We partnered with Look Good Feel Better, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life and self-esteem of people undergoing cancer treatment through workshops on physical and emotional well-being. They gave us tips on how to approach skincare and makeup during cancer treatment – just in time for the holiday season.
We’ll cover skincare and a few makeup tips during cancer treatment – whether you’re looking for self-care or want to spruce up for a holiday event, these tips will help you feel better about your changing appearance during and after cancer treatment.
What we’ll cover in this blog:
Skincare tips during cancer treatmnet
Dry lips and sores
Makeup tips during cancer treatment
Neutralizing dark circles
Redness and hyperpigmentation
Shaping your eyebrows
When you think of skincare and your routine during or after cancer treatment, think of it as a moment for self-care – something that feeds not only your skin but your soul, if we’re going to be deep about it. There’s huge power in taking some time to care for yourself, and taking care of your skin has its practical benefits too.
There are hundreds of different cleansers – from milky ones to mistler waters. Your cleanser should be mild and non-irritant, especially if you’re experiencing dryness, sensitivity, redness, or peeling because of cancer treatment. Whether it’s milky or gel-based a spray isn’t as crucial. However, Look Good Feel Better recommends not using regular soap during cancer treatment because they’re usually a bit harsher. You’re going to want to choose products that are very gentle and very neutral so that you’re not causing any abrasions or dryness from your skincare routine.
When cleaning your skin, use the time to give yourself a good massage. Keep in mind that your cleanser is going to stay on the surface of your skin and then being washed off, rather than something you’re rubbing into your skin (that’s what moisturizer is for). After giving your face a massage (seriously, if you haven’t done it before, try it), take a kleenex and you wipe the cleanser off or rinse it off with water, whatever suits you.
A note about peeling: Try to use peeling sparingly during cancer treatment because they also tend to have harsh effects. Instead, take a washcloth and have quite warm water on it to use as an exfoliator and wipe it across your face – that will remove the excess skin that you may feel you want to remove. You don’t need to rub hard. Just let the warmth of the washcloth loosen dry skin and then wipe it off.
It’s normal to get very dry skin when going through cancer treatment. The answer to this is not to have a very heavy cream but to have a lightweight, hydrating cream that you can use a lot of.
Look for moisturizers for sensitive skin. It doesn’t have to be super expensive, there are some affordable ones that are just as good. Talk to a few different people on the War On Cancer app to ask people who’ve gone through the same treatment as you what’s worked for them, or check out a few blogs to find something you think will suit you. There are loads to choose from so if you’re not sure, buy trial sizes and travel kits to test them and see what works best for you.
Also, try and look for a moisturizer – it doesn’t matter if it’s winter or summer, SPF on your face protects your skin from the harsh elements of sunlight. If there’s not SPF in your cream, use SPF on top of your cream. It should be 30 or 50 SPF protection year-round.
Use the moisturizer on your whole face and if you have extra dry spots, you can take some extra and gently tap it onto your spot where it’s really dry and let it sit there and see it absorb. If you have a dry scalp, apply the moisturizer to your scalp as well. You can use a moisturizer however as often as you need it. Whenever you’re feeling dry, reapply the moisturizer. There’s nothing but benefits from using a good, non-clogging moisturizer.
Another tip is to use face mists – have one with you and when you feel like it, spray it on. If you’re working from home, on the run to and from treatment, or are celebrating Christmas in a dry climate, spray it on generously. Use as much as you’d like.
You can use the face mist on your scalp as well. It gives a lot of relief after wearing a wig that gets a bit itchy, if you live in a hot climate, or if you have dry skin because of cancer. If you want to step it up a notch, keep your face mist in the refrigerator to get a cooling effect. It’s also a really loving thing to do, so that’s a win.
Alone this Christmas? Check out our tips on how to handle isolation during the holiday season.
Dry lips and sores
One of the side effects of treatment is getting very dry lips or sores on the sides of your mouth. What you can do? Use a cerat cream on your lips that you can reapply time and again. Also, keep hydrated by drinking a lot of water, if possible. This will help keep you moisturized from the inside out and counteract the side effect of dry skin during cancer treatment.
There are no rules when it comes to makeup when you’re going through cancer. Do what you feel works best for you – these makeup tips are to help guide you if you’re feeling a little lost. Your skin or eyes may be more sensitive when experiencing cancer and side effects of cancer treatment can include dark circles under your eyes, hyperpigmentation from drugs, or losing your hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes. These tips are to help you find a way to feel yourself even while your looks change because of cancer. You always glow, here’s how to help your light shine:
Neutralizing dark circles around your eyes
Dark circles under your eyes are common, cancer or not. This side effect can be exacerbated by going through cancer treatment because we’re under stress, more tired, and that dark circles can be a result of that.
To cover your dark circles, use a concealer that is one shade lighter than your skin color because it will brighten your eyes and make you look more awake.
If a concealer isn’t quite enough to hide your dark circles, use a color corrector under your concealer – choose a pink shade to counteract blue circles, or a peach shade to counteract purple or brown circles.
You may have dark areas in the insides of your eyes close to your nose, and you can apply the concealer there too to open up your eyes. Your corrector and concealer are more opaque and will give you that luminosity around your eye area to make your eyes pop. You can also use a concealer on your eyelids to open your eyes up even more.
Redness and hyperpigmentation
Redness and hyperpigmentation is a really common side effect of your cancer treatments. Redness can come from oversensitivity or dryness and hyperpigmentation can come from a reaction to certain drugs used during chemotherapy. Luckily, there’s a fairly simple way to hide these side effects – use a color corrector! Think of the color wheel when you think of the color corrector, so think of the opposite colors. For redness, get yourself a green-ish color corrector. If you have this greenish color corrector, apply it beneath your foundation on the spots that are red on your cheeks or forehead or wherever you have them. You don’t need to apply much, a little goes a long way. Then, apply your concealer or foundation on top of that. You’ll find that this neutralizes the redness.
Use the same mindset when finding a color to counteract hyperpigmentation – use the opposite color of what the pigmentation is that you want to neutralize and apply it under your concealer or foundation.
Follow the topics “Side Effects” in the War On Cancer app to learn about how to deal with redness and other side effects caused by cancer treatment.
Shaping your eyebrows if you’re losing them
If you haven’t lost your eyebrows yet, but may lose them because of your cancer treatment, take a picture of the way they look now to use for reference. No two eyebrows are a perfect match, so knowing how they differ a bit will help you recreate your natural look.
However, if you don’t have a picture, here are a few rules from Look Good Feel Better to follow of thumb to help you give shape to your eyebrows if they’ve thinned or lost your hair:
Choose an eyebrow pencil with a color that is a bit lighter than you would normally choose in order to have a more natural look during cancer treatment, rather than going too theatrical. Eyebrows shape your face and mark your eye, so creating an illusion of an eyebrow as naturally as possible will have the best effect.
When applying, start by outlining your brow’s shape with three dots.
- Use your eyebrow pencil and hold it straight along your nose (forehead to chin) along the inside of your eye – where the pencil hits your bone by the eyebrow is where your eyebrows start. Make a dot there.
- Then, look straight into your mirror and move the pencil in line with the outside of your iris – that’s your highest point. Make a dot there.
- Lastly, align the pencil from your nose to the outside of your eye – that’s where your eyebrow ends. Make a dot there.
Now, connect the dots with light, feathery strokes of color in an upward motion, tapering the shape as you come to the endpoint. Feathery strokes will best imitate eyebrow hair, and then choose if you want to make them bigger, darker, lighter, whatever you like most. Gently blend and soften with an eyebrow brush or the brush end of the pencil.
Losing your eyelashes can happen during cancer treatment if you’re losing your hair and you may feel like defining your eyes as well. When you’re losing your eyelashes, you’re not only losing what defines your eyes but what protects your eyes as well. So, without your eyelashes, you’ll realize that you’re getting more dirt and dust in your eyes which will cause your eyes to run and tear up a lot. So, a tip from Look Good Feel Better is to choose a soft, waterproof eye pencil so that you don’t unnecessarily irritate your eye and that the chance of it staying applied throughout the day is higher.
If you do still have some eyelashes, you can lift your eyelid and color in between your eye and your lashes. Or, apply it from above, as close to your lash line as possible. Start one centimeter from your nose with a very fine line and then make it bigger towards the outside of your eye. End the line a bit upwards in order to lift your eyes up a bit.
It can be hard to make a thin, nice line with an eye pencil, so if you’re struggling with that, do it before applying your eyeshadow because that will naturally. Or, smudge the eyeshadow or pencil with Qtip to create a softer look that allows more grace for an imperfect line.
If you want to add eyeliner under your eyes, apply it starting from the outside of your eye for just about a centimeter and then use the Qtip to soften it to the middle of your eye. This will open up your eyes.
Remember, these are makeup tips to help guide you when you’re not sure what to do during cancer treatment, but there are no hard rules – do what you feel like. And, don’t be afraid to experiment. Even if you’ve used makeup your entire life, all of a sudden the game changes and the rules have changed so you need to be able to experiment and play around and find what works for you in the situation you’re in right now. Ask others on the War On Cancer app who know what it’s like for makeup and skincare tips during cancer treatment
In the end, some concealer and an eye pencil will go a long way. Put on your eyebrows, outline your eyes, a touch of blush on your cheeks and you’re good to go!
Remember to take part in our latest Health Study in the War On Cancer app to contribute to breast cancer research in the UK.
The information shared does not constitute a medical consultation and is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with your doctor or other qualified health providers for questions regarding a medical condition, especially during the active period of Corona / Covid19. Please do not disregard professional health provider advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here. In the event of a medical emergency, call a doctor, 112 or 911 immediately.