The Battle Between Mitochondrial Myopathy and Makeup

Leah Leilani avatar

by Leah Leilani |

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My early years in this world were spent being a girlie girl. Along with my stash of crowns and fake pearls were things like brightly colored nail polish and some mini lipsticks bought at Sally’s Beauty. Little did I know that as I grew older and my mitochondrial myopathy progressed, beautifying myself would become a difficult task. 

Going into middle school meant that I was suddenly immersed in a sea of girls, all experimenting with their outward appearance. Most of them donned thick eyelashes covered in mascara and smeared on some eyeliner. Just like every other teenager in the world, I wanted to fit in with the crowd. 

Soon, seventh grade rolled around, and I was excited to start the year looking my best. Every morning, I made the decision to use some of my valuable energy to apply a few layers of my favorite mascara. Each night, I lay spread-eagle in bed, unable to muster the energy to find a more comfortable position. I wondered why my body was so much weaker than usual. The only thing I had done differently was to wear mascara, but that couldn’t possibly be causing me to feel this way. Or could it?

I decided to put my theory to the test. My experimental trial would involve paying close attention to my body’s signals of weakness with and without the mascara on. Each day I wore it, I noticed that my eyelids grew heavier and harder to keep open. On the days that I excluded mascara from my morning routine, I felt energized and awake. It dawned on me that the extra weight of the mascara on my lashes was too heavy for my eyelids, causing my fatigue. 

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After my disappointing discovery, I tried my best to find some sort of alternative. My trash can began to fill up with clear mascaras and mascaras that were advertised as “lightweight.” None of them were any better. 

I began telling myself that the absence of makeup in my life was a blessing, that other girls wore makeup as a mask to cover up their real selves, which they thought were imperfect. It became a form of identity for me: I was the unique one who didn’t wear makeup and found myself beautiful just as I was. 

The next couple of years were filled with tried and failed makeup products. It seemed as though the universe was against me wearing anything on my face besides skin. Although, I did have one makeup vice: lipstick. 

As if it were magic, with a couple swipes of color on my lips, I was confident and ready for the day. Throughout high school, my lipstick collection grew, and soon enough I had colors ranging from nude pinks and mauves to deep plums and dark cherries. A bright lip and bare face became my signature look. Occasionally, though, I’d still long for a good mascara. 

One Halloween, I purchased a liquid eyeliner to draw some stitches around my mouth for a costume. Out of curiosity, I lined my upper eyelid and winged out the tip. Surprised by how well it turned out, I showed off my impressive work to my mom. I had finally found a beauty product that I could apply and wear!

That day sparked something in me. It gave me the courage to seek out other makeup products. Since then, I’ve experimented with concealers, eyeliners, and even foundation. I keep my collection minimal, since it is important for me to conserve my energy for the remainder of the day, and I am careful to choose products that require little to no effort. For example, my most recent purchase, Glossier Cloud Paint, a cream blush that is packaged in a tube, can be applied to the cheeks with just your fingertips. 

I keep my routine simple by picking out only three makeup items to use per day. This not only saves energy, but also ensures that my look is natural. I stay away from products that require the use of brushes because cleaning them would rob me of precious energy. 

Going through this journey helped me in many ways. Not only did it teach me to value my health over my outward appearance, but I also learned to love my true beauty.


Note: Muscular Dystrophy 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 another 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 Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.


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