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12 Cosmetic Tips For People With Disabilities

How to maintain your love of cosmetics without throwing all your spoons in the garbage

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I’m going to preface this with a disclaimer: you absolutely do not have to dedicate any time and effort to cosmetics if you do not want to. I find it ridiculous that disabled women are often expected to spend their time, energy and money on cosmetics, hair styling, et cetera when it might be far more productive for them to focus on other things. This isn’t going to be me trying to convince you to start using cosmetics - that’s not what I’m about. This is just a resource for people who actively want to use cosmetics - a largely inaccessible industry if we’re being honest - because they love doing it. I’m not an expert, but I am a both mentally and physically disabled makeup artist! So if you’re interested, keep reading!

Organizing Your Products Will Save Your Life

I know we’re starting out pretty basic here, but I can promise you that organizing your cosmetic products with a few bins, or a sectioned container, is a life saver! It sounds like common sense, but I’m starting out simple here folks. What I ideally like to do is have a separate bin/compartment for each part of the face, mostly. Usually, I like to have them sectioned off by Primers/Face/Brows/Eyes/Lips/Palettes/Setting Products but you can do whatever makes sense for you. It can seem like a daunting task at first, especially if you have a lot of makeup, but there are little things you can do to help. Ask a friend to help you sort through your makeup, pull up a comfortable chair and lay your products on the table, and remember to take breaks if you need them. In the long run, knowing exactly where a product is at any given time will help cut down on time, energy and stress when you’re trying to apply makeup. If you have some favourite products that you tend to reach for nearly every day, keep them in a separate smaller bin/compartment so that you know those products are waiting there for you. This is a large initial time/energy investment, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Make The Space Comfortable

A lot of people do their makeup standing up, and while that works for some people it can be taxing for those of us who are disabled. Instead, if you can, set up a small desk or vanity space you can comfortably do your makeup on instead of standing leaning into a mirror in the bathroom, which puts a lot of stress on your back and neck. Set up a magnifying mirror that’s a comfortable height for you to see from, make sure there is space for you to lean on your elbows if you need to. Find a comfortable chair that supports your back while throughout the process. If you’re vision impaired, buy a lighted magnifying mirror to improve visibility. If you’re in a wheelchair or similar mobility device, you can find bathroom mirrors that you can attach to your chair so you don’t need to lean super far to see yourself. All of this will help put less strain on your body while you’re doing something you enjoy.

No Fine Motor Skills? No Problem.

Having both chronic pain and autism, my fine motor skills are piss poor on a good day so I really have accumulated a fair amount of tips to help with this particular problem. If you have trouble gripping brushes, doing fine detail work, hand tremors or any other motor skill impairment, it can be hard to apply makeup accurately. Definitely rest your hands on your face or prop your elbows up onto your desk when you can. I used to be on medication that would cause my hands to shake uncontrollably, so I often used my other hand to grip the other while propped up against a wall to reduce shaking. Look for thicker/longer brush handles if you can, they’re easier to use and far more comfortable to grip. However, if you’re using a type of brush that only comes with thinner handles (such as eyeliner or brow brushes), go to a dollar store or an office supply store and buy those rubber grips for pencils. If you can’t find those or you can’t find a grip that is thick enough to improve your experience, try and find a decent amount of kneadable erasers and mold them into your ideal grip shape. Ditch your foundation brush and get a beauty blender or beauty blender adjacent sponge. It’s far easier to grip, making it easier for you to blend out your foundation. If you have trouble getting your eyeliner wing just right, I know we’ve all heard of the scotch tape trick but I would suggest reaching for electrical tape rather than scotch tape. The adhesive is far weaker and won’t tug at your skin as much. If you have no mobility in your fingers, there are straps on the market normally sold for using utensils while eating that you can similarly use for cosmetic tools. Ultimately though, when in doubt: concealer is your friend. Next time you do some wonky eyeliner, or blend your eyeshadow a little too high, apply some concealer to rectify the situation!

Take Your Time

If you want to apply makeup, set aside a good chunk of time for you to complete your desired look. Set aside more time than you think you’ll need! This will keep you relaxed even if you need to step away to take breaks or need to take a few extra minutes to fix a mistake you made. The more you rush, the more stressed and frustrated you will get, leaving you upset with yourself Instead, take your time and let yourself enjoy the creative process. If you’re still finding yourself getting stressed or frustrated, turn on some music you enjoy. I find it helps distract my brain, making me less likely to get agitated. If you happen to be done earlier than your time estimate, then that just means you’ve got an extra moment of relaxation.

Buy Makeup Wipes! Now!

If there someone were to ask me what I thought was the most helpful product recommendation on this entire list was, I would say makeup wipes without a doubt. Buy makeup wipes! Seriously! I don’t care which ones, just get your hands on some! I’m personally a sucker for the Burt’s Bees peach wipes, but there are cheap packs you can get at the dollar store! (Though they are often alcohol based so tread carefully there if you have sensitive or dry skin). When you drag yourself home at the end of the night and your back is on fire, your ankles are feeling weak and brain fog is creeping into your head you’re not gonna wanna take off your makeup. Instead, keep a couple packs of makeup wipes on your bedside table so if you find yourself bedridden or in a position where you can’t get remove your makeup, you can still wipe your makeup off. For those with acneic skin, I’d keep some oxy 3 in 1 pads (or any similar product) with your makeup wipes to keep pimples at bay. By extension, get yourself some baby wipes and dry shampoo too. Both can go a long way to making you feel more clean and comfortable when you’re bedridden or otherwise unable to shower.

Buy Bottles With Pumps

Whenever you can, try and buy liquid makeup that is packaged with a pump rather than a dropper or a twist off lid. The latter two make it far easier to mess up and waste product while trying to get it out of the bottle and onto your face. The dropper is still an alright alternative, but avoid the twist off the top if you can! If you can afford it, some brands sell pumps for their foundations as well. (Though it’s a little ridiculous that they’re making their packaging bad intentionally so they can sell you an accessory). It’s far easier to control the amount you’re using, and half your foundation doesn’t end up on the ground.

Buy Twist-Up Eyeliner, Lipliner, and Brow Pencils

The wrist motion used when you’re sharpening a pencil can be quite painful if you’re experiencing a flare-up in your hands or fingers. A twist-up pencil product is far easier on the hands since you only really need to move a couple fingers a small amount. Nyx Microbrow is a great inexpensive twist up brow pencil that I have been loving lately.

The Great Foiled Shadow Cop Out

When I’m feeling unable to wear or create an elaborate eye look, I always reach for a palette of foiled shadows. Pop a foiled or shimmer shadow onto your lids with a finger and blend it out with a brush or even a finger will create a nice look with minimal effort.

Keeping Sensory Overload At Bay

Sometimes, the sensation of wearing makeup can lead to sensory overload for those of us with sensory processing disorders. For those of you who can relate, try and find lighter foundations that don’t feel as heavy on the skin. (The Covergirl Vitalist Elixir comes to mind as a good drugstore formula). If you can, find softer brushes that won’t feel as harsh on your skin. Try and limit your use of liquid products as those often feel the heaviest and stickiest. If you hate lip gloss or sticky lipsticks, invest in some good matte lipsticks. (If you want to go high end, I love the NARS powermatte lip pigments. Lower end, as much as I hate Katy Perry, the Covergirl Katy Perry line has some really nice demi matte lipsticks). Conversely, if you hate the feeling of your lips being dry, or heavy product on your lips ditch the liquid lipsticks and invest in some hydrating bullet lipsticks. (Nyx has some nice ones, and so does Revlon). Cater your cosmetic collection to what fits you best! Sensory processing disorders manifest themselves differently in everyone, so find what works for you and don’t feel obligated to follow trends if they make you feel uncomfortable.

Don’t Be Afraid To Use Your Hands

As a makeup artist, it goes against everything I’ve been taught to tell you guys this, but for the sake of your personal well-being you would be surprised how much of your makeup you can do with your fingers. I’d avoid doing foundation with your fingers unless the coverage is incredibly sheer, but you can do pretty much everything else except for brows and mascara with your hands if you’d like. You’re obviously not going to get a hard edge if you’re using your fingers, but using a patting motion to blend out your makeup can be pretty effective! Just make sure to clean and sanitize your hands thoroughly before doing this, and wipe your hands down between products if you can.

Minimize Mascara Mishaps

Mascara is pretty tricky even for people who aren’t disabled, but there a few things you can do to help simplify the process. If you can, switch to a smaller mirror or get a very strong magnifying mirror (often, there will be a stronger side to a magnifying mirror, so you might not even need another). Getting in close will help you see what you’re doing better, minimizing error. When you take out the mascara wand, use the inside lip of the tube to scrape off any excess mascara. Be thorough when you do this, have as little product on the wand as possible. Then, you can slowly build your mascara look with less chance of clumping or getting a giant dollop on your nose. I mentioned propping your elbow up earlier, but this can especially help with mascara since it limits how far your hand can go. This will stop your hand from wildly stabbing yourself in the forehead with the mascara wand.

Know Your Limits

Most importantly of all, know when to skip the makeup routine. We’re only human, so don’t force yourself to suffer through your makeup routine if you are in too much pain, can’t focus or simply can’t handle some tasks that particular day. Forcing yourself to do tasks when you are having a bad flare-up or spasms or any other debilitating symptom isn’t healthy and can exacerbate your symptoms! Doing your makeup is a nonessential task you should only do if it brings you enjoyment or is a source of creative expression! I know I said this in the introduction, but I am not trying to convert you to doing makeup if you don’t want to. The best makeup advice I could possibly give you is to know when it’s not worth it to do your makeup.

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