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Stylists learn to help cancer patients "Look Good ... Feel Better"

POSTED: December 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Each year, cosmetics companies that are members of the Personal Care Products Council donate more than 1 million individual products that are compiled in beauty kits for the "Look Good ... Feel Better" program. Each cancer patient who participates in the program gets one of these kits at no cost.

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Cancer patients’ beauty routines have to adapt to the side-effects of chemotherapy.

But stylists have to adapt to female patients’ needs, and the American Cancer Society is making sure they can adapt to the changes in their clients’ appearance.

Five local stylists spent Monday afternoon at Gainesville’s American Cancer Society office training to be facilitators for the "Look Good ... Feel Better" program. The program is aimed at helping women mitigate the effects cancer treatments can have on their appearance.

The program involves two-hour workshops that teach women how to deal with hair loss and to take care of newly sensitive nails and skin.

The class teaches patients how to draw on eyebrows, wear wigs and find products that are mild enough.

"The major thing is the change in their skin’s sensitivity," said Joy Griffin, community manager for the American Cancer Society. "Their skin is much more sensitive."

In each two-hour session, patients receive a kit of beauty products to take home.

The kits include eye shadow, lip gloss, powder, foundation, face cleanser and moisturizer from low to high-end cosmetic lines. Each bag contains between $150 to $250 worth of about 25 products that come from high-end companies such as Chanel, Aveda and M.A.C.

"These kits are a very important part of our program, because it’s a big, big deal," said Kay Kendrick, a state trainer and volunteer with "Look Good ... Feel Better."

Patients may find it hard to deal with facial swelling from steroids or making wigs look authentic, Griffin said. In the classes, stylists can teach patients how to use the products in the kit like blush to mitigate the look of facial swelling and use shoulder pads and real hair to make wigs seem real.

Griffin says the sessions can serve as support groups for female cancer patients and as a time the women can share tips and experiences.

Currently, one session is taught at the Longstreet Cancer Center each month for cancer patients, but Monday’s training of five class facilitators may allow for more frequent sessions, Griffin said.

Although the women are there at the Longstreet Cancer Center for a shared purpose, the trip to the center for the "Look Good ... Feel Better" course is far from a doctor’s visit, she said.

"This is not a medical program in any way," Griffin said. "We don’t want people to feel like they’re at the doctor at all; we don’t try to talk about medical things."

Instead, "Look Good ... Feel Better" deals with the emotional aspect of a woman’s battle with cancer, Griffin said.

"That’s a tough thing to battle when you’re already balancing the illness itself," Griffin said. "Emotionally, it’s very taxing. We can’t heal the physical pain, but we can help with that emotional pain.

"You would be amazed to see just their spirits lift ... they leave just shining, smiling from ear to ear."



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