Finding the right makeup whilst undergoing a chemotherapy treatment can be tiring. Cancer patients that want to use makeup, often face the hard task to discover makeup products that are safe for the skin. I asked for help to my dear friend Reija, blogger of cyclingforcancer.co.uk, who underwent chemotherapy a few years ago, to understand the struggles of a cancer patient when looking for makeup. After 3 days of extensive research, I found 43 products that are completely safe and help reduce redness, dry skin and hair loss, which are the main problems when passing through cancer treatments. I also added some videos and tips of how to apply makeup, especially in regards to false lashes and drawing eyebrows.
First of all, I have to express my sadness and discontentment towards the makeup industry. The beauty industry has grew massively over the last years and possibly that might mean that there will be an increase of people diagnosed with cancer, just because some of the ingredients are harmful and if used everyday, can cause cancer. I had no clue, until I started the research for this article. We all have a responsibility as society to care about the people who are fighting against cancer, because tomorrow it can be our parents, grandparents, cousins, our closest friends, or even ourselves. We cannot ignore this.
What surprised me the most whilst doing the research, was that even the clean, vegan, paraben free makeup brands, would still have some sort of ingredient that is dangerous to cancer patients.
Because I had and have people close to me passing through cancer, I decided to approach my courageous friend Reija, who won the battle against cancer, to understand the problems a cancer patient faces when using makeup to possibly hide the side effects of cancer treatments. Reija is the blogger of www.cyclingforcancer.co.uk, and on her blog she writes about the experience she had from the moment she was diagnosed with cancer until she was finally free of it.
Make sure to follow her blog and Instagram and have more awareness of what it is to have cancer. Here’s her Instagram:
Reija explained to me that makeup helped her to keep looking in the mirror without feeling like a stranger in her own body, because of the main side effects caused by chemotherapy, such as hair loss and redness. In her own words, here’s what she describes:
When I was diagnosed with cancer and had to have chemotherapy, I wanted to feel as normal as possible. I also wanted people I met to treat me normally. I did not want their first thought to be when they saw me to be “Oh, she must have cancer” and then tiptoe around me and the subject. Or worse, feel sorry for me like I was already at death’s door.
But it’s difficult to feel normal when the face you see in the mirror every morning is that of a stranger. The eyes, the lips, the nose, they are still there, but the rest. Who is that person with no eyebrows or eyelashes, a bald head, and a moon face?
That’s why I found makeup so important. It allowed me to feel more like myself. I’ve never worn much makeup, just a little mascara, powder, and lip gloss on most days. When my appearance changed following the drugs I was on, I used more makeup daily than ever before.
Even on the days when I didn’t go out or just took my neighbour’s dog for a walk, I’d still do a full makeup because it made me feel better.
But there were challenges:
I had to take steroids because they help the chemo drugs to work better and they made my face and neck red. Not all foundations are equal to cover the redness.
The steroids make you retain fluids, and they made my face round, like the moon.
With chemo, you lose ALL your hair. That includes eyelashes, eyebrows, body hair, and even the hairs in your nostrils. Most of that wasn’t a problem. In fact, not having to shave was great. However, it meant I had to draw my own eyebrows and make my eyes look like I still had lashes. Without false lashes, since I simply couldn’t get on with them.
Once I had, at least sort of, mastered the look, another issue was getting the makeup to stay on for the whole day. Especially, as my treatments were during the summer and it was hot. Combine that with medical menopause and you get a lot of sweating. It’s hardly a good look when you have your eyebrows melting and running down your face.
I also had an issue with lots of spots on my head once I shaved all my hair off. My hair began to fall out around my second chemo, and I asked my partner to shave it. I was prepared to brave the bold, but not the spots. I have never heard anyone mention this problem, so I’m not sure if it is a common problem or not. Thankfully, the spots cleared after a while.
In the UK, Macmillan together with Boots offer advice on makeup to cancer patients. I only found out about it after I had already figured out how to do my makeup. Here is the link to the service:
HARMFUL INGREDIENTS FOR ONCOLOGY PATIENTS
Before showing the makeup products that are good for oncology patients, it’s important to know the ingredients that need to be avoided at all costs:
- Alcohol (except for cetearyl, cetylm btyl, stearyl1, alkyl);
- Diazolidinyl Urea;
- DEA (diethanolamine) and TEA (triethanolamine);
- Talcum Powder;
- Soy (not advised to oncology patients, because it can alter hormones);
- P-amino benzoic acid (PABA);
- Vitamin A/ Retinol;
- Hyaluronic and lactic acid (some cancer patients can develop intolerance to these acids).
Whilst I was doing my research, I came across makeup tutorials on Youtube from cancer patients that surprisingly were using makeup that had dangerous ingredients. Hence, I said at the beginning that we have a responsibility as society, in particularly the laboratories that produce makeup, to pay more attention to the ingredients makeup products are made of. Oncology patients should not have to research what products are good or not. It should be an easy task that doesn’t remind them that their skin has changed. They shouldn’t have to look into the ingredient list of each product, when that time should be used to relax and recover.
I can say that there is a lack of information of which makeup products or makeup brands can be considered good for whoever is undergoing a cancer treatment. There is information about skincare, but almost none about makeup. This was the reason that took three days to come up with a list of safe makeup products. Either on Google or Youtube, the truth is, there isn’t an article or a video focused on the ingredients of makeup products, which is a pity, since this should be the main concern nowadays, when cancer rates are growing. More disappointing was to find out that clean, vegan friendly and paraben-free makeup wasn’t as “clean” as it should be for cancer patients.
I can proudly say, after looking into the ingredients of many makeup cosmetics, I found 43 makeup products that won’t cause any harm and will help to minimize and hide the cancer treatments side effects.
I highlight the fact that I really checked into many makeup brands to find the right products and if I don’t mention makeup brands that are advertised to be safe, such as Avene, Lumene, Cle de Peau, the new Rimmel Kind & Free, N.o 7, IT Cosmetics, Lavera, it’s because I concluded they are harmful. They had ingredients that cannot be applied on oncology patients.
I’d like to add that just because I recommend a lot of products of a specific makeup brand, it doesn’t mean all the products are good. For example, I recommend many products from Jane Iredale, Bellapierre and Elf, however there are some products that should be avoided, thus the importance to know which ingredients to look for when choosing makeup.
Interestingly, cancer skin can be compared to eczema skin, meaning products that are advised to people that suffer from eczema, are also good for cancer patients.
IS MAKEUP BENEFICIAL FOR ONCOLOGY PATIENTS?
Yes, it actually is, because it works as a shield against pollution. The secret is to look for high quality mineral makeup that doesn’t contain the ingredients above. Talc in cosmetics can bring divergent opinions. Some brands use high quality filtered purified talc, which is harmless, but it’s hard to know for sure, if a cancer patient won’t react or not to talc.
Without further ado, it’s time to discover the best makeup products for cancer patients.
It was extremely hard to find primers without the ingredients labeled as harmful. Even the primer I posted on my Instagram story on Thursday, from N.o7, Airbrush Away, that I thought it was one of the best, I end up finding that has glycol and sulfate. The only primer I would recommend after my extensive research are the primers bellow from Elf: Tone Adjusting Face Primer Neutralizing Green, Tone Adjusting Face Primer Brightening Lavender, Illuminating Face Primer and Mineral Infused Face Primer.
Green primer is perfect for skin that tends to be red. Green neutralizes redness. The purple primer is suitable for skin that is dull and lost vitality. For darker skin tone, the Illuminating and Mineral Infused Face Primer are better. After applying skincare, especially SPF, the first makeup step should be, applying a primer to hydrate, correct skin tone and hold the foundation in place.
ELF Tone Adjusting Face Primer Neutralizing Green – £9
ELF Tone Adjusting Face Primer Brightening Lavender -£9
ELF Illuminating Face Primer – £9
ELF Mineral Infused Face Primer -£9
The foundations I would recommend are: Living Nature Foundation, Jane Iredale Dream Tint and Jane Iredale Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream.
Unfortunately there isn’t many colours available for dark skin tone. My tip in this case, would be, mix foundation powder, which is shown further down, with liquid foundation. I do this sometimes to make my foundation long lasting and it works perfectly and it’s not cakey. I don’t know why, but there are more shades for dark skin tone in powder foundation than liquid.
The best way to apply liquid foundation is using a water damp sponge and gently dab on skin. Apply small amounts until getting the desired coverage.
Living Nature Foundation – £31
Jane Iredale Dream Tint SPF 15 – £46.50
Jane Iredale Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream – £55
For something quicker and easy, instead of liquid foundation, powder foundation can be an option. For powder foundation there are more shades available, in particularly for dark skin tone. The powder foundations I advise bellow, keep skin hydration and are long lasting. Bellapierre Mineral Foundation SPF 15,BareMinerals Original Loose Mineral Foundation and Jane Iredale Powder-Me SPF 30 Dry Sunscreen respect skin’s PH and are the best for skin that is sensitive due to cancer treatments. To create a dewy finish when using powder foundation, further down I recommend highlighters and a face spray that will transform any dull skin into a radiant one.
Jane Iredale Powder-Me SPF 30 Dry Sunscreen is perfect to reapply SPF when you have makeup on.
Bellapierre Mineral Foundation SPF 15 – £29
BareMinerals Original Loose Mineral Foundation – £30
Jane Iredale Powder-Me SPF 30 Dry Sunscreen – £53
The best concealers I found were Jane Iredale Active Light Under Eye Concealer and Jane Iredale Disappear Full Coverage Concealer. I wish there would be more shades for dark skin tones. Anyway, the trick I gave for the liquid foundation, can be used for concealer, A dark powder foundation can be mixed with the concealer to achieve the perfect shade.
After applying concealer, is important to apply a bit of loose powder with a small fluffy brush, to hold the concealer in place. You can check the loose powders I recommend after this concealer section.
Jane Iredale Active Light Under Eye Concealer – £34
Jane Iredale Disappear Full Coverage Concealer – £36
Loose SETTING Powder
After applying liquid foundation and concealer, setting powder is essential to make the makeup last. My favourites are: ELF High Definition Loose Powder Translucent and Bellapierre Large Banana Setting Powder.
ELF High Definition Loose Powder Translucent – £6.50
Bellapierre Large Banana Setting Powder – £20
To give a sun kissed tone to the skin, bronzer is a must-do step. The best bronzers are: Jane Iredale So Bronze Bronzing Powder, Lily Lolo Mineral Bronzer and Bellapierre Compact Mineral Bronzer.
Jane Iredale So Bronze Bronzing Powder – £44.50
Lily Lolo Mineral Bronzer – £15.50
Bellapierre Compact Mineral Bronzer – £24
To add a pop of colour on the cheeks, use a powder or cream blush, depending of the texture that you desire. Use: Lily Lolo Mineral Blush, Lily Lolo Lip & Cheek Cream, Jane Iredale Pure Pressed Blush or Jane Iredale Glow Time Blush.
Lily Lolo Mineral Blush – £10
Lily Lolo Lip & Cheek Cream – £12
Jane Iredale Glow Time Blush Stick – £40.50
Jane Iredale Pure Pressed Blush – £34
The highlighters I selected are great to create a luminous look. Choose a stick cream highlighter for an extra luminous finish: Jane Iredale Glow Time Highlighter Stick. For a highlighter with a powder finish, I chose: Jane Iredale 24-Karat Gold Dust Shimmer Powder and Gelina Cosmetics Soul Glow Highlighter Trio Palette. You know I’m a big fan of Gelina Cosmetics, their makeup is vegan, paraben-free and talc-free.
Jane Iredale 24-Karat Gold Dust Shimmer Powder – £15
Jane Iredale Glow Time Highlighter Stick – £40.50
Gelina Cosmetics Soul Glow Highlighter Trio Palette – £20
If you purchase for the first time at Gelina Cosmetics, enjoy their 15% discount on first orders.
If you purchased before, then use my discount code: MICHELE10 for 10% off.
If it’s too much of a hassle to have a bronzer, blush and highlighter separated from one another, then a contour kit is the best way to go. The contour kit from Jane Iredale Great Shape Contour Kit comes in three different shades and suits any skin tone, fortunately.
Jane Iredale Great Shape Contour Kit – £53
Cancer patients should be extremely careful to the ingredients of eyeshadows, because they can have talc, which is really drying for the eyes. The following eyeshadows are safe and ideal for a nude or colorful eye makeup: Bellapierre It’s Only Natural Eyeshadow Palette, Bellapierre Shimmer 9 Stack and my favourite eyeshadow palette Gelina Cosmetics Twin Soul Eyeshadow.
Bellapierre It’s Only Natural Eyeshadow Palette – £28.99
Bellapierre Shimmer 9 Stack – £22.50 or £45
Gelina Cosmetics Twin Soul Eyeshadow Palette – £25
Most of the liquid eyeliners I checked, have alcohol, so the only one I would recommend is: Jane Iredale Powdered Eyeliner. The precise brush that comes with it, makes the eyeliner application quick and easy. I wouldn’t advise an eyeliner pencil, because it can smudge and create panda eyes. Cancer skin due to chemo or radio therapy, can have difficulties to hold the makeup in place, thus for the eyes, the makeup needs to be gentle and 100% long lasting.
Jane Iredale Powdered Eyeliner – £27.50
Loosing lashes after starting a cancer treatment, can be solved by using false lashes. There are a special type of false lashes for oncology patients: Eylure C-Lash.
C-lashes come with an adhesive band that make sure that the lashes stick to the eyelid, even if the eyelid gets sweaty throughout the day.
Bellow I put a Youtube video that explains how to apply C-lashes. To add extra grip to the lashes, a latex free false lashes glue can be applied on the adhesive band. Once the glue gets sticky, the c-lashes can be applied on the eyelid.
There’s another tutorial video bellow that explains the easiest way to apply false lashes.
Eylure C-Lash Naturals Multipack – £16
Cardani Latex Free Secure Hold Glue False Eyelash – £12
Video Tutorial To Apply C-Lash
Video Tutorial To Apply False Lashes
If there is something that leave cancer patients worried when looking in the mirror is loosing the eyebrows. I looked for several ways to make this worry go away. If you are a cancer patient and you’re not skilled to draw eyebrows from scratch, there are two possibilities: use eyebrow tattoos or an eyebrow stencil shaper to shape the eyebrows naturally when drawing the eyebrows. ELF Lock Liner and Brow Cream, ELF Instant Lift Brow Pencil and Jane Iredale Greatshape Eyebrow Kit are my chosen eyebrow products for oncology patients.
To seal the eyebrow makeup or tattoo use the Model In A Bottle Eyebrow Sealer to create a transparent fixing layer, as if hairspray would be applied.
Watch the Youtube video further down to understand how to draw realistic fake eyebrows.
Eyebrow Tattoos – £5.75
15 Pieces Eyebrow Stencil Shaper Kit – £5.99
ELF Lock Liner and Brow Cream – £5
ELF Instant Lift Brow Pencil – £3
Jane Iredale Greatshape Eyebrow Kit – £40.50
Model In A Bottle Eyebrow Sealer – £13.29
Video Tutorial to Draw Eyebrows
LIPSTICK AND LIP BALM
Lips might be extremely dry after chemotherapy, so extra attention needs to be given to the lips. The lipsticks and lip balms that I selected will nourish and will keep your lips away from parabens. The best lip products are: Bellapierre mineral lipstick, Jane Iredale Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain, Bossy Glossy Lip Balm and Dr.Lipp’s Original Nipple Balm for Lips.
If you purchase Bossy Glossy Lip Balm, use the discount code: GLOSSY10, for 10% off.
Bellapierre mineral lipstick – £19
Jane Iredale Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain -£34
Bossy Glossy Lip Balm – £4
When you purchase at Bossy Glossy , get 10% off with code: GLOSSY10
Dr.Lipp’s Original Nipple Balm for Lips – £9
The very last step of the makeup is a setting spray. Jane Iredale Calming Lavender Hydration Spray is the best in the market for cancer patients. All ingredients are safe, clean and hydrating. The aloe vera and vitamin c boost hydration on the skin. This spray is free of alcohol and perfume. It should be carried in the bag, if skin becomes red to calm it.
Jane Iredale Calming Lavender Hydration Spray – £38
I hope the makeup industry will become more conscious about the importance to create a clean makeup range suitable for oncology patients. It’s essential that important designer brands like Dior, Chanel or Armani, start selling makeup focussed in the reality that cancer patients also deserve to be addressed.
Something that bothered me immensely, is that the brands or products I found safe for cancer patients, lack shades for dark skin tone, and from what I know, cancer doesn’t choose skin colours, so why focus more on light skin tone?
95% of the products available in a drugstore, aren’t suitable for people with cancer. That’s very alarming, because it means, makeup is still produced with chemicals that shouldn’t be in contact with our skin.
Most of us, makeup lovers, will keep using products that include bad ingredients for the skin, but let’s take initiative to improve our beauty habits and purchase better products for our skin. I know it will be a challenge for me too, but I do want to take care of my health and create new good habits. I wish each makeup product could have a sticker on the packaging saying “safe for cancer patients” or “not suitable for cancer patients”, to raise awareness.
If you’re passing through cancer, I’m sending you so much love and I want you to know that I’m proud of you for fighting a battle against your own body. Your strength inspires me to be a better person.
Please support this article by leave a like and spread awareness about cancer in the beauty industry.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart,
Such an interesting post! It’s not fair that cancer patients have to go through so much research and testing to find safe makeup products. Skincare and makeup should not be harmful and all brands should make the effort to remove toxic ingredients from their formulations, just as there should be stricter regulations banning potentially harmful ingredients. Excellent recommendations! Clean skincare and makeup are a real must for me and the brands recommended in this post are all really good clean brands.
Thank you! I hope in the future we’ll have more makeup products safe for our health.
Such an interesting post! It’s not fair cancer patients need to go through so much research and testing to find safe makeup products. Skincare and makeup should not be harmful and all brands should make the effort to remove toxic ingredients from their formulations, the same way there should be stricter regulations banning potentially harmful ingredients. Clean skincare and makeup is a real must for me. All the brands recomended here are clean brands, I tried most of them and they’re all really good.
I am so glad you took the time to complete this research, so many of us going through cancer have sat around thinking how did I get cancer, especially people who eat well, exercise don’t do anything risky, they find themselves dumbfounded that they have cancer, you start thinking is it something in my food? is it something I’m applying or wearing? I went through so many makeup products and loads of them had harmful chemicals, I watched video blogs on organic makeup and when I could be bothered I would try to make myself feel and look better…but it’s true you don’t have the energy at that time to filter through all your products and read the ingredients. I’m trying to look after myself now and I’ve cut out so many products from my makeup bag and there are so many additives and harmful toxic colours and flavours that go in our food as well as the so called beauty products that we don’t realise.
Thank you for writing this article the beauty industry is massive, they need to take some responsibility for the products they put out to the public…I mean which girl doesn’t want to look her best but no one wants to die trying if it means dying for it then it really isn’t worth it…despite the slogan “your worth it”.
Your reply touched me completely. You are so right, we are led to look beautiful, wear makeup, taking care of our bodies and without realising, we are being poisoned and we allow it. It has difficult when society is built towards profits, money, business and health at the end it also has become a business. I’m hoping this article will help you, but most of all will create awareness in the beauty industry to start changing this reality. Also we have to change the concept of beauty. More recently I have been makeup free, I’m just wearing makeup when I create content or special occasions and for the 1st time in my life, I feel beautiful without makeup. I’m glad this article helps you and I want you to find hope in knowing that my thoughts are with you and you are not alone ❤️