How to Feel Pretty When…You’re in the Psych Ward

Welcome to a new series called “Staying Pretty When…” where we’ll explore unique beauty challenges that can arise when life offers you one too many lemons. The first installation looks at what it’s like to feel pretty when you find yourself in a Psych Ward and beauty resources are scarce.

Staying beautiful is no laughing matter, and neither is a mental illness. That said, ain’t nothing gonna keep me down (or makeup free). So what’s a girl to do when checked in to the Psych Ward? Read on for how to keep your vanity and sanity during an extended hospital stay.

The beauty shakedown begins at check-in. A nice, but firm, security guard will rifle through all your belongings (if you brought any) and take away anything you could kill yourself with. To be clear, it’s what SHE thinks you can use for self-harm, which is generally stuff you never considered. They will take away:

  • Bobby pins, glass jars, foundation, mirrored compacts, excess hair ties, any product larger than travel size shampoo, razors, tweezers, and plastic bags. You may have these items upon request, and under supervision, depending on your nurse.

However! You don’t have to roll over and die! Make an impassioned speech about the importance of your brow pencil. Tell them you will refuse to leave your room if you can’t have it. Don’t worry about looking crazy, you’re way past that point.

Be resourceful with your hair products:

  • If your roommate checks out and leaves travel shampoo and conditioner lying around, snatch it up! Anything is better than hospital issued shampoo.
  • Double down on your ingenuity. Conditioner can be used as hair product, if you are prone to frizz. Run a pea size amount through damp hair, twist in sections, and let air-dry. You’ll end up with shiny, mermaid waves.
  • There is a 1 hair-tie rule. No exceptions. Your nurse doesn’t give a fuck about your hair problems and will not let you have 2. I have no idea what people do with 2 hair-ties, but don’t bother.
  • Master the following: French Braid, 2-Strand twist, and topknot. All can be done on dirty-ish hair, look presentable, and require only 1 hair tie.

Ease up on your makeup expectations. Ultimately, you are in the hospital to get well. Also, everyone looks like hell. BUT! That doesn’t mean you have to go all “I don’t believe in artificial beauty.”

  • Leave your brows and liner on 24/7. This way, when you wander the halls at 3 am looking for your nurse because you still can’t sleep, you look less like a ghost of patients past.
  • Skip the mascara. I KNOW! But it’s ok. Unless you have makeup remover or are willing to scrub your eyes with shitty hospital soap, it’s just not worth the itchy eyelashes at bedtime.
  • Ask for your makeup bag before visiting hours. Your family and friends want to see you are getting better, not that you’ve slipped into the black hole of a makeup-free existence. Give them hope.

As for the body hair…well, you may just have to accept it.

  • IF you want to shave your legs, it will be with some crazy-ass single blade. You will be supervised. Personally, fuck that.
  • Convince your husband/best friend to sneak in a pair of tweezers during visiting hours. OR:
  • Deal with the serious amount of chin hairs. Good God, did I always have this many?

Realize that bargaining with your nurse is useless. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell him/her that you ARE NOT SUICIDAL, they will not break the rules for you. You’re leaving alive, goddamnit, and so is your roommate.

Remember that this is temporary (hopefully). It’s highly unlikely that you’ll become a permanent resident of the Ritz-Carlton, so try to keep some perspective. Use the time to bond with people who have the same illness as you. Compare notes. Make friends. Get better. You’ll be back to fabulous in no time.

Now it’s your turn, dear readers! Got a beauty challenge that you overcame? Please share and you might get your very own Feeling Pretty When article!

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