'They’re going through the hardest thing they’ll ever go through' - beauty advisor who helps cancer patients feel better
“They’re very vulnerable, and in a situation where they’ve no control over it, and we can help them get their control back.”
“No matter who walks through the door, I don’t know what they’re going through. We would have customers coming in that have depression. You’re trying to find out ‘what are they looking for?’ And ‘what kind of help do they need?’”
Rose Sturgess (57) from Dublin, is one of 130 cancer beauty advisors in Boots Ireland, and she gives make-up advice to cancer patients at ARC cancer support centre during a coffee morning.
“The women absolutely love it; it’s not just the make-up end of it. It’s basically talking to other women who are actually going through cancer as well. Often patients go to the oncologist and they go home, and they don’t meet anyone who’s going through the same thing. So this is brilliant for them. It’s great craic as well.”
Hair loss, a well-known side effect of chemotherapy treatment, can be devastating for cancer patients. Often, their eyebrows and eyelashes can partially or completely disappear. This compounds their feelings of a loss of control when cancer took over, Rose says.
“There are hints and tricks we can show them how to reshape the eyes and the lashes and the brows,” she says.
“Most women that come into us looking for help, their brows would have disappeared and their lashes are gone. And they ask ‘should I wear false lashes?’, ‘should I pencil them in?’, and most women won’t know how to put in the false lashes.”
“When they lose their lashes, they might still have a few left, and they’re wondering what to do. In that case, I don’t recommend that they use liquid eyeliner, because sometimes you have to use an eye make-up remover, and you could end up removing some of the lashes as well.”
“I always recommend using a shadow which is more attractive and it gives the hint that you’re lashes are still there.”
“I’d show them a brow kit, tell them how to do, show them how to do it, and then have them do it until they’re comfortable doing it themselves.”
“It’s up to us to make them feel comfortable,” Rose told Independent.ie.
Chemotherapy patients can experience changes in their skin tone such that the foundation make-up they used for many years doesn’t suit their skin tone any more.
“I’ve had them come in and say my skin tone has changed, what do I do? A lot of women are coming in every second week, and they’ll say my skin tone changed again. One lady in particular, her skin tone changed five times.”
“It’s an ongoing thing. Because the treatment can affect people differently, skin can go from dry to completely oily as well.”
“You might have a customer coming in who has had bad news. If it’s bad news, they might get upset. But I have to try and be positive for that person, and say, look, you’re still here, and let’s enjoy what we have.”
“A lot of the women have young families and the families are going through it as well, and they have a chat with me because they can’t talk to their families. The kids might be too young, or a lot of women come from an old school way of doing things where you don’t let people know you have cancer; you keep it to yourself.”
“It’s amazing, sometimes a stranger is a better person to talk to because they don’t know you, and they have no judgement on you.”
In a recent survey, Boots Ireland found that more than 1 in 5 mothers worried about how their children would react to changes in their appearance. A fifth of the respondents who used make-up and skincare products said it helped to lessen their concern about their children being confused or upset.
“My actual role is to make them forget that, and say we’re here for you, to make you look and feel good today. They’re going through the hardest thing they’ll ever go through in their whole lives. It’s very rewarding,” said Rose.