What might you experience ?

Some people find it hard to feel confident and comfortable with the physical changes that cancer can bring. Of course, it’s all part of the cancer journey, but that doesn't make it any easier to lose your hair or have problems with your skin. For many of us looking good helps us feel good. So whatever it is that might have knocked your body confidence, we’ve got some ideas to help you embrace your new body and feel beautiful again.

This guide will cover:

  • Hair loss

  • Skin and nail changes

  • Changes to your appearance

  • Anxiety

Why does this happen?

  • Hair loss - Chemotherapy can cause hair changes which range from mild hair thinning to complete hair loss, known as alopecia. Losing your hair can be a very stressful and sad process. For many, this change in their physical appearance has a huge impact on their self-esteem which is why some people feel it is the toughest side effect to deal with.

  • Skin and nail changes - These can range from dry thinning skin, to weak brittle nails, to scars. Your cancer treatments cause a whole host of skin and nail changes which can leave you feeling self conscious or underconfident. But there are lots of ways of giving your skin a boost to help you feel more like yourself.

  • Changes to your facial appearance - Cancer treatments can change your appearance and leave you looking and feeling less like your usual self. Whether it’s losing your eyebrows and eyelashes or coping with a change in complexion, makeup can help make you look and feel better.

  • Anxiety - When your appearance isn’t what you’re used to, it can be scary and stressful. Trying to accept sudden changes in your looks can be tough and some people feel anxious, angry or even depressed. This is because our physical appearance is so closely linked to our feelings of self esteem. Finding ways of accepting these changes will help you feel confident again.

What can you do about it?

Hats and Headwear

Hats and Headwear

If you’ve lost most or all of your hair, there are plenty of options to help you feel bald and beautiful.

  • Hats: Maybe the simplest effect of having less hair is that your head may feel cold! Hats made from gentle, breathable bamboo material or 100% cotton can be really handy to keep you warm.

  • Headscarves: Silk scarves are a lightweight option for keeping your head cool in warmer temperatures, and there are so many gorgeous styles to choose from. There are also designs available with an elasticated headband attached, in case you have difficulty tying a scarf or reaching behind your head.

  • Wig liners: If you wear a wig it can often get a bit itchy underneath, especially if your scalp is irritated. A great solution to this is to use a wig liner. They're available in super soft bamboo material, which is also three times more absorbent than cotton, helping to reduce uncomfortable sweating.

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Hair Loss Treatments

Hair Loss Treatments

  • Specialist shampoos: If your hair is thinning or your scalp is irritated, you might benefit from using hair products specially designed for hair loss or sensitive scalp. Often products containing nutrients such as biotin and collagen can help to create a more volumized appearance to the hair, and keep it in healthier condition.

  • Hair building fibres: These products can be a spray or a powder, and contain thousands of tiny fibres which cling to your remaining hair, helping to disguise the appearance of thinning or bald patches. Once you get the hang of them, they can be really effective, and they're available for eyebrows too.

  • Vitamins: Supplementing your diet with vitamins such as biotin can help to stimulate keratin production and improve the health of damaged hair and nails. 

  • Cold caps:  If the thought of losing your hair is just too hard, you may want to opt for a cooling cap.These can reduce hair loss by cooling your scalp during treatment, to minimise the amount of chemotherapy reaching your scalp and hair follicles.

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Skin & Nail Problems

Skin & Nail Problems

Looking after your skin and nails will mean they're more likely to cope with the demands of cancer treatment, and can help them to heal from the damage caused by cancer treatments.

  • Nail oils: These help repair the damage caused to nails by cancer treatments particularly if they are dry or flaking. By using regular moisturisers and restorative oils you can help improve the condition of your nails, making them look and feel healthier.

  • Skin moisturisers: By using regular moisturisers to help keep your skin hydrated and healthy you’ll be able to improve the texture and feel of your skin. Having healthy glowing skin will be sure to make you feel confident.

  • Dermatological oils: Natural oils such as aloe vera and flax seed can help reduce the appearance of scars and stretch marks by increasing the skin’s collagen production for better elasticity and strength. Helping you look and feel great in or out of clothes.

  • Scar gels: Surgery scars can be itchy or sore, and you may want to reduce their appearance if you can. Luckily there are lots of gels and creams out there that can help - many of them create a waterproof barrier over the area, helping it to heal.

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Finding the right makeup

Finding the right makeup

Using make up can help you highlight things you like about your appearance, or disguise things you don’t, making you feel brighter, happier, and ready to face the world.

  • Eyebrow kits: If you‘ve lost your eyebrows or are worried they look a bit sparse, try using a brow pencil or gel to improve their definition. There are some great video tutorials or step-by-step articles online that can help you find the right shape to frame your face.

  • Strengthening mascaras: These mascaras typically contain natural ingredients which help nourish your lashes, and they can also give your lashes a visible boost in volume and length.

  • Makeup tutorials: If you want to try out some makeup, there are endless video tutorials and blog posts out there to help you figure out what works for you - and there are many people who have specific tips on makeup for people with cancer. But if you feel better wearing no makeup at all, that’s fine too - it’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin.
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Feeling anxious about your appearance

Feeling anxious about your appearance

Even with the best headscarves and cosmetics, it is natural to feel worried about coping with the changes to your appearance. You might want to try some relaxation ideas or self-help techniques to help you take control of your fears.

  • Mindfulness books: Learning some mindfulness techniques could help you manage negative thoughts, by training you to think and feel more realistically. Recognising and tackling your anxieties head on could help you to manage day-to-day worries, and equip you for the more difficult days.

  • Aromatherapy: Oils, balms, candles, diffusers - aromatherapy comes in many forms, and a lot of people swear by it for managing stress and anxiety. So if you’re feeling apprehensive about your appearance or just need a relaxation boost, give it a try and find your favourite anti-anxiety aroma.

  • Meditation: The art of meditation has been practiced for centuries and is can be very effective in reducing stress and anxiety. Many people have success with written or audio guides to meditation, and there are now also plenty of apps out there that can help you to build the habit of meditating.

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Last but not least....

Last but not least....

No matter what stage of your cancer journey you're at, you deserve to feel comfortable and confident. Though changes to your appearance are inevitably a scary thing to deal with, we hope you find a few ideas to help you feel better, inside and out.

If you have any of your own tips and tricks for feeling confident, we'd love to hear them! You can share them with us and our whole community on our Facebook or Twitter pages, or by emailing us at theteam@livebetterwith.com.