What To Know About Post-Cancer Beauty Routines

While beauty isn't everything, the right product can be a great boost

Photo by cotton bro studios / Pexels

As a society, we often devalue the art of beauty and its effect on our psyche. At the same time, most of us can admit that slapping on a bit of blush, a winged liner or a red lip can work wonders for our mood and confidence, and add a bit of a pep to our step. But when it comes to undergoing treatment for cancer, the power of beauty can make an immense difference.

There’s so much to think about before, during and after cancer treatment that makeup and skincare may not be at the forefront of your mind. But beauty products, whether that’s a great moisturiser or a hand brow pencil, can really help many people in upping confidence and making them feel good about themselves.

While most people know that hair loss can be a side effect of cancer treatments, there are other outcomes too; drastic changes to your skin texture and type, as well as the condition of your nails and how they look. While it can be expected, for the most part, hair loss can still leave people with significant hang-ups post-treatment. Whether the hair thins dramatically or completely falls out, there are a few things that can help the situation. According to hairstylist Will Talbot (@hairbywillperth), it’s best to avoid styling products for the first little while.

“When it comes to styling products. I would generally stay clear of most for the first couple of months as most products will sit back into the scalp and cause more of blockage for the new hair to come through,” he says. “It is possible to use styling products but it could just slow the process down.

“Although there are so many products out there for hair regrowth, a lot of them don’t really work and have never been scientifically proven. The one I go to for post-cancer patients is the new Genesis range from Kerastase. It helps with hair fall and the Anti-Chute Fortifiant serum also helps with waking the hair follicles and stimulates growth.”

Will recommends looking out for hair products that, while not actually contributing to hair growth, can help the hair you have look a little thicker.

“You will find very few products that mention post-cancer treatment as they just tend to focus it on hair regrowth or loss or weak hair. I tend to recommend products with natural hair fibres. It works by adding fibres to the strands of hair that are already there (kind like of eyelash fibre mascara works) giving the hair fuller look. It’s not permanent or helps with the process of regrowing the hair, it’s just more cosmetic and can be washed out. Most ranges have 9 different colours that you can match up. On top of using particular products, I always recommend regular cuts to straighten the hair, and always consult your doctor that it’s ok to have colour before visiting the salon.”

At any stage of your life, skincare is the most important part of a beauty routine – but especially so after going through cancer treatment, when your skin may change dramatically. “From speaking with clients who have undergone cancer treatment, the skin can react in an unexpected manner,” says Benjamin, expert skin consultant with The Skin Nerd.

“It can become much drier than it was before, it can become sensitive to ingredients it would have loved before, it can become easily irritated, it can stay the exact same. It is not the same for everyone, in our experience, but the skin can change when someone is going through cancer treatment.”

So, what can you rely on when it comes to skincare? Benjamin suggests that “when looking after skin during treatment, we’d always recommend very mild, non-irritating but incredibly nourishing body products. These can be fabulous if someone is experiencing chronic skin dryness, chronic skin dehydration and irritation. The main objective of skincare during treatment is hydration, hydration, hydration.”

However, you should be careful of certain ingredients which could be too harsh on your sensitive skin. “If someone is having chemotherapy, they should avoid skincare with active ingredients, including antioxidant ingredients such as vitamin E, green tea or niacinamide. For a soothing, luxurious feeling skincare range, the Avène Tolerance range is fantastic and is something our team would recommend in this instance.

“It’s also advised that you wait 30 days post-treatment to return to using active skincare ingredients. The most important thing that you can do is to follow the advice of your oncologist. At The Skin Nerd, we also provide online skincare consultations with the Nerd Network, where you can tailor a skincare routine which is cancer-treatment friendly with the expertise of our team.”

Granted, a full face of makeup isn’t necessary every day, if you’re not into it. But of course, there are some days when a bit of makeup can give you the pick-me-up that’s needed, even if it’s just recreating your natural brows or dabbing on a slight bit of concealer.

When it comes to natural, simple makeup, makeup artist and creator of Ella & Jo Cosmetics, Charlene Flanagan (charleneflanaganmakeup) says it’s all about one thing. “My makeup mantra is to focus on the skin and everything else will fall into place. Keep your skin well hydrated, chemotherapy can cause the skin to dry out so a hydrating mist like Ella & Jo Cosmetics 3in1 Hyaluronic Skin Mist is perfect. Conceal dark circles under the eyes by using a peach-toned colour correcting concealer, AYU Instant Under Eye Concealer is one I rate very highly.”

To take things one step further, Charlene explains how to even out the skin tone and lift the complexion: “I also highly recommend choosing a mineral foundation to brighten and even skin tone whilst soothing and moisturising, I recommend Sculpted by Aimee Second Skin Mineral Foundation, then add neutral pink and peach tones to the cheeks and lips for an instant boost of your beautiful complexion, go for glossy/cream textures to give an instant lift.”

For many, attempting to recreate their natural eyebrows after hair loss can seem very daunting. Charlene suggests using a combination of both powder and pencil to achieve the most realistic look. “I recommend using the powder initially to draw the base or the ‘fill’ of the brow. If you have no hair or a guide, I suggest investing in an eyebrow stencil to help guide you.

“Once the stencil is lifted, take a blending brush and soften the edges so your brows don’t look too harsh. The second step is using a sharpened kohl eyebrow pencil, apply light pressure and flick the pencil through the brow mimicking the look of individual hairs in the direction your natural hairs would grow.”

Eyelashes can also be lost to chemo, and while unfortunately most fake lashes are designed to be propped up by your natural ones, Charlene recommends another option. “Eylure have designed the C-Lash range with Cancer Care Patients in mind. Soft, flexible, invisible band lashes that are designed for lash replacement. I recommend patch testing a little bit of the eyelash glue on the lash area using a cotton bud, wait 24 hours for results.”

In text images via Twenty20