Suck It Up Sick Days: How To Look Awesome When You Feel Your Worst

Look fabulous when you feel sick

Out of sick days? We’ve got some tips to help you glow when you still have to show up for work, no matter your ailment.

When you feel like crap, ideally the world stops and feels it with you. A snow day score when you’ve got the flu, a randomly granted work-from-home day saving you the explanation of your weekend-acquired arm brace or a serendipitous subway shut down when you’re terrified of leaving the bathroom floor. Shouldn’t sick days be national days of observance anyway?

Unfortunately, the reality is we have to get up and show up on some days we’d rather be channeling robe, slippers and curtains drawn. I’m here to help you through several sick day scenarios, with upgrades to your look that focus more on where you can add flare or finesse instead of honing in on the trouble spots.

When you’ve got a head cold…

How to look good when you feel bad with a head cold.

The skin around your nose is dried out and crackling from blowing your nose like clockwork. Draw attention to your gaze with a super dramatic eye moment: think cat, smokey, metallic, anything bold. Or channel Carine Roitfeld and go heavy on the eyes with just a touch of moisturizer everywhere else.


Carine Roitfeld smokey eyes
Coveteur/Alec Kugler


Bobbi Brown Extra Soothing Balm

Bobbi Brown Extra Soothing Balm ($65) 

Bonus RX: Bobbi Brown Extra Soothing Balm: This balm is a dry-skin savior. You can even use it on top of your makeup and it won’t show.


When you have a stomach bug…

How to look good when you feel bad with a stomach ache
Getty/Health Magazine


Your body is feeling blue, your face is going green. When the flu goes low, we go high. Try creating a fierce top knot with a sparkly headband or a beaded twist out. Play up that beautiful crown without drawing attention to your queasy frown.    

 Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer

Physician’s Formula Murumuru Butter Bronzer ($14.99) 


Han's Rose Berry Natural Cheek and Lip Tint

Han’s Rose Berry Tint ($16) 

Bonus RX: Warm up with a good bronzer like Physician’s Formula Murumuru Butter Bronzer or neutralize that green feeling with a pink and creamy cheek stain like Han’s Rose Berry Tint to give your skin vitality.



When allergy season hits you hard…

How to look good when you feel bad with seasonal allergies.


Gotta love Spring in the air, right? Except you’re doing everything in your power to avoid scratching out your eyes. Definitely steer clear of playing up bloodshot, puffy eyes. Instead, apply your favorite bold-ish lip stain and put the attention on your pout. I recommend Ecstasy Lacquer Liquid Lipstick because it isn’t too matte or too glossy; it stays on all day, so make that one less fuss for your hands to hold back from.


Ecstasy Lacquer Liquid Lipstick

Giorgio Armani Ecstasy Lacquer Liquid Lipstick ($38) 

Bonus RX: As much as possible, get the area around your eyes the same color. Stay away from drying concealer formulas or try mixing concealer with your foundation formula for more slip in the application and more ease blending on top of puffiness.



When you break a bone…   

Mariah Carey with cast on red carpet
Startraks Photo/ Rex Features

Maybe it wasn’t so much a badge of honor acquired on the dance floor, but you’re stuck wearing a wrist cast, a knee brace or hobbling along on crutches. I say splurge on a fab mani/pedi to instill Lisa Turtle iconic crutch dance level confidence.


NBC/Saved By the Bell

Bonus RX: When all else fails, class up your dressings. As long as your doc says it’s safe, try using an oversized summer scarf in place of a sling. Or bling your sling like Mariah, dahling!



When they break your heart…

How to look good when you feel like crap after a break up
Photo by ANMOL on Unsplash

Love hurts. So does your ugly-cry face and its lasting effects. You can always elect for the classic breakup hair chop — or pull a me and get a breakup weave. I find it helps to feel desirable, even if only to your tissue-delivering bestie, the barista at your morning coffee stop or the reflection in your mirror.

Bonus RX: Breakups are the perfect time to splurge on that star treatment. Treat yourself to a relaxing spa day or a show-stopping blowout. Let Glam Squad be your shoulder to cry on. You can also put on a cooling eye mask to calm those puffy eyes once you’re all cried out.


Bright Eyes Mask for when you feel sick and want to look good
Bright Eyes Mask ($7)

When you break out in a rash…

How to look good when you feel bad with a rash on your face

Your face is blotchy or bumpy or scaly. No pair of sunglasses or diameter of hat will shield you from the embarrassment of being seen in public. Better get your shoe game on fleek. That’s right, bring all the attention to your fancy footwear, and you’ll feel less insecure about what’s happening up top.

Bonus RX: I would defer to your dermatologist on this one. Don’t try to self treat too much until you know the cause of the rash. After cool compresses, let your skin breathe and your boots do the walking.


When you’ve got a cold sore…

How to look good when you feel bad with a cold sore


You feel like a literal leper. Even though cold sores are super common, we’ve been made to feel like they are instant people repellers. Here’s where I say you light up the eyes. Play up dramatic brows or lashes to focus up away from the mouth.


Anastasia Beverly Hills DIPBROW Pomade

Anastasia Beverly Hills DIPBROW Pomade ($18) 

Bonus RX: Anastasia Beverly Hills DIPBROW Pomade: I love this creamy, smooth formula and the ease with which I can sculpt bold brows that look natural.


Flirt Cosmetics Flashes Lash Applicator

Flirt Cosmetics Flashes Lash Applicator ($28) 


Fun alert! You can always use a good thick mascara, but I say you play with Flirt’s easy false lash applicator for an even fuller — and more distracting — lash look.


When your skin is as flaky as your boss thinks you’re trying to be…


Kim Kardashian sunburnt. How to look good when you feel bad with dry skin or sunburn.
Photo courtesy Kim Kardashian


You’re back from a ski weekend or still battling the effects of a gnarly winter, and the skin on your body is super dry. Tackle ashiness by exfoliating or refer above to the magical Bobbi Brown Extra Soothing Balm. In a pinch, lathering coconut oil will do the trick, and if not right away at least it will have you smelling like smoothness.


Herbivore’s Coco Rose Coconut Oil Body Polish

Herbivore’s Coco Rose Coconut Oil Body Polish ($36) 


Get preventative, and use this stuff regularly to avoid crumbling on colleagues and friends alike.

There’s nothing like sick days to remind us “look good, feel good” really counts. Hopefully these suggestions arm you with your best Abracadabra to feel fierce in the face of days we’d all rather do without.


Annette Cirelle is a writer torn between two coasts but mostly based in Los Angeles. Most days she's a jeans and t-shirt kinda girl, but you will never find her without a manicure. Instagram & Twitter @annettecirelle

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