My beauty regimen is part of my PR personal care


I stopped thinking about what my hands might look like 20 years from now and made a conscious decision to feel good with them now.

There is one particular shade of yellow that I absolutely adore. It’s more pleasing to the eye than the fluorescent markings you find in old, tattered college textbooks. It’s warm toned and a bit mustard, reminiscent of the wavy lines drawn on hot dogs at the fair.

The color reminds me of sunflowers in summer and the wild flowers that return each spring. It’s somewhere between that of the midday sun and the golden spill from the windowsill on a warm August evening. I like to call it “yellow happy face”. It makes me smile.

One evening I scrolled through the hue while browsing the web. At the tips of a young woman’s fingers were different colors of nail polish. She wore a playful, bright manicure in which shades of pink, blue, purple and the yellow adorned her nails. Just like that, I knew I had to do my nails.

I stopped scrolling to inspect my own hands. I hadn’t been to the nail salon in ages. My cuticles were overgrown and fingernails were sticking out of my fingernails.

There was a slight swelling in the joints of my hands. I remembered my last visit to the rheumatologist, when the doctor examined my joints and wrists for damage secondary to rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a common occurrence in people diagnosed with RA.

I found myself descending into the den of RA symptoms and complications.

How long before my x-rays show permanent and irreversible damage? How long do I have before I experience reduced functionality in my hands?

My mood has changed somewhat dramatically. Fortunately, I had the awareness of myself to stop and adjust my focus.

I stopped thinking about what my hands might look like 20 years from now and made a conscious decision to feel good with them now.

As a woman in today’s world, I feel a nagging pressure to balance my love for all that is pink and frilly with the notion of a strong, independent woman.

In some scenarios, girls and women are told to focus less on their appearance and more on being smart and hardworking. On the other hand, we also get messages that we need to soften our hard spots to be acceptable and suitable women.

It is a sensitive subject and a Catch-22. Women have fought for centuries to be seen for more than their looks, so it can be pointless to want to focus on the appearance of nails and hair.

With the diagnosis of a chronic illness, the themes of body image and appearance become even more nuanced. A lot happens when an autoimmune disease breaks out, and keeping up appearances may be the last thing on your mind.

When I feel the worst, I want comfort. Loose clothes, supportive shoes and a low-maintenance hairstyle complete my ensemble. Certainly, anyone who has been through COVID-19 quarantine can identify themselves.

However, this is the long term reality for some people with disabling conditions. So sometimes when sweatpants, orthotics, and fluffy socks get old, you just want your nails done.

Studies have shown salon visits are not just a beauty.

Cosmetology services can benefit your health, especially if you have an illness that can make personal care difficult. Taking care of your hair or cleaning your skin can remove the build-up of oils and products that dry out and irritate the skin.

Care-focused environments also allow for healthy discussions, stress relief, psychosocial support and improved self-image.

For me, salon visits result in improved mood, which benefits my overall well-being.

Hair salons and salons can play a important role in community care. These businesses are accessible in almost all communities and have the potential to be convenient, local centers for health promotion.

Aside from the physical aspects, reaching outward allows me to reconnect with the inside.

When I catch myself worrying about the effects of RA on my body, I come across my own thoughts and fears of distortion and side effects.

Escape becomes a rather attractive way of dealing with my anxieties. Applying makeup, taking care of my hair or receiving a special beauty treatment makes me feel good. I enjoy my appearance and my feelings now. I can celebrate and enjoy my body instead of brooding over physiological changes that might occur in the future.

I finally took another look at my own hands, resisted the urge to catastrophize, and went to the nail salon. This would be my first manicure that I would have during a push. Nonetheless, I chose the perfect yellow nail polish color and was ready to endlessly marvel at my manicure afterwards.

I quickly realized how different it would be from past visits. All that a manicure entails – sitting in the same position for long periods of time, allowing the technician to pull on your hands, the massage performed after cleaning the cuticles and trimming the nails – is not bothersome when the disease activity is low.

But during a push, staying still while the nail technician adjusted my fingers to paint my nails properly was a challenge. I did my best to suppress the grimaces, contortions and moans. I believe I succeeded, albeit at the expense of my nervous system.

I remember leaving the living room defeated and ready to dip my hands in a bucket of ice water. One of the simplest pleasures in life was yet another thing that gave me a hurdle to overcome. But I recognized that there were steps I could take so that I could still find joy in the simple pleasures of sunny yellow fingertips.

I had the opportunity to practice assertiveness and self-representation. I often prepare to voice concerns about my symptoms and more in the doctor’s office or in the workplace.

Of course, I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to consider that self-advocacy extends beyond medical settings or at work.

It was embarrassing to let the nail technician know that rolling and holding my fingers was causing me pain. I was wondering if I was going to insult or confuse her, but she was kind, caring and careful when I explained that adjusting my fingers when applying nail polish was painful due to the inflammation of my joints.

Speaking up goes a long way. Explaining possible changes in advance can be an effective defense and can help your technician create a comfortable experience.

Most beauty treatments involve sitting in the same position for an extended period of time. Some days the stiffness in my ankles, hips, and neck makes stretching breaks essential.

Leaning over a sink in a hair salon, sitting in a stylist chair, or even lying for too long on a massage table can be problematic once the stiffness sets in.

If you are planning a trip to the salon, bring comfortable and supportive items (like your own pillows and blankets) and let your stylist or technician know that it may be necessary to take a break and change positions after a while. Adjust if necessary.

Living with RA can be difficult, but I make a more conscious effort to practice active coping skills. Every day, I strive to appreciate the charming little details of my surroundings and surround myself with uplifting and eye-catching things that bring me joy.

Sometimes it’s my style. Other times, it’s by sitting among the wild flowers. Every now and then it’s looking at my hands to appreciate my favorite colors.

Shuntel Hines is a Los Angeles-based writer with a particular interest in health equity, accessibility, and mindfulness practices to improve well-being. She has worked in healthcare for nearly a decade in a variety of capacities, including healthcare advocacy for homeless and emergency medical services in the field and in hospitals. Additionally, she is a 200 hour certified yoga instructor who enjoys an invigorating yoga practice. She enjoys spontaneous citywide adventures, seaside walks and an intense game of Scrabble.


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