3 tips for applying makeup without exacerbating MG symptoms

Dividing tasks throughout the day allows time to rest and recover

Shawna Barnes avatar

by Shawna Barnes |

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Makeup is one of those things that we women use to “put our face on,” so to speak.

But when we start having trouble holding our arms up due to myasthenia gravis (MG), applying makeup is one of the first things to go. MG takes many things away from those of us who have it, but feeling feminine, girly, or pretty shouldn’t be one of them.

I recently started my own business, so I’m back in the public spotlight, so to speak. I started looking for ways to apply makeup that don’t exacerbate my MG symptoms. The following are my top three tips on how to “apply your face” without making your mascara run.

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Tip one: Forget about the five-minute face. I used to sell Mary Kay products back in the day, so I learned how to do a pretty simple but polished five-minute face. Unfortunately, those tricks don’t work anymore. The principles still apply, but not the time frame. So fugetaboutit!

Next, find a color palette that works for you. I have hazel eyes that often look green. Purple shades make the green really pop, so I use a soft, champaign-colored eye shadow and then grab the purple eyeliner. After adding a bit of mascara, I’m ready to make googly eyes at the hubby!

A woman looking down and to the right of the frame at a hand-held mirror applies makeup to her right eye. She's sitting in a chair in what appears to be a stylish office with light stained wooden walls and painted light blue walls.

When applying makeup, Shawna Barnes keeps her arms tucked close to her side and hunches slightly forward. (Courtesy of Shawna Barnes)

Tip number two: Don’t try to apply your makeup right after doing something that drains your energy, such as taking a shower. I’ve started keeping my makeup at the office so that I can’t do it right after showering, even if I wanted to. I’ve noticed that trying to shower and then do my makeup sets me up for failure by increasing fatigue throughout the day.

By dividing up tasks and performing them at different times, I give my body the time it needs to rest and recover from physically taxing activities. Maybe a shower isn’t taxing for you, but perhaps eating breakfast is. Whatever the task may be, wait at least 30 minutes before trying to put your face on.

Tip number three: Tyrannosaurus rex arms! I’m serious. Pin those elbows to your side or prop them up on a table and slouch. Now isn’t the time to be worried about your posture. Supporting your arms while applying makeup reduces the workload they have to do. By using the “T. rex technique,” I eliminate the feeling of dead weight in my arms.

My five-minute face takes about 20 minutes to put on. I’ve changed my schedule to go to work about a half-hour before I open, which gives me time to get the coffee going and apply some makeup.

Adjusting my expectations in this way allows me to feel pretty again.

My husband asked me one day why I was struggling to find a way to put on makeup. Before I could respond, he told me that if it was for him, I didn’t have to do it. But when I told him it was for me because it made me feel better about myself, he started helping me find solutions that enabled me to do it in a way that wouldn’t exacerbate my MG symptoms.

That’s what it’s really about: Finding ways to feel good about myself, regardless of what MG throws my way.

Do these tips help you with the morning routine of putting your game face on? Do you have additional tips? Please share in the comments below. 

Note: Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Myasthenia Gravis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to myasthenia gravis.


Carol avatar


Thanks for your article, mostly I have the same issue with showering and hair washing since I learned energy management it helps ❤️

Tere Figueras avatar

Tere Figueras

My husband has MG and doesn't wear make-up, but I still read your article. Having been diagnosed with CFS/ME and Fibromyalgia, I found your article quite helpful. I also have to choose what to do after my shower (a lot of times, it's to sit on the side of the bed for 15 minutes to recharge), and like you, I, too, was a Mary Kay consultant waaaay back and could do the 5-minute face. You're right -- now it takes 20 or more! Your T-Rex arms technique is a must-try. I have an inoperable rotator cuff, so this sounds like a great tip! Thanks so very much for a most helpful article. Have a beautiful week!

Shawna Barnes avatar

Shawna Barnes

Thanks for commenting Tere. I hope my "t-rex" arms helped you! It can also help if your husband has issues in the shower, as this is the same technique I use when I wash my hair while sitting on my shower chair. Keep the elbows tucked and head bent forward to reach my hands rather than lifting my arms to my head. I hope that makes sense. - Shawna


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