How to look good when you're sick

The Beauty Products I Reach for When I’m Sick

As I may have mentioned once or twice, or at least seven times, I’ve spent the last week feeling – and also looking – like hell. I mean, given that I’m the kind of person who could be sent home from work/school just for skipping the blusher during my morning makeup routine, you can only imagine how rough I look when I’m ACTUALLY ill.  Honestly, I’m just glad I got this post out of the way during the early stages of this lurgy, because if I’d tried to do it a few days ago, it would’ve ended up more like a horror movie than a hair tutorial.  (“You look slightly less terrible than you did yesterday,” Terry told me on Monday: such a way with words, that man!)

Anyway, I’m very lucky, in that because I work from home, it doesn’t really matter how bad I look, because, most of the time, the only people who’re going to see me are Terry and the dog (who’re both used to the sight of me by now), the postman, and all of those delivery drivers who beat a path to my door, laden down with boxes every week. Oh, and that man in the post office who hates me. But I digress!

Contrary to popular belief, however, even full-time bloggers have to leave the house sometimes, and the one thing guaranteed to make you feel worse when you have a cold is having everyone tell you how AWFUL you look, so here are some of the beauty products I always reach for on days when I need a little bit of extra help. Or a BIG bit of extra help, even…

How to look good when you're sickBENEFIT LEMON AID

This is actually an eyelid primer, and it’s a pretty good one too, as it happens: I sometimes just use it on its own on my lids – it doesn’t add colour, but it somehow just makes them look better. Because the yellow base is colour-correcting, however, this little product is amazing at eliminating redness, so if I have the cold, say, I’ll sometimes dab on just a touch of it around my nose, under the eyes etc, to tone down the red bits. This product more or less saved my life (totally not exaggerating) (OK, exaggerating) when, the week before my wedding, my skin decided that now would be an AWESOME time to develop angry red weals under my eyes, so I could get married looking like I’d been punched in the face. (I mean, SERIOUSLY, people. I was fully expecting to develop one of my infamous ‘second heads’ on the morning of the wedding, but the red eyes totally threw me…)  This product was the ONLY thing that helped disguise them a bit, and I’ve been loyal to it ever since: in fact, as you can see from the slightly gross photo above, I’ve actually “hit pan”, as I believe the expression goes, with this one. That’s quite unusual for me, so I guess it tells you how much I like it…


As you can see, this is another product I’ve almost used up, so it looks like a trip to the NARS counter might be on the cards, OH NOES. This is the illuminator version of the well-known ‘Orgasm’ blush (Which I also use and love), and if my skin’s looking particularly dull/pale, I’ll apply a few dots of it all over my face. Don’t worry, this is subtle enough even for my pale skin, and if you use it sparingly, it’s not too shiny, either. What it does is to add a touch of warmth to the complexion, which I find takes the edge of my extreme pallor, without making me look like I’ve been hitting the bronzer/fake tan. I use it mostly in winter, when I can start to look ill even at the best of times, but it’s another great product to have for days when you’re feeling under the weather. (Note: there’s also a “Super Orgasm” version of this, which I bought, thinking it would be EVEN BETTER, but it’s actually quite orangey, so I don’t recommend it for pale folks…)


This is another highlighter, and another Benefit product which I’ve been buying for years. Benefit was one of the first brands I really got into, and I went through a stage a few years ago, when my makeup collection resembled the Benefit counter. These days I’m a bit more varied in my beauty purchases, and I no longer rush out to buy every new release, but there are still a few Benefit products I continue to re-purchase, and High Beam is one of them: it’s a lovely pale, shimmery highlighter, which is perfect for pale skin, and looks great applied on the cheekbones, or in the arch of the brow. I don’t use this every day, but it comes out on sick days (and any other time my skin needs a bit of extra help), when I like to use a tiny dot on the inner corner of the eyes, to open/brighten them, and to generally make me look a little more awake.


As I said, I’m not someone who can get anyway with the natural look – or not unless I actually WANT to look ill – so blush is an essential part of my makeup routine. I tend to think cream blushes look better than powder ones on skin that’s dehydrated, dull, or otherwise affected by the signs of The Lurgy, and this Clarins’ blush is the one I reach for when I’m sick, but required to show my pale, wan face in public. The colour is called ‘Vitamin Pink’, and I remember being a bit alarmed by it when it arrived, because it seemed very bright. Actually, though, as it turns out, it’s a really lovely shade of pink, perfect for creating a healthy flush – even when you’re feeling less than healthy.

(Warning: if you’re thinking of buying this, be aware that the bottle is tiny, and you’ll probably think it’s sample-sized when it arrives. It’s of those ‘little goes a long way’ products, though: I’ve had mine for – well, longer than I probably should have, to be honest – and it’s still going strong, even although I use it regularly.)


This is the ultimate “sick day” product: it’s a petroleum jelly-style intensive moisturiser, which will soothe and repair chapped lips and noses, and although it’s really, really pricey, it’s really, really worth it, too. It’s awesome. I really hope my tube turns up, so I don’t have to cough out for another one. I mean, I’ve been doing more than enough coughing as it is lately…

So! Those are my go-to products for times when I’m feeling bad, but don’t necessarily want to LOOK as bad as I feel. I’m not claiming these will actually make me look GOOD in times of lurgy, obviously – I don’t think you can buy miracles in Sephora yet – but every little bit helps, right?

[Disclosure: Most of these are products I’ve had for a long time, and, to be completely honest, I’ve long-since forgotten how I came to acquire some of them. I’m sure I purchased the Benefit products myself, but there’s a good chance some of the others were review samples, so just to be on the safe side, it’s probably best if you just assume they were free!]
  • I really appreciate the info on these products for pale skin. It’s been so cloudy in Ohio for so long, my winter pallor is already in its beginning stages!

    November 21, 2014
  • I just have one question to ask about this post – are these products laid on Rubin for the photos?!
    Jokes, I saw the post about Rubin disguised as a cushion, so I’m sure it’s either that or a blanket, but it did pop into my head while reading just how similar the background looks to a certain dog!!
    Also I’m very much the same as you – I’m frequently asked when I’m not wearing make up if I’m feeling okay and told I look peaky, so when I’m actually ill, there isn’t much of a difference aside from an apparent green tinge to my skin, as my family so kindly likes to point out to me :/

    November 21, 2014
  • Hi Amber, I might use this next time I’m feeling ill and I have to motivate myself in going to work. I’m sure you didn’t look as bad as you thought you did. You looked fine your outfit pictures.

    November 21, 2014
  • This post is timely. Pretty much every day this week, I’ve looked in the mirror and thought, “Jeez. You look as bad as you feel.”

    And I agree times a thousand on the cream blush. I’m wearing Becca Beach Tint and it’s fantastic for making me look less undead.

    November 21, 2014