Cosmetologist will teach cancer patients
to care for their skin and appearance
By Tim Leeds
Tracy Hammond has decided to do her part to help people fighting cancer.
She has joined a nationwide program to help cancer victims learn how to better care for skin damaged by chemotherapy, and how to better cover the effects to present a more normal appearance to the world.
People with cancer know they are fighting a monster that is eating them inside, Hammond said.
"You don't have to be reminded of it every time you look in the mirror," she said.
Hammond recently was certified to teach in the Look Good Feel Better program, a free service provided by a partnership between the American Cancer Society, the Cosmetology, Toiletry and Fragrance Association and the National Cosmetology Association.
The groups provide patient education, videos and pamphlets and makeup kits for patients participating in group classes. Hammond has scheduled her first class for Aug. 19.
She had planned to hold the first class in September but has heard about so many people who could use the instruction, she moved it up.
"It's so sad. You know more and more people all the time, people dealing with cancer," she said.
People needing help are in all walks of life, both women and men, young and old.
"Age makes no difference," Hammond said.
The techniques taught in class can be a great help to someone undergoing treatment, she said. A video used in the program has testimonials from people who have been through the class.
"They say it's a godsend," Hammond said.
Part of the benefit is morale. People battling cancer are already extremely self-conscious about what is happening in their bodies.
"They need to be less self-conscious about what's going on with their face," she said.
Being told all day that they look ill often makes people feel worse, and the reverse is also true.
"Positive thinking has a lot to do with it," she said.
She thinks that once people know the service is available, it will be well-used.
"I can't believe anyone going through all this doesn't want some help," she said.
The class will go through the correct techniques for cleansing and moisturizing, and makeup application from start to finish.
"It's intense. It touches on everything," Hammond added.
Cleansing and moisturizing are crucial steps for people undergoing chemotherapy. Their skin becomes extremely dry and ultra-sun-sensitive, so it needs extra moisture and special protection, Hammond said.
The class teaches patients to always use lukewarm water for cleaning the skin. Hot water dries the skin, aggravating the problem caused by chemotherapy.
Application of sunscreen is an important step for people undergoing chemo. Many also wear turbans or skullcaps for extra protection. Chemotherapy patients are recommended to stay out of the sun for a year.
Typically, people undergoing treatment are advised to apply the sunscreen with their moisturizer or makeup base, to ensure it is always present, she said.
Makeup application is also important. Chemotherapy can cause discoloration, including dark circles under the eyes, and often causes hair loss. The hair loss can include eyebrows and eyelashes, Hammond said.
Makeup for eyebrow loss can be difficult and important. Most people don't realize how crucial eyebrows are for framing a face, Hammond said. The class teaches techniques for applying makeup to create realistic eyebrow effects.
For eyelashes, Hammond said she can teach people whose skin isn't too sensitive to use false eyelashes. Some chemotherapy patients feel using eyeliner is enough for eyelash replacement, she added.
Makeup application covered in the class also includes applying base, powder, blush, and blending techniques. Chemotherapy patients sometimes need to use very creative techniques because of the discoloration caused by the treatment, Hammond said.
Learning correct application techniques is important to creating a natural look, said Hammond, who has worked in cosmetology for about 20 years. Many women have used makeup since they began trying it as children, she said, but there aren't many who are trained to know how to correctly put it on.
The class can also cover issues regarding wigs, although it concentrates on makeup. The program supplied Hammond with a few wigs for the classes, and Benefis Hospital in Great Falls has a supply of wigs donated for cancer victims, she said.
If anyone wants to buy a wig that matches their natural hair, it's important to go to a cosmetologist to order one before chemotherapy begins, Hammond said. Once a patient loses his or her hair, it's virtually impossible to get a close match.
The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association supplies the cosmetic kits given to class participants, and has donated money to the program. Each kit contains merchandise worth more than $250.
The companies donate merchandise, which is then stored in a warehouse until it is placed in a kit. Each kit contains a variety of items "from moisturizer to lipstick," Hammond said.
The kits are divided into three groups by skin type light, medium and dark. The merchandise in the bags is hypoallergenic, to reduce the chance of irritation.
"They're trying to be as gentle and kind to the skin as possible," she said.
Irritation does still occur at times. Any patient using a kit needs to get a doctor's approval if there's any problem, Hammond said. The doctor can try to find out what's causing the problem and why, so the patient can look at alternatives.
The groups sponsoring the program prefer the techniques are taught in a classroom setting, partly because the teachers are volunteering their time, she said.
In a class, a volunteer can teach the techniques to a group in a two-hour session. If Hammond taught 16 people individually, that would take 32 hours of her time.
The classroom setting also can be a friendlier atmosphere.
"Not only are you learning but you're also in a support group," Hammond said, "with other people doing the same thing you are."
People also are welcome to bring a friend with them to the class, for moral support and to help remember what is taught.
"Dealing with cancer is bad enough, but going in to face a group is difficult," she said.
Help conducting classes would also be welcome, Hammond said. The four-hour class she took in Great Falls to become certified by the Look Good Feel Better program had six students four cosmetologists, one cosmetics representative and one cancer survivor.
Cosmetology is one of six types of professionals, including doctors, dentists and physical therapists, who can legally touch clients without risking a lawsuit, Hammond said. People outside of those professions could help with the class without touching the people taking it.
Hammond said she knew about the Look Good Feel Better program for some time because of her connection with the National Cosmetology Association. When she became president of the Hi-Line affiliate of the association, she decided to sign up because she knew no one was offering the service in the area.
"I would like to have more certified," she said.
She is also hoping patients will begin contacting her.
Pamphlets about the service will be available at the Northern Montana Hospital display at the Great Northern Fair, and Hammond said she hopes she can find other places to display them. She plans to start contacting groups and making presentations at luncheons to spread the word about her classes.
"Give my spiel about what we have to offer," she said.