Tag Archives: hairloss chemotherapy

B is for… Beauty Tips During Chemo

20 Nov Beauty Tips Chemo

Chemo does not do wonders for your looks!! Understatement. It parches your skin, can give you awful spots and a bright red and round steroid face, it can make you pile on weight and rids you of your girly eyelashes, eyebrows and luscious locks, leaving your appearance a bit frog-like with a definite cancer-patient air. So if we can do small things to make ourselves feel and look a bit more “normal”, along with a bit of well-deserved pampering, it really does help with our confidence and general well-being.

Hairloss chemotherapy

1) Hair. The most obvious concern for those of us trying to retain a bit of normality, femininity and girliness throughout treatment is our hair. Please see K is for…Keeping Hair – Cold Capping for info on scalp-cooling to encourage some of those follicles to hang in there and H is for… Hairloss for those embracing the baldness. For the majority of you who wont want to use the cold cap or do not have the option of doing so, the best options are to invest in a wig or some headwear that makes you feel good, but is also comfortable to wear. Breast Cancer Care run a service called Headstrong, where they show you the alternatives to wigs, and tricks of how to tie scarves in different ways etc. If you do go down the wig route but cannot find a style to suit you, Trevor Sorbie set up a charity called My New Hair who will style your wig for free. You might even get an appointment with the man himself. I was given an appointment with Trevor, but cancelled when I realised the cold cap was working as I never ended up wearing my wig.

Eyelashes

2) Eyelashes. Some wont lose all of their eyelashes, but will find that they will thin dramatically. Others (like me) will lose the lot despite using expensive serums such as Revitalash. I managed to hang onto a few until my final chemo session when the last hangers-on deserted me. While you still have a few you can get away with falsies (I liked the Shu Uemura natural lash collection), but they are very difficult to apply once the final lashes desert you. (Although TOWIE’s Sam Faiers seems to be able to apply them despite pulling all of her eyelashes out – maybe we should get her to give us some tips)! As my eyelashes hung around until the end and were only absent for a short time before they grew back, I coped with eyeliner and soft shadows and, once made up, my friends said you couldn’t tell that I had no eyelashes. But they could have just been being kind!! I liked the NARS waterproof eyeliner which stayed put all day long despite watery eyes resulting from the drugs and lack of lashes. To preserve those lashes that are hanging on in there, avoid mascara and eye make-up when possible and use a gentle eye make-up remover like Talika Gentle Eye Cleanser. You might want to consider semi-permanent make up if your budget will stretch to it. The results can be amazing, but as the lack of lashes is a very short term thing, it might not be worth investing in, unless you are one of the unlucky people whose eyelashes don’t make a reappearance. When my eyelashes were growing back I used Revitalash and had the most ridiculously longest, luscious lashes. Ladies at the make-up counters in department stores commented on them and everyone thought I was wearing fake lashes. Unfortunately it’s quite expensive, so once the tube was empty I reverted to my normal, au naturel lashes. I do miss my Revitalash ones though…!

eyebrows

3) Eyebrows. When I lost my eyebrows it was the first time I looked really sick and cancer-patienty and my face looked downright weird! I experimented with lots of different eyebrow palettes and pencils. My faves by far were Benefit Brow Zings, that has some waxy stuff that the powder can stick to, and my trusty Dior Eyebrow Pencil which (after a lesson from Sophie Beresiner and the lovely lady at the Dior counter in Selfridges) I applied in flicky lines between 3 points (lined up as points 1, 2 and 3 as demonstrated by the lovely Angelina!) and then used the brush to blend it. The end result was very natural – but you do have to be careful not to wipe half of an eyebrow off when you rest your head in your hands, or have them melt away and slippy-slide down your face if you’re suffering from hot flushes… You could also go down the semi-permanent make-up route which is much more expensive, but gives great results and wont slide off your face when you’re having a warm moment – but research the salon well as some results are better than others – and you want them to be as natural as possible. I was only eyebrowless for about a month and when they started growing back I also lathered them with Revitalash and they grew back very quickly and thick and dark. I then treated myself to a proper brow-shaping with the amazing Jenna Treat – but unfortunately they thinned as soon as I stopped using the serum and I have gone back to plucking them myself, which doesn’t look nearly as good…

Moisturise

4) MOISTURISE. Chemo is very drying and very aging. My skin was very irritated by heavily perfumed toiletries and I made the decision to avoid products with nasty chemicals in such as parabens and sulphates due to the link with cancer. I stuck to organic and natural products and lathered my body in Defiant Beauty Smooth Skin Oil and Smooth Skin Balm. I was lucky enough to be bought lots of pampering treats as presents, so you don’t have to splash out that much, but do invest in a good moisturiser to look after your skin and give yourself a little bit of pampering. One unexpected and pretty gross side effect I had during TAX was that the skin on the bottom of my feet dried up, then cracked and peeled off. It was quite itchy and painful but my chemo nurse said it was very common and prescribed Daktacort which cleared it up pretty quickly and I moisturised using this Mild Mint Foot Balm and Healing Hand Balm – both of which can be used as a more intensive moisturising treatment by applying a thick layer and wearing cotton gloves or socks .

Look Good Feel Better

5) Enrol on a Look Good Feel Better Course.  It’s free and not only do you get some fantastic make up tips from drawing in your eyebrows and eyelashes to applying green primer to reduce the steroid-induced redness, you also get to meet other women going through the same thing AND you get to keep the goody bag full of top-branded make-up such as Clinique, Estee Lauder, Clarins and even a bottle of perfume! It is a real confidence and morale boost.

6) Face. Apply green primer to combat steroid-induced redness. Yes, you apply this green stuff under your foundation in order to eliminate the redness. I like Smashbox Colour Correcting Foundation Primer. You can buy it in a travel size tube which should be plenty for your redder days during chemo. Foundation-wise I wanted something moisturising and light that injected a bit of brightness into my face. I really liked Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturiser which also has a high SPF – useful particularly in the summer.

Nails Chemo

7) Nails. Chemo effects the nails causing ridging, brittleness and some drugs, like TAX can make them fall off. I was lucky and my nails stayed put despite not doing anything special to them – just lucky I guess. Some girls I have met along the way had gel nails or painted their nails in dark nail varnishes, however, some of them still lost their nails so I suspect you either will…or wont lose them. I had an prominent ridge for every session of chemo, but just covered them up with some pretty nail varnish. I like Chanel‘s range of colours. If you’re having chemo you’re not meant to have manicures – but I think that as long as you tell them and they disinfect their equipment properly and don’t cut you with cuticle clippers, you should be fine. I also used Defiant Beauty’s Nail Oil which helped with the brittleness.

chemo lips

8) Lips. Some of my BC girly pals who lost all of their hair, eyebrows and eyelashes embraced bold and bright lipsticks to add a much-needed girly boost and splash of colour. You do still have your lips to play with at least!! They’re not going anywhere. They looked fab. I, personally, prefer a more understated look and swear by Benefit’s Posietint which is a lip and cheek stain so you don’t have to worry about it smudging or getting all over your teeth – and I love the pretty pink colour. Be aware that your lips can get very dry too so use a good lip balm if so (I just Defiant Beauty’s Lip Balm – I find other lip balms tend to dry my lips out even more) – and if you are prone to cold-sores that these are more likely to pop up as your immune system too.

chemo weight gain

9) Body Image. Your body image and body confidence can be severely influenced by the type of surgery you have, whether you have reconstruction or not and whether, like me, you pile on steroid-induced weight, feeling rather lardy but too exhausted to exercise properly. (See my post on W is for…Weighty Issues). However, try not to get too upset and hung up by the weight gain during treatment. You will be able to concentrate on shifting the chemo weight once the treatment has finished. See W is for… Weighty Issues. During chemo, try not to be too harsh on yourself, listen to your body, but try and eat healthily when you feel up to it, and maybe treat yourself to a spot of shopping (online or in the real world) to get a few bits of clothing that you feel comfortable and confident wearing. Failing that – how about a nice new pair of shoes…?!!

Cowshed

Cowshed

10)  Steering clear of nasties. The jury’s out on whether parabens and sulphates actually cause diseases like cancer or can encourage them to spread. Many are convinced it does, but others refute the “evidence”. However, with so many lovely natural parabens-free, sulphates-free and synthetic fragrance-free toiletries and cosmetics around, it doesn’t hurt to go a bit more natural. The most natural and organic range I have found is Defiant Beauty – which is specifically designed for cancer patients, but I also love Ren and Burt’s Bees, and the Cowshed products as they are gorgeous and pampering and smell divine. They also cover the full pampering and skincare range from body scrubs to body lotions to cleansers, face creams, face masks, serums and eye balms.

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H is for… Hairloss

20 Nov

Although I stocked up on wigs and invested in a pair of clippers – I was fortunate enough with the cold cap not to have to use them. However, dealing with hair loss is a massive part of a cancer diagnosis so a friend (who is MUCH braver and MUCH prettier than me and is now rocking the pixie crop) has been kind enough to share her experience below.

hair loss cartoon

H is for hairloss.

H is also for having to buy scarves/ wigs/ hats.

H is for having to see your bald head in the mirror too.

H is for (beautiful and soft) hair regrowth.

H is for hairloss. As quite a girlie girl, after the shock of the cancer diagnosis, the horror of knowing that I was going to lose my hair was almost unbearable. For me, I was in such a state of shock at that time, that I couldn’t really contemplate using the cold cap and accepted that, to save my life, I would need to lose my hair. As the impact of this sank in, I found that to feel a little more in control I would need to take steps to help myself when this actually happened…

bald-disney-princesses

H is for having to buy scarves,wigs and hats. I visited Trendco to meet with a wig specialist to discuss my hair pre-chemo (I went with my long hair so she could see it) and to find a suitable replacement.  The staff were lovely and very understanding (even though I felt as if it was all a dream – no, a nightmare – and I was simply looking in on another 30-year old choose a wig because she was going to lose her precious hair). You can get an NHS voucher to go towards the cost of the wig from your doctor or nurse. Be sure to ask about this. Don’t worry too much if the wig isn’t quite perfect as you can get them restyled or thinned out – either by the shop that you buy the wig from or you can book an appointment with Trevor Sorbie’s My New Hair (you might even get Trevor himself). I went for a hairpiece quite similar to my own hair but actually found that I only wore it nine or ten times. While I met a few ladies who wore their wigs every single day, including one friend who went funky and spent her days in a bright pink wig, I felt much more comfortable in hats or funky scarves to match what I was wearing, and less as if I was pretending to be something that I was not. Scarves can obviously be purchased from pretty much anywhere and I found that people stared much much less than I thought they might. You will need to work out what works best for you – wigs, hats or scarves – and until you do, I wouldn’t waste too much money on headwear or expensive wigs (for example real hair or custom-made). I was in touch with a girl who hated the lot and embraced the baldness, even as a bridesmaid to her sister. Brave lady.

chemo scarf

A quick practical note on the scarves; square ones are best. You need to fold them diagonally in half to make a triangle shape and then put the longest side of the triangle along your forehead. The bundle can then be tied at the back or side of your head and you can even add a flower clip or something pretty to make it look more feminine. Click here for a link for a demonstration of how to tie a scarf. Breast Cancer Care also offer a free service called Headstrong with trained volunteers running private sessions talking through how to look after your hair and scalp before, during and after treatment. They also show you how to make the most of the alternatives to wigs by using scarves, hats and other headwear so that you leave feeling confident that you’ve found something that works for you.

cancer hairlossH is for having to see your bald head in the mirror. So after one treatment I had my long hair cut into a jaw length bob. Everyone was telling my how much it suited me which I thought was a waste of words as it was clearly a halfway house to my baldness. I had a bit of a plan though. I visited my hairdresser and asked her to tightly plait my hair and cut off the whole plait. I then bound my plait up with hair ribbons and sent it off to the Little Princess Trust.  If I wasn’t going to be able to have my beautiful hair then I was going to make sure another person who deserved it could! This amazing charity uses human hair to make wigs for children that have lost their hair due to cancer treatments. The small act of doing this did help lessen the blow of losing my hair a little bit.

After my second treatment I was terrified about the inevitable loss. My hair follicles on my head felt weird. Kind of zingy and as if they were opening. They ached too and clumps of hair began to come from my head if I loosely pulled at them or washed my hair. Obviously I knew what this was leading up to… and I honestly felt one hundred times better once I had done the deed. So, 2 weeks after my first chemo, I was home alone and I shaved my head using clippers borrowed from a friend. I just sat in front of a mirror with a blanket underneath me to collect the hair and went for it. It was a scary sight seeing myself in the mirror for the first time. I guess it was the first time that I felt like a cancer patient but at the same time I felt totally and utterly numb. As if it wasn’t me but some other poor girl, and that at any second I would wake up or head off to work as the previous me would have done. It was honestly the strangest and most surreal half hour of my life. Because of the numbness, the upset didn’t really register. I didn’t cry (although I have heard from other women that this was unusual), it was what I HAD to do to live. So I did it. Showing my partner when he came home was strange, no doubt as much for him as for me. However, once I had done this, the thing that I was so very terrified of had been stared in the face and dealt with. And from then I was going to get new hair.

I will just mention here that it is not just your head that you will lose hair from! Over time you will probably lose all of your facial and body hair. You will discover it in strange ways; your nose will run as there are no hairs up there to stop the flow! But it all comes back, sometimes thicker than before!

H is for (beautiful and soft) hair regrowth. I was told that three months after the final chemotherapy treatment you will have a full coverage. I found this to be true and at this point bravely outed my new hair. It is much curlier than before and incredibly soft. I would never have chosen to have short hair but by wearing funky headbands and clips I feel more confident and some days I actually like how it looks now. Hair growth is unfortunately never as quick as you want it to be – but if you are really struggling with your new short hair do, or want longer hair for a special occasion, Racoon hair extensions who provide subsidised and very gentle extensions after approximately six months of regrowth.

Maintenance and regrowth. I only ever shaved it the once. Some ladies shave the regrowth and wispy bits during chemo, but I would never have shaved it off again as I was so happy to have new bits growing back! And it was so awful I wasn’t going to put myself through it again. When it grew back it was fine, it did not need another shave, just regular cuts to make a style to give my hair more of a “do” rather than it all being the same length. I washed my hair/head with baby shampoo as I wanted to be gentle to my head. I sometimes put Bio Oil on my head afterwards to keep it moisturised. When my hair had returned I bought some gentle natural shampoo from the Body Shop. I quite like the idea of not putting any chemicals on my new hair but we will see how long this lasts! If you’re not too bothered about the chemical thing, there’s a new shampoo called FAST (Fortified Amino Scalp Therapy) which they claim doubles the rate of your hair growth and was developed for chemo patients…I don’t know if it works – but coule be worth a try?

Sometimes hair regrowth is a slightly different colour. And might be curlier than before. If you have grey hairs or usually dye your hair, the official line is to wait 6 months after your final chemo before dying it. However, I know quite a few ladies who only waited a couple of months, and used a gentle ammonia-free, semi-permanent vegetable dye such as Herbatint with no problems – but be aware that you might need to go a few shades darker than normal as the colours come out funnily for some reason…

Good luck girls. I did it and you will too. X.

Here’s a pic of the gorgeous Jo as a bridesmaid, 6 months after chemo:

Hairloss

Resources

Cancer Hair Care is a fantastic website with info on regrowth, post-chemo haircare and hair dyes, and short hairstyles.