Hair and beauty students learned how to give a makeover to a cancer sufferer this week thanks to a masterclass from an international charity.
Andrea Mackrell, regional coordinator for Look Good Feel Better, gave mum-of-one Christina Paterson, 41, a full makeover while showing students from Middlesbrough College’s hair and beauty courses important skills for applying makeup to chemotherapy patients.
Look Good Feel Better runs free skincare and makeup classes and workshops for women being treated for cancer, showing them confidence-boosting tips and tricks such as redrawing eyebrows and working with uneven skin tones.
Christina had major surgery after being diagnosed with high grade Stage 3 ovarian cancer in November last year and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Her long blonde hair fell out immediately after her first treatment and she now wears wigs and headscarves.
She said: “The hair loss is a big part of it but there are so many other things to think about when it comes to getting ready now.
“Chemotherapy destroys the immune system and if I were to pick up an infection it could become life threatening. Something as simple as using a makeup brush or an exfoliator isn’t an option for me as the risk of infection is just too high.
“I’ve also had to change the types of products I use to ensure they’re as gentle as possible. Everything needs to be hypoallergenic to avoid irritating my skin.”
Middlesbrough College offers a range of courses for people interested in pursuing a career in the hairdressing and beauty therapy industry, including part-time and apprenticeship options.
Students have access to professional equipment through the College’s on-site salon, where they also have the opportunity to practise their skills on members of the public.
Heather Ferguson, Level 2 & 3 Hair and Media Makeup course leader, said: “The students have been really inspired today and some have even signed up volunteer with Look Good Feel Better as a result of the demo.
“The experience has been invaluable for learners across our department – from our trainee hairdressers picking up tips for styling wigs, to those on makeup courses understanding how to make the most of re-growing eyelashes.”
Level 2 Hair and Media Makeup student Rebecca Dick, 18, said: “I thought the demo was absolutely amazing.
“Cancer affects people in so many different ways and it was really inspiring to see how something as simple as makeup can help them feel like themselves again.”
Andrea, who has worked with Look Good Feel Better for more than 20 years, said: “There’s a lack of education and information about hair and beauty for people going through treatment for cancer.
“I’ve heard of people being turned away from beauty salons because the business insurance won’t cover them – the last thing anyone wants to hear when their self-esteem is at a low.
“Being able to raise awareness and pass on my knowledge to the next generation of hair and beauty therapists is so important if we’re to change perceptions in the industry.”
For Christina, the prognosis is good and doctors expect her to make a full recovery once she has finished her treatment, although she will be subject to monitoring for the next five years to make sure the cancer doesn’t return.
She said: “I’m staying as positive as possible.
“Sessions like today make me feel really good. It’s such a confidence boost and the social aspect is great.”