Community member Rhapsody (pictured above) is here today to share her tips on hair, skin care and looking good during cancer treatment.
After going through treatment for breast cancer, Rhapsody thought that the Community might benefit from learning about some of the things she feels have helped her. She says “if you look good, it helps you to feel good” and thinks that having the right support in place is important to feelings of well-being whilst undergoing cancer treatments.
Rhapsody adds that this is a personal account and not intended as recommendations for any particular products or services, rather a list of what has helped her.
"When my hair started falling out two weeks into chemotherapy treatment, my scalp felt like my hair was being tugged all over. It was actually quite painful, and almost a relief when it was nearly bald. It was finally shaved to get rid of the last few tufts of hair. The relief when that gorgeous wig went on and I looked normal again.
At first, not knowing how to look after my newly bald head, the scalp quickly went dry, red and irritated. This was successfully treated with coconut oil. After taking advice from my wig supplier, I thereafter used to wash my scalp (and everywhere else) with Tesco Childs Farm baby wash (unscented), then leave Simple unscented hair conditioner on my scalp whilst I had a shower. This kept the scalp in good condition thereafter.
I bought some chemo head wear to tide me over until I could get a wig. The sleep caps were a necessity as I was so cold all the while with no hair. Silk pillowcases were helpful as the scalp can feel so tender at this stage. I found a firm online called 'Annabandana' who sold some lovely chemo headwear with scarves at a reasonable price.
I was delighted to get my first wig. I used 'Browns More Hair Now' who visit the Maggies Centres by appointment. The fitting was totally private and the wig is fabulous - much more glamorous than my own hair!. I was given advice on fitting, wig care, and how to wash and condition it. Their wigs are so easy to pull on and finger style. You can just fit and forget. I never had a hot head, even in very high summer temperatures, and the wig is very comfortable. I liked it so much I bought some more, so that I could ring the changes according to my mood! It was actually hard to wean myself off the wigs when my hair started growing back. I’ll keep them and wear when I want to be super glamorous ha ha!"
"Head hair regrowth seems to take forever for me. I certainly found it grew at a slower rate on the very top of my head relative to the sides and back. Eventually it evened out and my hairdresser was able to trim the fluffy new crown growth off at last! It was a full nine months post-chemotherapy before it reached this stage, and is still very short, but at least it doesn’t look or feel like post-chemo hair any more! It’s had two temporary colour washes put on now, and I’m looking forward to getting a more permanent colour put into it soon. I’ve had quite an itchy scalp in my crown area ever since the hair started to re-grow, for no apparent reason. For advice on treatment of bald scalp and upwards to hair regrowth, I found the Cancer Hair Care charity to be a real help."
"I switched shower gel and body moisturisers to unscented versions prior to starting treatment. This was a huge help when I went from chemotherapy to radiotherapy, and, I believe, protected my skin from breakout until the very last radiotherapy dose. I continued with unscented, pure products (and avoided anything with sodium lauryl sulphate in it) for several months after chemo and radio finished. I used Tesco Childs Farm baby wash (unscented), all over."
"When the eye lashes start to grow back, it is so exciting and tempting to make the most of the short lashes. I did two stupid things at this point. Firstly, I wore waterproof mascara every day and secondly, I used eye lash curlers on them every day. I was surprised and disappointed when my new, upper eyelashes started to drop out again, leaving big gaps. (The lower lashes were still barely visible at this point). After seeking advice from the Boots No.7 Macmillan beauty adviser, these were two things NOT to do! Instead, I was advised to use a gentle mascara that contained serum to nourish the lashes, which are very brittle at this point. I also invested in an eye lash serum which is painted onto the skin directly above the upper eye lashes, (like eye liner), every night before going to bed. After 12 weeks, I’m happy to report that I now have eye lashes again, though the lower ones never did grow back as long as they were prior to chemotherapy.
It cannot be emphasised enough as to just how brittle and delicate the new eye lashes were for me. The odd few started to come out yet again when I used an eye makeup remover lotion that needed a bit of scrubbing to get the mascara off. Again, choose a very gentle eye makeup removal lotion, but, at the same time, one which will dissolve the mascara easily, so you don’t have to scrub at it to remove product!"
"When my eyebrows started growing back in, they seemed to fill in from the outer corner of my eye first, leaving a large gap across the bridge of the nose! However, this was easy to fix with the brilliant brow pencil. Over the years I’ve tried various brow fillers, but I find that none are as natural looking and easy to use as the ‘IT Brow Power’ one, which is a universal brow pencil in universal taupe, which deepens in colour as you press harder. Alternatively, there are stick on temporary ‘tattoo’ ones available online, that are AMAZINGLY realistic hairs, and stay on for a couple of days."
"I received some useful advice from my neighbour about wearing makeup whilst going through treatment, on the grounds that if you look good, it helps you to feel good. It certainly worked. I chose a bright lipstick, (brighter than I would normally have worn,) to complement better, the darker wig that I was wearing. This became my signature lipstick.
I attended the excellent Look Good Feel Better class at my local Maggie’s Centre, to learn about makeup application, as well as receiving an unbelievably generous goody bag of makeup and skincare items. The makeup items lasted right through to the end of my chemotherapy treatment and beyond! I am so grateful."
"I learned of the importance of using cuticle oil daily during chemotherapy. It really helped to keep my cuticles neat without having to otherwise touch them. After finishing treatment, I continued using cuticle oil daily, painting it on before sitting down to watch the TV. I then got lazy and stopped doing this. It may be coincidence but within a few days, two nails had split at the top! Needless to say, I now treat daily again."
"It hadn’t occurred to me to treat my toenails with cuticle oil too, but after both toe nails started to dig into the sides, I started treating them too, (after a podiatrist had sorted the problem out)."
Thank you Rhapsody for sharing so much of what has helped you through cancer treatment. We hope that lots of members will find this helpful. If you would like to leave a message for Rhapsody, please use the comments section below.
What has worked for you? We would love you to share your own tips in your forums.
Skincare and beauty
OK, I am a man...and I was already pretty much bald when my treatment started. I make the effort everyday to take a bit of care of myself. It would be quite easy not to bother but feeling fresh and as good as I can really helps. My head gets a bit dry and I am using Aveeno moisturiser and Aveeno shower wash. These are oat based and were recommended by my named nurse.
Hi, I would love to look nice but after breast surgery I just feel grubby and exhausted. No baths or showers for 14 days, thank goodness for baby wipes, though my hair looks disgusting! My dressing comes off in 4 days so that will be a celebration! When I get further down the line I hope I look as glamorous as you but at the moment it seems a long haul ahead.