Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Different Ways Estheticians Can Help Cancer Patients July 23, 2012


I recently completed a three day intensive course about oncology esthetics through the organization Touch for Cancer; this organization is headed by Morag Currin who wrote the book Oncology Esthetics.  The class was run by a wonderful instructor named Becky who was knowledgable and helpful.  We were 13 estheticians with varying backgrounds, but everyone of us shared the desire to help people affected by cancer.  The class included an overview of all aspects of cancer and its treatment and then we, of course, learned and spoke extensively about how as estheticians we could treat cancer patients safely and effectively.  On the last day of class we had the opportunity to work with women who were in different stages of treatment and recovery from cancer.  It was, in all, an amazing experience.

The course was held at Faye’s Light which is a nonprofit spa for cancer patients.  Faye’s Light is wonderful – they have created a warm, comforting, caring, and calming atmosphere for cancer patients to receive spa services for free.  It was great to see that cancer patients had a place where they could come to relax and recharge during their treatment.

It turns out that there are many places like Faye’s Light all across the US where cancer patients can receive spa services during treatment.  In the latest issue of Day Spa Magazine I found out about Angie’s Spa which provides free spa services at few different hospitals.  A simple Google search lead me to other spas and in-home or in-hospital services for cancer patients all over the country.  (There is also an organization in the Los Angeles area called Beauty Bus Foundation that brings spa and hair services to men, women, and children who are home bound because of illness.  They also provide services to the caregivers.  How thoughtful to think of the caregivers as well.)

I’ve mentioned in my blog before how I volunteer for The American Cancer Society’s program Look Good…Feel Better which provides free skincare and make-up products to cancer patients along with a complimentary session during which a licensed esthetician or cosmetologist explains how to care for your skin during cancer treatment.  We also apply the make-up during the session, and generally try to create a caring and stress-free environment for the patients so that they can focus on something fun instead of their cancer for a short period of time.  If you are an esthetician who is looking for a way to volunteer your time I strongly encourage you to contact your local American Cancer Society office and inquire about how you can help with Look Good … Feel Better.

Why Spa Services During Cancer Treatment?

It is amazing how the simple act of touch can have a positive and healing effect on the human body.  When you are feeling physically and mentally depleted from fighting cancer taking the time to have a gentle spa service can have both positive spiritual and physical effects on the body.

Chemotherapy and radiation can cause numerous unpleasant and difficult side effects in the skin.  Skin can become very dry and sensitive due to chemotherapy.  Nails can become brittle, discolored, and even flake off.  Radiation can burn the skin and cause rashes.  (These are just a few of the skin side effects that cancer treatment can cause)  So if you can visit an esthetician who has been trained to treat patients undergoing cancer treatment you can receive help in coping with any skin conditions that may arise while receiving treatment for cancer.  During the same session you can also get advice about how to care for your skin at home while it is compromised from treatments.  There are many gentle and effective skincare products on the market that cancer patients can safely use during cancer treatment in order to help, not hurt, their skin.  The key is to receive advice from an esthetician who has the right training to help you.  Above all, if you are feeling well enough to receive a spa service while undergoing cancer treatment taking that time to allow someone else to care and pamper you will help you relax and hopefully feel better for a while.

I encourage my fellow estheticians who have an interest in helping cancer patients to pursue further education in this field.  This line of esthetics isn’t for everyone, but for those who feel that they are drawn to it will be greatly rewarded if they can pursue it.

If you know someone undergoing cancer treatment look into available spa services for them.  Make sure the people giving the services are trained in oncology esthetics or massage.  A lot of spa services for cancer patients are available free of charge or at reduced rates.



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Caring for Your Skin During Cancer Treatment October 17, 2011



I’ve had the privilege to volunteer for The American Cancer Society’s great program Look Good …  Feel Better for over a year now.  When I run a session of the program the first thing that I talk about is caring for your skin while undergoing cancer treatment.  I wanted to share some of those tips in this post though please keep in mind that the information contained in this post is not meant to negate or replace the information you are receiving from your oncologist.  If you have any questions about the information contained in this post please ask your doctor.  Furthermore, the information that I am presenting here is general in nature so your specific needs may be different.

The September issue of the spa professional publication Les Nouvelles Esthetiques & Spa contains quite a few articles that address the care of cancer patients.  The article Chemotherapy and the Skin by Jennifer Linder, MD is a great resource for both the cancer patient and the skincare professional.  It starts off with some important information:

As we know, chemotherapy is necessary to eradicate various types of cancers, but it undeniably wreaks havoc on the skin.  As the largest organ of elimination, the skin of those undergoing chemotherapy has an overwhelming task.  In addition to simply trying to process the drugs that are introduced into the body during these necessary treatments, the skin also is reacting to the unavoidable increase in emotional stress that a cancer diagnosis will likely cause.  …

Common side effects 

Chemotherapeutic drugs’ most common effects on the skin are severe dryness, sensitivity, allergic reactions, flushing, hyperpigmentation, photosensitivity, and folliculitis (an acne-like skin rash of the follicles).  Additionally, these patients are more susceptible to developing infections due to the suppression of their immune systems.  For these reasons, a gentle approach to treatment and home care product use is critical.

Be sure to baby your skin during cancer treatment:

  • Look for skincare products labeled “for sensitive skin”, “gentle”, and “soothing”
  • Fragrance can irritate sensitized skin so make sure your skincare products are fragrance free
  • Use warm water when you wash your face and body and don’t stay too long in the shower.  Long, hot showers, no matter how good they feel, dry out the skin
  • Gently pat your face and body dry after showering and washing your face.  Rubbing your skin will just irritate it.
  • Moisturize with products that contain both humectant and occlusive ingredients.  Humectant ingredients draw moisture to our skin and occlusive ingredients prevent moisture from evaporating from our skin
  • Use body and face moisturizer immediately after you shower when your skin is still damp.  Damp skin absorbs skincare products better
  • Consider switching to dye and fragrance free laundry detergents

Sun protection is key during cancer treatment since chemotherapy can cause photosensitivity:

  • Always use a sunscreen of spf 30 daily even if you are only leaving the house for a short period of time
  • Since chemical sunscreen ingredients can irritate sensitive skin look for a sunscreen with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as its active ingredients (Vanicream is a good choice)
  • Wear protective clothing, a hat, and sunglasses when you are outside or in the car
  • Try to avoid sun exposure between the peak hours of 10 am to 4 pm

More resources and further reading:


Clarisonic Supports Look Good … Feel Better December 20, 2010

Normally if I recommend a product in this blog I’ve tried it myself, but this time I am digressing slightly from my norm since I was so happy to read that Clarisonic is supporting a cause I strongly believe in.  I just read that Clarosonic, makers of the sonic electric cleansing brush, are supporting The American Cancer Society’s Look Good … Feel Better program when you purchase their limited edition Mia brush.

According the blurb in my latest issue of Skin Inc. magazine (page 19):

Clarisonic will donate $5 to the organization for every Pink Skin Cleansing System and $4 from every Pink Mia Skin Cleansing System.  In October, $15 from each Hope Mia was donated to the organization, and $1 will be offered for every “Like” Clarisonic receives on its Facebook page, up to $100,000.


I volunteer about every other months for Look Good … Feel Better and cannot say enough good things about this free program for women with cancer.  During the approximately two hour program women with cancer are given free skincare and make-up products and are taught how to care for their skin during cancer treatment.  In addition, we go through an entire make-up tutorial and talk about wigs and head coverings for when patients lose their hair.  This program gives women with cancer a chance to meet others in their situation, ask questions, and feel a sense of companionship. 

Though I don’t use a Clarisonic brush myself I applaud this company for supporting this worthwhile program.  If you know someone who would love a Clarisonic brush as a holiday gift please consider buying the brush that supports Look Good … Feel Better.


Look Good Feel Better: Help for Cancer Patients May 10, 2010

This week I attended a training session for volunteers for the Look Good Feel Better program for the American Cancer Society.

The Look Good Feel Better program aims teach cancer patients beauty techniques so that they can still feel good about their appearance while undergoing cancer treatment.  Cancer treatments can cause dry and sensitive skin and nails and of course, hair loss.  Look Good Feel Better volunteers are licensed estheticians, make-up artists, hair stylists, and nail techs who undergo a special training before leading sessions so that they can address the myriad of problems cancer patients face with their appearance.

Look Good Feel Better is completely free!  Participants receive a free kit filled with skincare and make-up products donated from a wide variety of companies (like Lubriderm, Mary Kay, Chanel, Estee Lauder – just to name a few).  A session lasts approximately two hours and includes detailed instructions on skincare during cancer treatments, a thorough hands-on make-up sessions using the products provided, an overview of wig and headcovering options, and a nail care discussion.  Not only do cancer patients learn something new that aims at making them feel good during their treatment, but they also get to meet other cancer patients so that a feeling of companionship and community is created during the sessions.

If you are interested in volunteering for Look Good Feel Better fill out this online form.  Please note that it may take some time before you are contacted by your local American Cancer Society office.  It took months for me to hear back from my local office before my training session.

If you or someone you know would benefit from a Look Good Feel Better session click here.

If you can’t make it to a session in person the Look Good Feel Better website has lots of tips available.  The sessions are mainly meant for women, but men and teens are welcome as well.  Occasionally the American Cancer Society sponsors sessions just for teens.


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