Breast cancer lesson number 93: How to face cancer with confidence

I think it would be fair to say that my make-up routine is less of a routine and more of a lifelong period of experimentation. I have the creams, the mascara, the eyebrow pencils and the obligatory make-up bag, but it seems that no matter how much stuff I apply to my face, I never look like I have any on. Some may call this skillful. Sadly, there is nothing skillful about it.

Whether or not you know your primer from your restorative lash treatment, when you’re undergoing treatment that dries your skin and steals away your eyelashes in the night, make-up does have its uses. For me, it’s not so much about hiding what’s happening to me, but more about giving me back the bits that make me smile. A hat can hide the lack of hairdo, but I do quite like to see some eyebrow when I look in the mirror.

In an attempt to help me reclaim my face, friends, family and medical professionals have been quick to send me top tips, hints and product recommendations. In the creams department, for example, I am sorted – so much so I’m surprised I don’t just slip right out of my clothes! Having diligently filled the bathroom with everything from Gimme Brow to Brow Zings on the make-up front, however, I do feel like in danger of looking more like a pantomime act than a publishing professional. Painting on eyebrows? I’d rather have a PICC line flush thanks.

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Enter Look Good, Feel Better (LGFB). This amazing international charity offers free skincare and make-up workshops for those coming to terms with the visible side effects of cancer treatment. With volunteers from the beauty industry (who better to teach you about wig care than a film make-up artist?), each session is a masterclass packed with trade secrets and handy tips. In two hours, you get a 12-step make-up routine and all the branded goodies to match (designed around your skin tone). And, even though you do have to sit in front of a mirror for an extended period, you do get an awful lot of laughing to go with your lipstick and eyeliner.

There are many things in life I never thought I’d have to worry about. Matching my foundation so that it blends in with my bald head is one of them. Now, however, I don’t just have the concealer, I know where (and most importantly when) to apply it. I can use green primer without looking like Kermit the frog and can advise you on which eye cream will make your bags glow in certain lights (not a great look for a wedding). I will also never use my eyeliner in the same way again. While ‘looking good’ may be pushing it, I left the session looking a whole lot better and, it felt great. To ease you in, I am only posting a photo of the goodie bag today. I need a bit more practice before I share my new eyebrow-shaping skills with the world and I’d rather not scare you off.

For the first time in my life, I have three amazing beauty secrets to share! First, book on a Look Good, Feel Better event today (they are extremely popular so click here to find your nearest location). Second, Macmillan Cancer Support does a really useful guide called Feel More Like You, which provides expert advice on skin, nail and hair care during treatment. And, lastly, only put green primer on the red bits, otherwise you might end up looking a lot worse than you feel! 

Of course, the one thing that a wonderful workshop such as this can’t do is account for nature. And, by nature, I mean the fact that I currently have a rather fetching mosquito bite plonk in the centre of my forehead. Perfectly timed for the filming of an exercise video tomorrow (oh yes, more on that soon)! That’s something no amount of make-up is going to sort.

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