Secret Beauty Tips to Look Good Even When You’re Sick

Updated: Oct. 11, 2022

Getting sick during flu and cold season is a given, but looking sick doesn't have to be. Here are beauty tips from the pros on how to look your best even when you don't feel it.

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Look good to feel better

When your nose is running like a faucet and your skin is drier than the Sahara, feeling lousy is just adding insult to injury. With these beauty tips, you can at least hide the fact that you’re feeling terrible.


Treat yourself to the right tissues

If you’re coming down with the sniffles, don’t skimp when it comes to facial tissues. You’re bound to be blowing your nose a lot, and opting for lotion-treated tissues will go a long way in preventing a Rudolph-red, irritated nose.


Stay hydrated, inside and out

When you’re sick, you’re usually a little dehydrated, too – which can show on your skin. “Consider using a richer moisturizer on the face and hands, and an ointment around the nose and on your lips,” says Doris Day, MD, a dermatologist in New York, and author of Beyond Beautiful. (See how sound shut-eye is your best beauty trick.) Bonus: You’ll protect your skin against all that nose-blowing friction, too. While you’re at it, tuck a small bottle or tube of heavy-duty moisturizer in your handbag, along with a personal pack of tissues, before you head out for the day.


Soothe puffy eyes with teabags

If your eyes get puffy from congestion, sleep with your head slightly propped up to allow fluids to drain more easily from your face. To battle under-eye bags, try this tea remedy: Take two cold, wet tea bags and place them over your eyes while you lie down for 15 minutes. The result? De-puffed peepers. “Tea bags contain caffeine and antioxidants,” explains Dr. Day. “When applied over the eyes they can be very helpful in reducing puffiness and calming the skin. Green, black, and white tea all contain antioxidants and caffeine, but I prefer white tea because it’s the least processed.” Here are some black tea benefits you haven’t read about before.

istock/Lise Gagne

Give your skin some TLC

While you’re on the mend, give your regular skin-care regimen a few days off. “Skip glycolic, salicylic and retinoic acids, or any other exfoliating products that could irritate your skin,” suggests Dr. Day. Instead, “use a gentle non-foaming cleanser or pat your skin with cotton pads soaked with micellar water to cleanse it.” And try this trick for a little extra TLC around your eyes: Store your eye cream in the refrigerator. Not only will it feel refreshing on your tired eyelids, it will also help to fight puffiness.


Don’t take the red-eye

Another hallmark of a cold? Pink, bunny rabbit-like eyes. Banish that bloodshot look by using eye drops to lubricate and cool your eyes, reducing redness. Keep in mind: If you choose eye drops made from decongestants, your eyes can become redder than they were before after the drops wear off, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Consider trying preservative-free lubricating drops (artificial tears) first to avoid what’s known as “rebound redness.”


Prime your face before prettifying

Since you’re bound to blow your nose, sneeze, and rub your itchy eyes a bit more when you’re sick, start with an application of face primer before you put on any makeup; this will add hours of staying power to your look, advises Dr. Day. Lip primers and eye primers are a good idea, too. (Try these skin-care tips that dermatologists swear by.)


Don’t reveal, conceal

One of the top tip-offs that you’ve got a cold is a red nose. Opt for a highly-pigmented, opaque concealer that is yellow-based and just a bit paler than your skin to camouflage the redness.


Don’t pile on the base or powder

Skip the regular foundation and traditional face powder, since it’s easy for it to look cakey when you’re dehydrated. For some natural-looking coverage, top your moisturizer with mineral foundation, says Dr. Day, which will conceal and even out skin without looking dry. Here are six other ways to fake flawless skin.


Warm up your skin

If you’re feeling pasty, you’ll want to add a bit of color to your face. But play down any pink and bring out the warm tones in your skin by using a bit of bronzer and some peach-toned cream blush for a healthier-looking glow, Dr. Day advises.


Brighten up your eyes

Dab pale, shimmery beige or gold creamy eye shadow on your lids and at the inner corner of your eyes to catch the light and to counteract any redness or dullness in the eye area, recommends Dr. Day.


Avoid mascara meltdown

Sneezes and sniffles mean watery eyes and potential smudging. To avoid a washout, stick with waterproof mascara. Once you’ve kicked your cold, however, Dr. Day suggests returning to your regular formula since waterproof mascara can dry out lashes. “Any longer-lasting product tends to be drier because it coats the follicle and can affect the bonds that make up the shaft of the hair,” she says. “This can affect water balance of the hair.” And be sure to “use a product designed for waterproof mascara removal,” she adds. “The product is generally oil-based and helps remove the mascara without further drying the skin.”


Keep lips smooth and shiny

When you’re stuffed up, your lips have a tendency to get super-chapped. Rub them gently with a warm, wet washcloth to remove any flakes, and then condition with a lip balm or lip moisturizer throughout the day and before bed, suggests the American Academy of Dermatology. If you’ll be outdoors, make sure your lip balm has an SPF of 30 or higher.