Rachael Parish, a Boots Macmillan Beauty Advisor from London, helps women manage the visible effects of cancer treatment. She understands the impact that cancer treatment can have on your skin, hair and nails and ultimately the way you feel about yourself. Here are her top tips for boosting your self-esteem.
During cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy, many people find that they develop very dry and sensitive skin. To help counteract this I suggest using moisturisers that include ingredients such as glycerine, ceramides, shea butter or cocoa butter. Natural treatments such as coconut oils or aloe vera gels are great as additional overnight products.
Aside from moisturisers, it is also important to clean your body with lukewarm water and non-perfumed bath and shower oils. Avoid long, hot showers or soaking in the bath as hot water dries out the skin. I also recommend patting your skin dry rather than rubbing and to make sure you use soft towels.
Dark circles under the eye are a common side-effect, and it’s as much about how you apply the product as what product you choose that will make a difference. To conceal using make up, look for brightening and illuminating products and/or products that contain caffeine and Vitamins A and E. Using your ring finger in a patting motion, working inwards towards the nose will stimulate the under-eye area.
Some cancer treatments can cause changes to the texture and condition of hair. They may also cause hair thinning or complete hair loss. It is helpful to have your hair short before starting any treatment that may cause hair loss. This is because the weight of long hair can pull on the scalp and make hair fall out faster. Also, when brushing your hair, use a soft brush or babies’ brush and avoid combing when your hair is brittle or your scalp is dry.
If your hair lacks volume, intensive conditioners may help with this. Working argan oil or coconut oil into the ends is also a good idea. These can be left in overnight and washed out in the morning. Do try to leave a couple of days in between hair washes. You can use dry shampoo products to help manage this - try one with volume boosting properties.
It is important to remember to be gentle with styling. Too much heat can be damaging so try to use the lower heat settings on your hairdryers or avoid them completely, along with straighteners and curling tongs. If you decide to shave your head, coconut oil can help to moisturise the whole area. Aloe vera or witchazel will help calm the skin, should you be experiencing any redness or soreness. Also remember to use sun protection when outside.
Many women come to me asking how to redraw their eyebrows naturally. There are lots of products that you can use to draw on very realistic looking brows, such as eyebrow pencils, matte eye shadows and felt tip like products, which you can use to draw on individual hairs. I often recommend using a combination of these products.
For example, using an eyebrow pencil or felt tip product alongside a shadow pigment will allow you to build a textured eyebrow. The best way to use pencils is in a feather action and lightly flicking the wrist when applying to create feathery strokes rather than harsh lines. There are several eyebrow video tutorials online but if you need help, visit your local Boots Macmillan Beauty Advisor and we’ll be happy to show you the ropes.
Additionally, to help maintain your eyebrows, you can source eyebrow serums, which are great at conditioning your eyebrows and promoting growth. Hair conditioners, argan oil or coconut oil can also be used to condition brows.
Closely linked with hair and eyebrow loss, eyelashes can become thin or fall out completely. To help prevent this as much as possible it is important to avoid eyelash curlers as they can damage fragile eyelashes. It is also a good idea to remove eye make-up very gently by holding a damp cotton pad soaked in eye make-up remover to the eye for a couple of seconds before gently wiping away to avoid unnecessary pulling of the lashes.
To create the illusion of eyelashes, you can use a soft eyeliner and smudger that will help define your eyes.
Chemotherapy or targeted therapy may make your fingernails and toenails grow more slowly or become brittle or flaky. To help with this you should use hand, foot and nail cream regularly. You can also use nail-strengthening cream. I advise using an emery board rather than cutting your nails to help keep them short and smooth and to avoid snagging. Wearing gloves while doing household chores, especially the washing up, will also help. Avoid using false nails during treatment or when nails are sore or damaged.