Getting Ready With RA: 8 Easy Beauty and Style Tips

by Cathy Kramer Patient Advocate

For many of us living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), getting your hair and makeup ready for the day can be the worst. As you wake and make your way out of bed, it often takes time for your joints to catch up. They’re stiff and want to move at a slower pace. But life can’t exactly wait. Our RA social media community shares some best tips for everyday personal care without overtaxing your body.

Woman stretching in her home

Schedule In a Slow Start

My own RA body appreciates having some time to move about before I start getting ready for my day. The more streamlined your personal care routine, the better you and your joints feel. @Bionic_RA says he schedules his day around a slower start to the morning. “I always try to plan my day so nothing too stressful is first thing.” @terez61 shares that she does easy stretching in the morning, then schedules her appointments for the afternoon when she is able to move and function better.

Woman's hand testing water under shower head

Strategize Shower Time

Showering at night helps conserve morning energy to brush your hair and put on makeup, but sometimes, a hot shower is required help your body get moving. Running your hands under warm water or taking a hot shower is one of the best ways to loosen up joints. @cannonsplash says, “When I have early-morning sales meetings, I shower the night before.” But @mandy.autry has a different approach. She responds to the needs of her body at the time. “When I'm flaring, I need a hot shower to start my day.” Bottom Line? Find what works for you.

Close up of a woman washing her hair while showering

Wash Your Hair Only as Needed

Opting to wash hair less frequently alleviates strain on hands, wrists, and shoulders every time you step into the shower. Sally, from Facebook says, “I only wash it twice a week. Shower caps are my friend.” For me, the decision to wash every other day allows extra time in the morning to spend on other personal care that means more to me. Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak Dry Shampoo Refreshing Dry Shampoo is easy to use and can be sprayed into your hair to absorb oils and skip a day or two of shampooing.

Hairdresser cutting woman's hair

Choose an Easy-to-Style Haircut

If your morning routine involves a lot of time with a hairdryer or curling iron in your hands, it may be time to ask your stylist for a more low-maintenance do. Many in the community have found that a shorter hair style can benefit their RA. Lene says, “I have very short hair, which is easy to towel dry after a shower and is extremely low maintenance for the rest of the day.” Long hair doesn't have to require a lot of work. Talk with your hairstylist about long styles that require simply washing and combing it out to let air dry.

Glass brown cosmetics bottle with white label and pump top

Switch to Products With Uncomplicated Packaging

One of the most difficult challenges I have faced with RA is physically handling personal-care products. For years, I depended on my children to apply hairspray. But there are options. @coco_lowe1031 suggests “selecting lotions and products with a pump top, not a screw top or lid.” Also, I often leave lids off, even if the product dries a little around the edge because I don’t trust my fingers to get it off if I am alone.

Woman putting on mascara

Streamline Your Makeup Routine

Makeup or no makeup? Many in the community, such as @tlkghead, say, “Skip the make up!” I tend to limit makeup on rough days rather than eliminating it all together. A little mascara and lipstick help me feel a bit peppier about the day. Also, find applicators that fit into your hand with ease like these BEAKEY sponges. I do well with larger handles. On Facebook, Gale was excited to be using face cream again after finally finding an applicator that worked well for her. Beauty blogger Monica Sengupta, who has RA, offers tips on joint-friendly makeup and nail art.

Skip the Buttons and Zippers

If you have ever been in a bathroom stall unable to button your pants due to swollen joints, you know the importance of choosing the right clothes. “Wear flowy pull-on clothing,” says @little_hippie_girl1. This is also my go-to on stiff days. I have invested in lots of pull-on dresses that I wear with leggings. Also, the less work the better. @cannonsplash recommends not wearing clothing that needs to be ironed. Scarves can help too: They might hide that wrinkled shirt!

Woman standing in dress in front of mirror

Focus on Your Body

Learning to co-exist with an RA body takes time, patience, and a gentle mindset. It requires experimentation with new products and changing the routines you have followed for years. It doesn’t mean you have to give up looking your best. It simply means you have to put the needs of your body first and then find work-arounds so you are still satisfied with the person you see in the mirror as you walk out the door.

Cathy Kramer
Meet Our Writer
Cathy Kramer

Cathy Kramer has been married longer than not and is a mom to two young adults plus an aging border collie. She splits her days/nights between two community colleges as an ESL/ABE instructor. She is a strong believer in gratitude and attempts to leave a smile everywhere she goes. Cathy shares her positive voice as an advocate in the rheumatoid arthritis (RA), chronic illness, and self-care communities. Her ongoing journey with RA can be found on her blog The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo. She often hangs out @cateepoo88 on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Cathy is also a Social Ambassador for the RAHealthCentral Facebook page: