An assortment of makeup floats in dark shadow, while a special makeup product surrounded by glitter outshines them all.

How Makeup Helped Me Cope With Thyroid Eye Disease

Last updated: June 2022

I’ve always been fascinated by the art of makeup, the way color, shading, and shadow can manipulate shapes. It can highlight some features while taking the focus away from others. When I was diagnosed with thyroid eye disease (TED) I immediately began looking for techniques that could help mask some of my symptoms. When it felt like my body was spinning wildly out of control, doing my makeup and catching a glimpse of the old me in the mirror was meaningful. It was a long wait for treatment, and anything I could do that helped me feel more confident and a little more like myself was important to my mental health.

Makeup to mask my TED symptoms

For over two years I swore by the same techniques - smoky eyes with matte colors. The darkest brown was used at my lash line and grew progressively lighter the closer I got to my eyebrows. I used a medium brown to create borders at the inner corners of my eyes along with a darker liner on my lower lash line - I essentially created a box around my eyes, hoping the darkness would conjure the illusion that my eyes were pulling backwards. Shimmer was extremely minimal, as too much would draw attention to the eyes. Add some dark liquid eyeliner and a brightening powder under the eye for contrast and voila - I felt a little closer to myself.

To combat my extra watery eyes, I took plenty of breaks and caught tears with q-tips before the salty water destroyed the carefully placed eyeshadow and liner. My eyes were more sensitive in the morning, so it helped if I did my makeup a few hours after waking (or at least saved my eyeliner and mascara for mid-day). I carried the touch-up essentials (concealer, eyeliner, and eyeshadow) in my bag to help throughout the day.

As much as it helped me emotionally, I did grow tired of these techniques. I felt like I was stuck in a cartoon, wearing the same t-shirt day after day. I longed for color, lighter shades - just something different. As I was recovering from orbital decompression and lid surgeries, I was anxious to see the results behind the swelling. While I knew that things would be a lot better after surgery, I was also aware that I wouldn’t look exactly the same as I did before. Would I still feel like I needed the smoky eye? Would I have more emotional freedom to play with new ideas?

A new palette after surgery: added sparkles!

I started slow - perhaps I could stick with shades of brown and just go a few shades lighter with the smoky eye technique? So far so good. Then I took a giant leap - I bought an eyeshadow palette with pinks, blues, reds, purples, greens - and sparkle! Gold, silver, and bright white to highlight and create contrast. Blending the bright blue and red, I created a deep purple that started in the outer corner and faded to light pink in the center corner. So far so good! Dare I add a touch of that sparkle to (gasp!) draw attention to my eyes? Go for it!

I still struggle with self-acceptance. The person I see in the mirror is not the person I knew before my diagnosis, but I’m trying to get to know her. Now that I’m on the other side of orbital decompression and lid surgeries, I’m using makeup differently. While makeup was once a tool that helped hide my symptoms, it’s now helping me explore the new me and how I want to express myself. It’s exciting, and though it may seem small on paper, each step I take towards re-discovering myself is very big.

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