ask you to put pop culture aside to discuss the benefits of staying girl-groomed. That would be impossible. We are a product of conditioning and there’s no way around it. At age 12 we are imprinted via auto-suggestion by the glamor industry that adding make-up to the already natural beauty of youth is the absolute right thing to do. We drink the Kool-Aid because our favorite grown-up-but-still-girlish cover girl models show us how great they look in smoky eye shadow and a crimson slash of lip color. We want to look grown-up, too, and we think that’ll do it. Now I’m a grandmother-aged grown-up and realizing that some judiciously applied make-up will now, ironically, make me look a little younger, or if not that, a little less pasty and translucent, ghostly, like I’m ten years past my expiration date and don’t know enough to go to my grave and stop scaring small children.

This is no way to be

I had to do something. First, I accept my vanity. It’s not a bad quality, as you will see. In fact, it’s high time we amend the seven deadly sins. Second, regular grooming is as important to my daily disease management as a medication regimen, diet, sleep, and activity. Daily showering and donning fresh clothing that has no stains or holes, brushing teeth and brushing hair improve my feeling of well-being after I’m done with these tasks. They are hard to accomplish, but I’m always glad I did it while I sit and rest afterwards. It usually opens my mind to becoming more active, and thus my vanity nudges me towards more healthful behaviors. That whittles down the deadly sins to six. I’ll work on de-stigmatizing sloth next. People with MS call it “resting.” That’ll be another article.

Now, sis, don’t faint . . . yesterday I put on make-up. Not just lip gloss, which I haven’t worn in years. No sirree, I took that lip gloss and swiped a streak along the apples of my cheeks, too. Like an old friend emerging from the mists of time, my bone structure revealed itself once more.  Emboldened, I then added a little eye makeup, fluffed my hair, pushed my eyeglasses way up on the bridge of my nose where they’re supposed to be, and the mirror brought it all home. I almost recognized myself. Not quite fitting the description of a handsome woman—a gal past her youth who has strong features—but close enough. And darn it, it was important.

I can still get dolled up

I can’t wear strappy high heels anymore or show my midriff—I actually did that while still in my forties—but I can wear animal print tops or leggings and a feminine swing hem tunic, with bling on my earrings, necklace, bracelet, rings and even on some dressy flat sandals. Or, gosh, peplum added to anything makes it flowy and fem, too. I have a bumblebee ring set in with citrine and sterling silver. It’s so cute I can’t help smiling at it no matter what my mood.

So there it is—glam and bling can go a long way in healing us. While our meds are soothing glam for our shredded nerves, dolling up is sensual healing. Gazing at our eyes in the mirror lets us look inward to the soul, where we can catch a glimpse of our beautiful, timeless selves anytime we want, for as many times as we need.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • avidfanec
    2 years ago

    I did a tremendous thing as far as bathing. I started to get so dizzy taking showers that I almost passed out. I attached on of those shower heads with a long tube that you can drop in the tub. I fill a bath then wash my hair sitting down. I do a quick rinse standing up. It works great. Don’t spray water everywhere either

  • dustydeemk
    2 years ago

    I truly feel better if I get up and shower and dress. I have those days where this takes all my energy but then I feel a sense of accomplishment. I never can get right up and get into the shower. This would definitely cause me to fall. I wake up and at least have a cup of coffee and have to get my mind in a good place before taking a shower. Sometimes this can take an hour or more. My husband still does not understand why I have to take this time before I do anything. I really wish there was a way to make them feel the way we do just for one day so they could see. I do not wear makeup very often and keep my hair very short. I do try to do my makeup on special occasions but sometimes is not very neat. At least I try.

  • Nancy W
    2 years ago

    I have a book titled, “Look Damn Good!” It is by a local author and I have taken some valuable advice. No matter how I feel, I get up and get dressed into something presentable. The point in the book is similar to your point. We feel good when we look good. But as for makeup, I don’t wear eye makeup anymore because MS has given me a facial tic and chronic cough. When I cough, my one eye tears,(weirdest symptom ever!) But a little lipstick and foundation makes me presentable. Oh, and I get my hair professionally cut and colored every 5 weeks.

  • PeggyO
    3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your story. Fancy canes helped me accept my limitations – and even embrace them. For years, I searched for stylish shoes, but only ugly clodhoppers would fit my orthotic. I refused to use a cane, and then fell a few times in the snow. Finally, a friend gave me a catalog of fancy canes. That has changed my whole perspective.

    My first cane had a blue flower pattern, and I immediately received compliments. It gave me confidence to use the cane everywhere. Quickly, my collection grew and I now have canes in every color and pattern. Before I leave the house, I choose the cane that matches my outfit – the ultimate fashion accessory! And my shoes? They’re still ugly, but no one notices. They’re too busy noticing my cane!

    It seems like a small thing, but a fashionable cane adds color and confidence to my day.

  • Jorja
    2 years ago

    PeggyO: I was thinking about the fancy canes. I have a plain brown one now. I left a job in which I had to commute into Washington, DC (about 2 hours each way by train) to work for another law firm at home. I dress very casual during the week, but on weekends I like to dress up. My husband doesn’t understand why I need to buy new clothes if I’m not leaving the house. I like new clothes, they make me feel special and I may not be buying high heels but flats and tunics and leggings, but they make me feel special.

  • joannmaxwell
    3 years ago

    Great post! You hit the nail on the head! In all areas of your story! Some days I have to rest in between all of those actions. I right-handed so weak I can’t hold it flat iron for curly Nyren anymore. Very frustrating!

  • eevie010166
    3 years ago

    Love the article! Until reading it, I felt like I was the only one who pondered on a daily basis whether or not taking a shower, getting out of my pj’s or putting on makeup – especially when I have no plans on going out of the house – was even worth the couple of hours it takes! My problem is not loss of balance or fear of falling while entering or exiting the shower – it is the crippling fatigue that takes over my entire being. Just taking a shower.- and worse – washing my hair – is such a daunting chore. Even if I decide to forego a shower – just doing my makeup is enough to zap my energy. Lately, I’ve been forcing myself to at least do my makeup, and you’re right – it does get me motivated to do other things – like going for a walk by the river on milder days – or at least getting outside of the 4 walls and enjoying nature. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Marlene1105
    3 years ago

    Thank you for writing about showering and the chore of putting on clean clothes. It is just like you were reading my mind when you addressed these two issues. I have fallen several times after getting out of the shower. I’m sure that is where this fear came from. Of course my family and friends don’t understand my feelings about taking a shower or changing my clothes or putting on makeup for that matter. Their feelings used to really bother me and I started feeling like something is wrong with me other than MS, but I don’t let their rude comments bother me anymore. It is so not worth it! Thanks again!

  • Nanny to 4
    3 years ago

    I agree this is important to get up, take a shower, get dressed, add makeup. I don’t know about anyone else but this sometimes is all I can do for hours. I do find this most often takes me forever. Before MS, when I was working it took me 45 minutes at the most to do these things and now it can be as much as 1 1/2 hours and exhausted. Going to start doing this again no matter what. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • Kim Dolce moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Nanny to 4, it is SO hard it feels like an Iron Man competition! I don’t do it every single day now, it’s easy to talk myself out of it especially during winter. While I’m really glad you feel encouraged to do it more, I hope you won’t be hard on yourself on days when you just don’t feel like it. All my best 🙂


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