There are some health challenges at midlife that are very difficult to accept. The beauty issues facing women undergoing chemotherapy may seem trivial in light of the big picture, but they definitely are a concern. Though appearance is not the key to recovery, it can affect a patient’s mood and motivation. Chemotherapy can leave you feeling exhausted and dehydrated and your skin not feeling how it used to. During treatment, your skin may change colour slightly or feel dry and rough to the touch. You may need to choose different makeup products than your normal choices. Also, a high percentage of patients will lose their hair, eyebrows and lashes, but this will depend on the type of chemotherapy you’re being treated with.
In some cases, applying makeup might help you feel more confident or comfortable about your appearance during chemo. However, you may need to choose different makeup products than your normal choices. Here are some strategies you can use to feel and look your best during treatment.
Glowing again with the right make-up
If your skin is feeling itchy or a bit irritated opt for a colour correcting cream better known as CC cream. CC creams give a light coverage but correct discolouration and also have an SPF for added benefit. These formulations are light so they don’t dry your skin and suit even the most sensitised ones. Apply lightly over the areas you want to cover using a brush or beauty sponge. Add more product on to areas that need extra coverage, in case you have hyperpigmentation or discolouration. CC creams come in all shades and are suitable for all skin tones. My favourite ones are Erborian, La Roche Posay and It Cosmetics.
When you’re not feeling your best during treatment a good concealer can hide a multitude of sins. It comes in liquid or cream formulas and is best applied using up your fingers. Use concealer to hide dark circles or breakouts. Tap the product on the area you want to be covered. You can use it on its own to brighten the under-eye area and give the illusion of brighter eyes and make you look more wide awake. A side effect of chemo is disrupted sleep and tiredness. Set your concealer with powder to ensure it stays put, dust off the excess powder with a fluffy brush to stop it caking.
Eyebrows frame your whole face so losing them can seem really strange. You can opt for having your eyebrows micro-bladed before you have treatment or filling in the missing gaps with an eyebrow pencil or eyebrow wax and powder. If you’ve lost all your eyebrow hairs the best way to try and find where they should be is to feel for the brow bone, your natural eyebrow will follow this curve. Using a freshly sharpened brow pencil or a fine brush with pomade, gently draw individual hairs from the inner edge of where your brow bone starts. Draw three or four hairs straight up from the eye socket towards the forehead but no longer than half a cm in length. Next start drawing the hairs at a slight angle, then from the straight lines towards just above the middle of your eye. These hairs should be the thickest part of the brow. Now the tail end of the brow. Draw the hairs from the centre and thickest part of the brow down towards the temple but staying on the brow bone. The finished brow should start thick and end no more than 2mm deep.
Choose a shade that’s similar to your natural eyebrow hair colour. Beware that some browns contain reds so avoid these unless you’re naturally auburn-haired. My favourite pencils and pens for brows are Lancôme, best for brow pomade and powders is Benefit.
Occasionally eyelids can appear transparent or discoloured. Applying a neutral-toned matte eyeshadow close to your skin tone will act as a good base and cover imperfections. Apply the eyeshadow by pressing it onto your eyelid. Use a satin eyeshadow crayon to give a bit of glam without glitter to your kids in your chosen shade. Fresh soft colours will brighten your eyes, dark colours can be a bit too heavy if your lashes aren’t visible. Choose a 4 colour pan eyeshadow palette with a colour story that works together.
Lashes protect our eyes from dust and other pollutants. Losing your lashes during treatment can make your eyes become watery and feel dry and irritable. Avoid using waterproof mascara when you start to lose your lashes. It’s more difficult to remove and rubbing to remove the product will rapidly increase lash loss. Using a waterproof pencil will help the eyeliner to last longer after application. By drawing a dark line in the upper waterline of the eye you’ll give the illusion that lashes are there. You can also draw a fine line on the upper lash line to deepen the effect. Gently press the pencil on the water line and draw dashes from one end of your water line to the other. Go back and fill the gaps using the same technique. When you’ve lost your lashes it’s best to avoid using glue on lashes. There are special lashes for cancer patients if you can’t bear to live without yours. The C-Lash by Eyelure is just like a strip lash but self adheres to your eyelid.
Using blusher can make all the difference to your complexion. They say that having a colour in your cheeks gives you a healthier appearance. Pop a peachy or bronze coloured blusher on the apples of your cheeks to add warmth. For darker skin tones add a touch of deep peach or rose pink. These two colours lift the cheeks and give the illusion of a healthy glow. My favourite blush brand is Nars.
Popping some lipstick on can change the way your whole face looks. Choose a red lip colour for days when you want to brighten your whole face without making any other effort. Lipstick or lipgloss will give your lips some texture and draw people’s eyes to your mouth rather than your eyes. Use a pencil liner in a similar shade to your lip colour to outline your lips and then fill in with your lip colour. If you prefer to have some drama on your eyes opt for more neutral-toned lip colour. My favourite reds are by YSL or Dior.
* For extra tips, make-up workshops and masterclasses, check out Look Good Feel Better, the international cancer support charity that helps boost the physical and emotional wellbeing of people undergoing cancer treatment.