Cancer treatment can present challenges when it comes to makeup and cosmetics. Normally oily skin can become temporarily dry and flaky. Even your skin tone can change, making you look more ruddy, sallow or tanned. And because treatments weaken your immune system, special care needs to be taken when choosing and applying cosmetics. A few tricks of the trade can help.
- Dry skin can crack and flake, allowing bacteria to enter your system and cause infection, so be sure to use an antibacterial hand gel after riding the subway or bus or taking a cab.
- You may find that you’re more sensitive to certain smells and harsh or drying ingredients, such as alcohol; if so, choose products designed for sensitive skin.
- Wash your hands meticulously before applying makeup, and replace products regularly.
- Moisturize frequently, which will make your makeup look more natural.
- Don’t share makeup or applicators with others. Whenever possible, use disposable cotton pads, swabs and sponges and discard reusable applicators.
Chemotherapy and radiation treatments can cause the skin on your face to become dry, sensitive, discolored or sallow. Choose products specially designed for the way your skin feels now. The foundation color, however, should match your normal, healthy skin tone, which will help even out your complexion, mask imperfections and prevent conspicuous flaking.
Many foundations include an SPF; if yours does not, apply sun protection (with an SPF of 15 or higher) before putting on foundation. Use sunscreen made specifically for the face, to avoid clogged pores.
Discoloration: If your skin looks blotchy or sallow, try going a half shade lighter with your foundation for a fresh, bright look. There are also many undercoats available in shades of green, lavender and yellow to help brighten skin — green counteracts redness, and lavender works for sallowness.
Cover dark circles and other discoloration with a creamy cover stick or concealer. Avoid powder, which can lodge in wrinkles and make dry, flaky skin more obvious.
Blush can really brighten a pale, sallow or tired complexion and make your face look healthy and vibrant. Try a cream blush, which can be preferable to powder, as powdery formulas tend to collect in creases and wrinkles and draw attention to dry, flaky skin. Make sure you blend the blush firmly into your skin. Neutral mauve and pinky-brown are good choices.
If you feel unnaturally pale, you could try a bronze-hued blush or even a self-tanner, but avoid those with strong scents.
Tinted moisturizers are good for stressed and listless skin and can be used in lieu of blush.
Eyebrows may fall out as a result of chemotherapy. Here’s a simple, step-by-step guide to natural-looking brows.
- Apply foundation to create a base for eyebrow pencil or powder.
- Match the shade you choose to your natural hair or wig color as best you can, erring on the lighter side.
- Hold the pencil or brush vertically against your nose to determine where each brow should start. Make dots with the pencil or powder to mark the spot.
- Hold the pencil or brush next to your nose, just to the outside of each iris, to determine where the arch should fall; use the outside corner of your eye to determine the end of each brow.
- Apply the pencil or powder with feathery strokes, then pat translucent powder on top to set. If you have trouble creating the right shape, try an eyebrow stencil (available in eyebrow kits or sold separately at most drugstores).
Consult your doctor before opting to have brows tattooed on, since you could risk infection.
False eyelashes have come a long way over the years. Today’s versions are thinner, lighter, shorter and easier to affix. There are two basic types: the strip and individual lashes.
- Strip: This is the quickest solution. Buy a set in your natural lash color and trim with nail scissors to your preferred length. Most already have an adhesive along the base and need only be carefully applied to the lash line. If they do not, apply a tiny line of adhesive — available at any drugstore — and place the strip along the lash line. Remove with an oil-based eye-makeup remover.
- Individual lashes: For the most natural look, choose individual lashes — but note that they can take a while to apply. Most come with adhesive at the base of each lash; if not, apply a tiny dab of adhesive and place along the eyelid with tweezers. If you’re not up for doing it yourself, most salons and day spas have an aesthetician on staff who can apply the lashes for you.
Use a subtle, neutral-colored eyeliner to accentuate your lash line and create the appearance of lashes. Then, apply a moisturizer designed for the always-fragile eye area. Use a light, non-sparkly shade of eye shadow to brighten up your face — glittery shadow can get in your eyes, causing irritation and even tearing. Stick to creamy eye shadow formulas, which are much less likely to get caught in the creases and folds of the eyelid. Be sure to blend well.
Chemotherapy and radiation can cause lips to flake and chap, so be sure to keep your lips well moisturized. Choose creamy, moisturizing lipsticks as opposed to matte long-lasting formulas, which can accentuate and even exacerbate dryness.
Even if you don’t usually wear it, lip liner is a good idea because it can prevent creamy lipsticks from bleeding, which happens when lips and the surrounding skin are especially dry. Don’t forget that your lips need sun protection too. Choose products with an SPF of 15 or higher.