Who knew that learning to live with a chronic illness would also include adopting new hairstyles? Not me!!
I have been living with chronic pain from fibromyalgia, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, and endometriosis since 2001, and styling my hair has been an ongoing challenge.
Will I have enough energy to leave the house after styling it?
Do I have the strength to curl or straighten it?
What’s the point if I am just going to undo my hard work with a nap?
Those are the questions that I would ask myself every day. That is, until this year! No, I haven’t found a secret fountain of energy nor am I pain-free. What I did was find a hairstyle that made living with my chronic illness easier!
In this article, you will find advice from a handful of chronically ill women who have also found hairstyles that work for them. Although our solutions differ, we all share a need to make living with our chronic illnesses easier.
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Chronic Illness Flare Hairstyles
Between an unpredictable sleep schedule and the need for frequent naps, the chronically ill need hairstyles that don’t need to be redone after every sleep. They should be easy to maintain, take little time from our day, and at the same time, make us feel good about ourselves.
Finding a style that fits that criteria can be difficult if we used to spend a lot of time making our hair do what it didn’t do naturally before we were chronically ill. At least it was for me.
I have naturally wavy/curly hair depending on the length. With shoulder and shorter lengths, it has unruly waves that I had to fight daily to do what I wanted. Naps ruined my hard work, forcing me to use more energy if I wanted to look presentable for the rest of the day. The problem was that after spending more time on my appearance, I would often run out of energy to follow through with any plans I may have had.
I am willing to bet that I am not the only one who has been overcome with fatigue after styling their hair and had to cancel their plans.
As for flares, the last thing I wanted while flaring was for someone to stop over, even if it was to help out or drop off dinner. I hated being seen with my hair sticking up like a troll doll or looking like a matted cat.
When you have a chronic illness hairstyle that you like, you may find yourself more willing to allow people to come over and keep you company or to help out.
I know this sounds like a simple case of vanity and it should be easy to just get over it, but it is not. Our self-worth, abilities, physical appearance, and lives have all been hit hard by unbelievable pain and relentless symptoms. For some of us, how our hair looks is one of the last things we may feel we have control over.
Love What The Good Lord Gave You
The first step in finding a look that worked with my chronic illness was to accept what the good Lord gave me!
Since letting my hair grow past shoulder length it has become quite curly. These curls are their tightest and cutest when the weather is hot and/or humid. To give them more bounce and longer life, I stopped drying my hair with a towel and blow dryer. I brush it after conditioning and while still in the shower. I hold and brush in sections to prevent pulling from my scalp, which has reduced a lot of the scalp pain I used to experience.
Before exiting the shower I squeeze excess water from my hair and add my leave-in products. My favorite products are my leave-in conditioner, curl-enhancing mousse, and dry shampoo for when I need it. Other than air-drying, I am done fussing with my hair until I go to bed.
Whether my hair is dry or not before going to bed, I lightly twist it into a loose bun and sleep on a satin pillowcase to prevent breakage and frizz. In the morning I take the bun down and tussle my curls with my fingers. If they are still damp, I allow time for them to air-dry, and when short on time, I use the blow dryer for just a few minutes. I repeat this process before every sleep, including naps. Depending on how dirty my hair gets, I can go anywhere from three to seven days between washing and drying.
As it grows longer I am looking forward to having fun with loose braids.
Whether your hair is straight, curly, or wavy, embrace it and find a style that enhances it.
If your style requires blow-drying, you should check out what @ralifehacks on Instagram shares.
There Are No Rules for Chronic Illness Hairstyles
Not only do symptoms and pain differ from one chronic illness to another, but two people could have the same illness and have a totally different experience. Because of this, there are no rules to how you should style your hair.
What’s important is that YOU are comfortable with your choice. Don’t worry about what others think or if your choice isn’t considered “normal”. You are the one who has to live with your style, so as long as you are good with it, GO FOR IT!
Dealing With Hair Loss
Sam Moss shares some of her thoughts and experience with hair loss.
I’ve decided, for the moment, I’m more comfortable with my own balding locks. I know my hair.Sam Moss from My Medical Musings
I like how it frames my face. So, I have coloured what’s left of my hair a lovely chestnut brown. It’s filled in some of the gaps with root touch up powder, which certainly give the appearance of more hair.
I style it with a hot air brush which is quick and easy. It adds body and waves which I like. A bit of hairspray and I’m literally set for the day!
Health Over Hair
Jo Moss shares how her health forced her to make a difficult decision regarding her hair.
I live with severe ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) and Fibromyalgia. This means I struggle to wash and dry my own hair, and it’s painful against my skin. 7 years ago I made the tough decision to shave off my very long hair, and I’ve never regretted it – it was actually quite liberating. I now shave my head once a month, and it’s so much easier to manage.Jo Moss from A Journey Through The Fog
I invite you to read Jo’s blog post When you have to choose between your hair or your health to learn more about her decision.
Have Fun with Chronic Illness Hairstyles!
No matter how you choose to style your hair, don’t forget to have some fun!!
Jo Jackson shares how she is able to maintain and have fun with a short hairstyle.
I am lucky that I trained to be a barber and hairdresser straight from school so I know how to cut and colour hair. After having one disastrous hair cut at 18, I’ve never let anyone else cut my hair since. I find that keeping my hair short I can cut it myself still, although it’s not something I recommend if you’ve not been trained. It takes me about 30 mins to cut it once a month, followed by a bleach and usually followed by a pink dye. If I’m feeling lazy or not up to it, I leave it blond but I do find having it pink lifts me and makes me feel like the “me” of old!Jo Jackson
As it’s short, I only have to wash it once a week. I pour a jug of water over my head in the morning, brush it and it’s all set for the day. Occasionally I use Shockwaves Wax if I want more of a textured look, but it literally takes a minute to do my hair in the morning. I’d love long glossy locks but it’s not me and I’d struggle to do it myself, certainly not in the one-minute turnaround I have at the moment.
Tea and Cake for the Soul
You may remember when I colored the underneath layer of my hair purple a few years ago. Now that my hair is longer, I don’t have the energy to maintain that look, but I still have fun with braids, bows, and headbands.
Final Thoughts on Chronic Illness Hairstyles
As you can see, we each have our own chronic illness hairstyle solutions. What works for me may not work for you. Just like our chronic illnesses, our hairstyle solutions are going to differ.
You may have noticed one common theme among each of us……. We all love the time and energy that our chosen styles save us. Chronic pain and illness interfere with so much of our lives that just having a hairstyle that is easy to maintain whether we are flaring or not makes a world of difference.
Take your time, get to know your hair type, and embrace it! Then experiment with different styles. Most importantly, find what makes you feel good about yourself and go for it!
What changes have you made to your hairstyle or styling routine?