Rare Disease Report

Beauty Tips for Cancer Patients

MARCH 07, 2017
James Radke
Many common side effects of cancer treatment are not pretty ones. Hair loss, skin rash, dry skin, nail problems, bloating, bruising, and many other side effects can greatly impact the person’s appearance.
But that does not mean patients can’t have options. Recently, we talked with Jeanna Doyle, author of Wig Ed who started a non profit organization called Suite HOPE (Helping Oncology Patients Esthetically) that provides advise and assistance to those cancer patients seeking answers about makeup, fashion, wigs, etc.

Rare Disease Report: What are some common myths about wigs, from cost and believable appearance to types of hair and more?

Jeanna Doyle: Wigs can offer privacy for women experiencing hair loss for medical reasons but they can also offer convenience and transformation. A big myth is that women only wear wigs because of hair loss or due to cancer, but many women choose to wear wigs to experiment with their appearance. Another myth is you have to spend a lot of money. If you know what to look for, you can achieve a great look for less money than a trip to the hair salon. Wigs have certainly come a long way and are more and more undetectable and can easily pass for natural hair. Wigs can be made of human hair, synthetic fibers, or a blend of both, which offers a lower price and more styling options

What are some of the main qualities a cancer patient should consider when buying a wig?

There are five main qualities to consider when shopping for a wig:
  1. Long wigs, whether synthetic or made of human hair, can tangle easily and add weight and heat.
  2. Thick wigs also add heat and will contrast harshly with thinning eyebrows and lashes.
  3. Straight wigs can expose the part and hairline, which are two areas one should be mindful of concealing for a more believable look.
  4. Overly shiny wigs look less natural than a more matte or natural finished wig.
  5. Avoid solid color wigs. The key with wigs is believability, and a wig with highlights or low lights adds dimension and creates that believable factor.

Is a wig necessary? What other options are available to help women with sudden/temporary hair loss?

Wigs are not the only option. Many women wear hats or scarfs and more and more women are wearing nothing at all. It is important to celebrate women’s choices. Hats can be a great option, however some workplaces have policies against this (though I believe medical hair loss should be exempt from these rules). Wigs can offer a women privacy and the ability to have continuity on her appearance which may be important for a variety of reasons.

Any other tips (makeup and other esthetic changes) to help cancer patients?

While many women opt not to wear a wig, most women do want to have eyebrows and eyelashes. Makeup can help restore the appearance or eyebrows and eyelashes. It is not advised to use artificial eyelashes during treatment due to the skin sensitivity, increased sensitivity to fumes from the adhesive because of the loss of the eyelashes as a protective barrier, and exacerbation of the shedding from the removal process of the artificial lashes. I like using a wet to dry eyeshadow to create a natural looking brow and water proof eyeliner can give the illusion of a lash line. Skin dryness can also be a concern with treatment, so makeup wearers should opt for a foundation moisturizer mix like a BB cream. A cream blush will also reduce the amount of powder you use on the face, helping to ease the appearance of dryness.

What are the origins of Suite HOPE?

Suite HOPE was founded after a wig-shopping trip with a girl friend of mine, Ruth, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. I realized through my background working with plastic and reconstructive surgeons doing corrective makeup and working with hair makeup and wigs for advertising and fashion, that I knew a lot that could help women like my friend Ruth. Using the skills I had accumulated over a long and rewarding career to help women was very motivating for me and I developed Suite HOPE so that I could help more women like Ruth.

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