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Appearance quick tips for cancer patients

  • AP PHOTOS/CHRIS USHER Above, cancer survivor Nancy Lumb. At left, Lumb after participating in the Look Good, Feel Better program.
    AP PHOTOS/CHRIS USHER Above, cancer survivor Nancy Lumb. At left, Lumb after participating in the Look Good, Feel Better program.
Published October 15. 2009 05:00PM

For Michele VonGerichten, hearing that she needed chemotherapy was almost as devastating as the diagnosis of breast cancer itself.

She didn't know exactly what the side effects would be, but she knew that they would drastically change her appearance.

VonGerichten participated in a program called Look Good, Feel Better, a national public service program for cancer patients that addresses the physical changes that are likely to come with treatment, such as hair loss, skin discoloration and dryness.

The workshop she attended near her South Florida home was time well spent.

"I hadn't thought about my eyebrows or lashes. ... My hair had started to grow back, but I lost them almost overnight. It was a crippling blow to my self-esteem," she says. "But I remembered I had been taught how to deal with this."

The key to recreating brows is placement, according to the Look Good campaign. The spot where a pencil, held straight against your nose, hits the brow bone would be the start of the brow. Use the pencil to create a diagonal line from the bottom corner of your nose to the outside corner of your eye. That's the end point.

VonGerichten penciled in her brows with eyeliner and no one but her seemed to notice the change, she says.

Teresa Lopuchin, a Philadelphia-based makeup artist and volunteer with Look Good since its launch 20 years ago, offers other strategies:

• Tiny dots of eyeshadow along the lashline, applied with a disposable brush or cotton swab, can mimic lashes.

• Use a cream eyeshadow instead of a powder, because the skin is very sensitive and powder is more likely to flake.

• The best color for lashes and brows would match or be just slightly darker than your natural hair or wig color.

• Patches of dark skin, which range from the size of freckles to much larger, are best camouflaged with a cream concealer slightly lighter than natural skin tone. Lopuchin suggests sticking to peachy shades.

• The Look Good Web site also recommends color-correcting concealers for more specific issues: a green shade will help with redness, and a yellow can mask blue discoloration.

• Dry skin needs gentle moisturizer and gentle lip balm and a very gentle cleanser. That's the step often missed, Lopuchin says.

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