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Face the World with Confidence

Beauty Tips & Tricks for People with Cancer

by Ramy Gafni

Wellness image

Maintaining a positive attitude during cancer treatment is imperative in order to get through treatment as smoothly as possible. Simply taking the action of seeking out a wig (or shaving your head and embracing it!), going for a makeup lesson, or even reading this article is a positive and empowering step. By taking steps to address the physical side effects of treatment, you are taking control in a situation where so much is beyond your control.

It’s difficult enough to undergo treatment, but having to do it while a stranger is staring back from the mirror can be devastating. I remember feeling lucky that I was a makeup artist when I was undergoing chemotherapy because I knew what to do to correct my sallow complexion, extremely dark under-eye circles, and hair loss. The good news is that I’m a minimalist and none of these corrective tricks is complicated or difficult to achieve.

I find there are a few basic steps that can counteract brow and eyelash loss, dark circles, and complexion issues and help create a healthy glow even when you might not be feeling your best. The following routine is universally flattering for any age, gender, or ethnicity.

step one
Apply a moisturizing concealer around the entire orb of your eyes, including from the lash line to brow bone. This will conceal dark circles and redness and help hide fatigue. If you prefer a non-makeup solution, opt for an illuminating eye gel, which is a moisturizer with light reflective properties. The eye gel will not offer as much coverage as concealer, but it will diminish the appearance of dark circles, redness, and fine lines around the eyes and will visibly brighten your eyes.

The good news is that none of these corrective tricks is complicated or difficult to achieve.

Author of Article photo

Ramy Gafni
(photo by Adam Olszewski)

step two
Apply bronzer everywhere on the face where the sun would naturally give you color – on your cheeks, along your hairline, on your nose and chin. Bronzers can be powder, liquid, or gel. I prefer bronzer to self-tanner because you can control how much color you’re achieving with bronzer and there are no surprises later on, which can sometimes occur with self-tanner. For a less “makeup-like” solution, opt for a powder blush in a nude shade if your skin becomes very pale, or a rosy shade if your complexion becomes sallow (yellow). A rosy or pink blush will counteract the sallowness.

step three
For brow loss, choose a wax-based brow filler (it adheres better than a powder) in one shade lighter than your hair color if you have partial hair loss. If you have complete hair loss, choose a color that matches your hair color as closely as possible. Apply along your natural brow line, and blend so that it looks like a natural eyebrow and not too made up. If you feel it doesn’t look natural enough, pat on a little translucent powder. This will make the brow look more like real hair. If you have lost your brow hairs completely and have difficulty recreating the look of your natural eyebrows, do not overthink it – the idea is to create the illusion of an eyebrow. It doesn’t have to be perfect. A good idea is to use a photo of yourself prior to beginning treatment as a guideline.

step four
For eyelash loss, you do NOT want to apply false eyelashes on a daily basis. It can be cumbersome, and you are more susceptible to infection during treatment, so save the false lashes for special occasions. For your everyday look, you can create the illusion of a fuller lash line by using a neutral eyeliner (I recommend mahogany or brown/black) in a pen, pencil, or powder formula. I don’t suggest liquid liner for creating the illusion of eyelashes because liquid liner will dry to look like paint. A powder can work well if applied with a moistened eyeliner brush, but the easiest formula to work with is a pen or pencil (wax based). Apply the eyeliner as close to the roots of your eyelashes as possible. It’s OK if you can’t create a perfectly straight line because you can smudge it with a cotton swab, and the smudged eyeliner looks even more like your real lashes. Liner can also be applied to the lower lash line if desired, but apply it with a softer hand than you do the upper lash line.

step five
Apply a colorless highlighter to your eyelids (near tear ducts, where we tend to get the darkest) and high up on your cheekbones. This will further brighten your eyes and add a healthy glow to your complexion. I always blend in a touch more blush or bronzer after applying the highlighter.

step six
If your lips get dry, apply a lip balm or lip oil to moisturize and condition. Many lip glosses are very conditioning and offer the added benefit of color. A slightly brighter than usual lip color can also brighten your entire appearance. If you tend to steer away from bright colors, a good way to wear one is a bright sheer gloss. You’ll get the impact of color, but in a very wearable and moisturizing way.

step seven
You may find during treatment that products that have always worked well suddenly don’t. Your complexion can be affected by treatment, and you may need a more intense moisturizer, or you may need to switch to products for more sensitive skin. I always suggest that when in doubt, try Aloe Vera gel (a great moisturizer that is wonderful on skin irritated by radiation) or baby products. Baby wash and cleanser are made for delicate baby’s skin, so they are usually a safe bet during treatment.

While you can’t fake good health, you can certainly fake the look of good health during treatment. Taking charge of these temporary changes in your appearance will help you face the world with confidence. Many people end up using these tricks long after treatment is over. Feel free to experiment with colors and find what works best for your individual needs. Remember, the most important beauty tool is an open mind.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Ramy Gafni is a New York-based celebrity makeup artist, creator of RAMY Beauty Therapy® cosmetics, and author of Beauty Therapy – The Ultimate Guide to Looking and Feeling Great While Living with Cancer. For more information about Ramy or his cosmetics line, visit

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, July/August 2011.