How makeup can make a postive difference during and after cancer treatment...

Cancer treatment can take a toll on your body, hair and skin – surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and drug regimes all come with side effects. But, as cancer patients know, your confidence can also take a beating, not just during treatment but afterwards too.

A touch of makeup can help you feel more like the pre-cancer you and can give your confidence a welcome boost. It’s important, however, to choose makeup carefully and avoid anything that might aggravate your skin, especially if you are still having treatment and if you have had treatment to your face or neck. (If you’re unsure what to use or avoid, do check with your GP or cancer nurse.)

We’ve put together some simple makeup tips for when you’re not feeling your best and included links to some excellent online information and tutorials that we hope will help.

1) Choose your makeup products carefully and watch out for chemicals

Many cosmetic ranges still contain dozens of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that can affect hormones. Do check product ingredients, especially if you have been diagnosed with a hormone-related cancer, such as oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer. Breast Cancer UK advises avoiding cosmetics that contain: 

  • parabens
  • phthalates
  • triclosan
  • synthetic musks
  • formaldehyde

That’s good advice for cancer patients generally. Here at Live Better With, we recommend certified organic brands like Lavera.

You can find a list of Soil Association recommended organic brands here.

2) Use a gentle moisturiser

Some cancer treatments can leave your skin feeling dry, red and itchy so make sure you use a gentle moisturiser, like Ozalys Precious Care, night and morning after cleansing.

Oil treatments like Rock Rose, which was – like Ozalys - developed by a cancer patient, are great for dry skin too.

Many beauty therapists recommend gentle exfoliation once or twice a week too, to help keep your skin looking fresh. The best way to do this, if you are having cancer treatment, is to use a special exfoliating sponge, made from natural products, as this will soothe skin, remove dead cells, and relieve itching. If you use a tinted moisturiser or foundation during the day, make sure that it has a high level sun protection factor (SPF).

3) Replace lost eyebrows and eyelashes

Lavera Eyebrow Pencil & Eylure Eyebrow Stencil Set


Chemotherapy can play havoc with your hair but it’s not just your hair that can become thinner or fall out: eyebrows and eyelashes can disappear too, and hormone treatments can tip you into menopause - bye bye eyebrows! 

Lashes give definition to the eyes and Macmillan Cancer Support has an excellent video tutorial to show you how to restore that definition with shadow and mascara. (Lavera Volumising Mascara and Mineral Eyeshadow are ideal.)

You can replace the lost eyebrows with an eyebrow gel like WUNDER2 by Wonderbrow or this Lavera kit, which includes eyebrow pencil and stencils, for the perfect Hollywood brow.

4) Lip balm - and a dash of red!

A soothing lip balm, like Badger Lavender Orange Care, is one of the cancer patient’s best friends; always carry one with you and reapply throughout the day, to help combat dryness. It makes a good base for lipstick too.

Lavera Colour Intense Lipstick 


Who doesn’t feel better for a spot of something vivid on the lips? Lavera Colour Intense comes in three shades, including a dramatic red. Team it with a vibrant turban and bring out your inner Carmen Miranda or Amber Butchart!

5) Let minerals light up your face

Cancer and cancer treatment can be exhausting and you have to avoid too much direct sunlight, so it’s not surprising that your skin can lose some of its natural colour. Mineral makeup, used over a primer and concealer, is a great way to add colour without making your skin look shiny. Add a spot of colour and definition to cheekbones, temples and jaw line with a mineral rouge, like this one from Lavera. 

6) Polish your makeup skills out at a confidence workshop

Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) is the only international cancer support charity that helps boost physical and emotional wellbeing - for women, men and young adults who are having cancer treatment. LGFB activities include free, two-hour confidence-boosting workshops for all ages, skin-tone, and any type of cancer, in a relaxed environment. You’ll learn a range of skills from helping to correct uneven skin tone to re-creating missing eyebrows.  

7) Take online lessons to make the most of makeup during cancer treatment 

Some leading cancer charities have produced online guides and video tutorials on how to apply makeup and beauty accessories, such as false eyelashes, during and after cancer treatment. They include:

Breast Cancer Care
Cancer Research UK 
Look Good Feel Better

Video tutorials a good starting point, whether or not you used makeup before your cancer diagnosis. 

Browse the Live Better With Cancer range of recommended makeup and beauty products here.

Further reading: 

The Live Better Guide to Cancer and Skin Problems
The Live Better With Guide to Feeling Confident with Cancer
Best lip balms for dry and cracked lips during cancer treatment
The breast cancer patient who built a specialist beauty brand

And visit the Live Better With Cancer Community Forum for information, advice, and tips and to share your own questions and suggestions on cancer treatment and makeup.