Updated: Sep 23, 2018
Editor's Note: This is another in a series of stories and Q&As that talk about the topics I feel aren't always addressed with young adult cancer patients -- but are important to us as we continue living life while battling cancer. This particular story offers tips from Sabrina Sargon, owner of Essa Dora Salon and Spa and friend, who was there for me in so many ways when I faced cancer and is with me in so many ways post-cancer. It's written by accomplished writer Joyce Duriga, who has been there for me in so many ways post-cancer as a wonderful friend.
When you’re diagnosed with cancer in your 20, 30s and 40s, one of the many concerns on your list of worries is your appearance. Often you’re still working and worry how chemotherapy or radiation will affect your hair, skin and complexion.
Sabrina Sargon has more than 18 years experience in the beauty industry, which includes helping many women through their cancer diagnosis and its impact on their appearance. She was a “girly girl from Day One” and turned that love of everything beauty related into a career as a hair stylist and makeup artist.
Sabrina owns Essa Dora Salon and Spa and spoke with “Humor Beats Cancer” offering some beauty tips for women facing a cancer diagnosis.
First on the list of tips is hair loss. How a woman treats hair loss during treatment varies depending on the woman. Some want to shave their hair at the beginning and others want to hold on as long as possible before cutting it. How much hair a person loses also depends upon how her body reacts to the treatment, Sabrina said.
Sabrina also will style wigs for women going through treatment. The first thing to consider when choosing a wig is whether you want human hair or synthetic hair. Synthetic is more
affordable but looks less natural and often cannot be styled with heat.
“It’s almost like Barbie hair, if you will, and if you put heat on it, it will melt because it’s fake,” Sabrina said.
Human hair wigs can be washed and colored just like regular hair. Whatever kind of wig you
choose, Sabrina recommends you have it professionally cut.
“Your stylist knows your personality and style and can let that come through your hairpiece.”
Sometimes chemo and radiation causes eyelashes to thin or fall out entirely but there’s options for women because the false eyelash market has boomed in recent years.
“With false eyelashes it works if they have something small to stick on to,” Sabrina said. “I’ve
tried it on people when they have nothing and it’s harder to try and get them to look natural.”
If you are unable to attach eyelashes or don’t feel comfortable wearing them there are ways to
use eyeliner or eyeshadow to enhance the eyes that, at least from afar, she said.
Along with eyelashes, eyebrows can also thin out or disappear but there’s help for that.
“We have a product line that offers stencils. If you have no eyebrow at all it gives you a basic
shape to go on,” Sabrina said. You can also watch tutorials on YouTube for tips and tricks to
recreate eyebrows. “The whole point is that you want to mimic the hair of eyebrows. You want to brush strokes or feather strokes so it looks like hair.”
Chemotherapy and radiation can sometimes give you an almost jaundice pallor. Makeup can
help make your complexion look healthier, Sabrina said.
“You want to make that skin look like it has a glow and look natural. A lot of tinted moisturizers have the ability to do that. Not only are they hydrating that skin, which gives it that glow from within, but it’s also a little corrective to the color.”
Don’t forget to feather it down over the jawline so it looks more natural.
“That’s just a makeup trick for the trade for everyone,” she said.
From there you can add blush or bronzer if you want. The major think is a healthy base of a
tinted moisturizers, Sabrina advises.
Sometimes skin can become sensitive during treatment. In those cases, Sabrina recommends
trying out different products because everyone’s skin is different and will have a different
reaction to different products.
“I always tell people less is more. When you layer on way too many products your sensitive skin can get upset and then it’s also difficult to find out what set your skin off.”
If you are unsure of what to do in any of these situations, Sabrina recommends scheduling a
consultation at a salon. When you call a salon, explain your situation and request someone who has experience working with women who have gone through similar experiences.
“Just ask questions. There is no such thing as a bad question and there is nothing wrong with
asking questions,” she said. “That way you’ve broken the ice before you walk through the door and it’s not intimidating.”
Once the hair starts to grow back, clients often ask when they can start coloring their hair. She leaves that decision up to their doctors. But once you get the go ahead, don’t do it yourself at home. Reach out to a stylist and have them do a patch test to determine your skin’s reaction.
“That’s the same with makeup and skin care products too. Do it on a discreet area, wait a little bit to see if you have a reaction. Then at least you know if you put on this makeup on a day that you have an event and you have a reaction then there’s no way to correct it.”
By Joyce Duriga, a Chicago-based journalist, editor and author of the recently released “Helen Prejean: Death Row’s Nun” (Liturgical Press, 2017).