This is a subject I’ve wanted to write about for a long time, it’s a subject very close to my heart and as a result makes me quite emotional. Now it’s important to note that I myself have never suffered from alopecia. Instead I have witnessed it’s impact for over a decade through my job as an oncology nurse. Of course it isn’t just chemotherapy that induces alopecia, there are many differing causes with some being permanent. It’s also important to note that alopecia isn’t always a negative thing for a lot of people, we all know everybody views and deals with things differently. Over the years I have seen countless men and women say “to hell with it, it’s not something I’m going to worry about” For some however this can be the biggest knock back. One such person was my Mum.
I personally feel driven to touch on this subject due to my personal experiences with chemotherapy induced alopecia. In 2010 my Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. Obviously after you hear news like that you are reeling. Then the questions set in… What happens next? Will she die? From a daughters point of view once I was through this stage it was all about the practicalities for me. What can I do to help? I suppose that’s just the nurse in my, needing to be useful and being allowed to care for someone I love.
As you go through the stages of diagnoses and treatment you try to mentally prepare yourself for what may be around the corner. For us chemotherapy came out of the blue. We had no idea Mum would ever need it. When we were told she would we were floored. At this point I had worked in an Oncology specialist hospital for over a decade. Of course knowing so much about the illness gave me an insight that a lot of people don’t have. This is something I will always be thankful for as it gave me the strength to help Mum through this difficult period.
An area in which I felt totally out of my depth however, was in helping Mum deal with her hair loss. Before she started chemo we talked at length about how she felt about it and what we could do to help her through it. We researched wigs, head scarves, everything we could to help her feel at ease. We had everything at the ready for when it happened. Now I wont lie, when it finally did happen it was devastating, again it isn’t always like this for everyone, but for Mum it seemed to be the one thing that was like a slap in the face. I’m sure she wont mind me telling you that she took it hard and even locked herself away for a few days. As her family we wanted to support her, so whilst she took a little time to herself we went back to the drawing board on ideas to help her. One idea was to get her a beautiful dressing table for her room. A place were she could sit and get ready in privacy.
As time went by she became more comfortable with it and adapted. We had fun choosing millions of head scarves and accessories to make them unique and fun. Now let me say this is something that was a joy for me. Before Mum’s hair came out she stated she would absolutely never, ever, eveeeeerrrrr… be seen without her wig on. After it happened and she began to deal with her alopecia she just rolled with it. She found that her wigs were sometimes too hot and bothersome so she opted for her scarves and she looked beautiful! :O)
Another amazing lady that I would like to mention is my family member and good friend Sarah. Now Sarah is absolutely the most glamorous girl I know. There are times that her flamboyancy and glitzyness put even me to shame…
A few years back Sarah was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer. Unfortunately she has had to undergo further treatment and as a consequence has suffered hair loss for a second time. Now when I tell you that this has not stopped her in her tracks, this is probably and understatement! Sarah has become the face of our local East Cheshire Hospice, sharing her story with thousands of people in a bid to raise awareness and funds for a service that has been of immeasurable help to her.
In Novemeber Sarah will be speaking at the ‘What Women Want Ball’. There is a Winter Wonderland theme and we are beside ourselves with excitement at the prospect of getting glitzed up for the night. Some of you may know that apart from running this blog and my full-time job as a nurse, I am also a Makeup Artist in my (very little) spare time. Myself and Sarah have already been trying out makeup looks for the event and she has very graciously allowed me to share some of the pictures with you guys so you can see the little tricks we used in view of her alopecia.
So you see, as awful a thought alopecia is and as challenging as it is to overcome, it can be done, I’ve witnessed it first hand. Again let me stress I have never dealt with this myself but some very special ladies in my life have and I have learnt a lot from them. So I thought it might be nice to share with you guys what I have learnt.
The biggest thing I have learnt is that until it happens you wont know how comfortable you feel and if wigs, scarves or both are the direction you will want to go in.
- Wigs – There are so many options when it comes to wigs, you can go and buy one that you feel comfortable in or if you live in the UK and your treatment causes hair loss you can ask for a prescription for a wig. Now you may have images of 80’s wigs floating through your mind but let me assure you they are not like that. I have seen thousands of wigs throughout my time as an oncology nurse and the NHS wigs are incredible. Don’t be put off, I say get your prescription and go have your one to one consultation. You can chose what you feel comfortable in and it can even be trimmed to your liking. Another thing thing to bear in mind is that you don’t have to wear a full wig, there are little fringes that you can pop under your scarf or hat.
- Scarves – At the hospital I work in there is an amazing service called headstart. It’s run by a group of lovely ladies that are very experienced and help to teach ladies different ways to tie and wear scarves. They were of incredible help to Mum and really helped to build her confidence. We got so much inspiration from them and went off on our own hunt for huge flowers and broaches to help customise scarves. Mum even had me apply hundreds of Swarovski crystals to a scarf for her. Have a chat with your specialist nurses and see if there are any services like this in your local area. Alternatively you can have a peek at Cancer Hair Care.
Eyebrows – One of the biggest challenges for alopecia sufferers are the brows. Flipping heck it’s difficult enough to get your brows even when you have a base to work with. When there is nothing there to go off it can be a daunting prospect drawing them on from scratch. Of course there is semi-permanent makeup but if your alopecia is temporary this might not be the route for you. So two options that I have found amazing are brow kits and false brows.
- Eyebrow Kits – The Rio Celebrity Brow Define Set is a great option for anyone that doesn’t feel confident is drawing on brows. There are 10 stencils and a mix of powders and pencils to help you create the perfect brow.
- False Brows – Now these were an absolute light-bulb moment for me. When Sarah told me she had some I didn’t really know what to expect. When I actually saw them I was blown away by how realistic and perfect they are. There are loads of companies that do them but Sarah has the Nu-Brow ones.
Lashes – We all know and probably love us a false lash. The amount of girls and boys that wear them these days is massive. As a result the false lash market has gone bananas. You can get so many different kinds so there is sure to be something that suits you and makes you feel confident. Also please don’t think that your only option is the massive TOWIE like lashes that used to be the norm. You can get some really beautiful natural looking options too, my faves are Amazing Shine lashes that cost just £2!. The trick with falsies is to use an amazing glue like Duo and make sure you line underneath the lash, this is especially important when you don’t have your own lashes. Lining underneath the false lash with waterproof liner will help to blend them in perfectly!
Eyeliner – I can’t tell you how amazing a good eyeliner is in the absence of lashes. As well as lining under your false lash, you can line the bottom of the eye where the lashes should be. For the makeup I did on Sarah I lined the bottom of her eye in black and then blended the grey/blue under that. The results were lovely and you would never know she didn’t have any bottom lashes.
So I hope these tricks are of some use and prove that there are loads of things you can do to create a beautiful glam look, or everyday relaxed look. If you have any tricks of your own please feel free to share them in the comments box below, I’d love t hear them.
PEACE & LOVE
Sonya D x