We’ve all seen them. Friends tagging friends on Facebook to post pics of them wearing no makeup, appropriately called the “no-makeup selfie”. Although it received much criticism and a flood of comments from people saying it was taking over their timelines, it was actually a movement for raising funds for cancer.
Bridging on that theme, this week’s FASHION magazine Beauty Panel challenge was why we wear makeup and what it means to us. Sure, some can say that the cosmetics industry is vain, making women change their appearance, but for me, makeup is much more. You can read my post on FASHION online about what makeup means to me, but for a lot of people (myself included) it’s a form of healing. Sure, it makes you look beautiful on the outside, but it can also be a makeover for the soul.
I was approached by Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) Canada to chat with their executive director Sherry Abbott while she was in town this past Wednesday. I had previously heard about LGFB through the different cosmetic companies I deal with and had an understanding of what they do, but didn’t realize the full scope of the program until I met Sherry.
LGFB, which is present in 20 countries around the world, was created from a belief that if a woman with cancer can be helped to look good, chances are she’ll feel better, her spirits will be lifted and she’ll be empowered to face her illness with greater confidence. In this free two-hour program for cancer patients, they are given a kit of makeup products (based on skin tone – light, medium, or dark) and learn how to apply makeup and the benefits of each product. Cancer and its treatment can cause a variety of changes in your appearance. Skin may become extra dry and irritated, it may change colour and texture, and dark circles may appear under your eyes. Depending on your treatment, you could lose your hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, etc., which can take a toll on your confidence.
Cancer has impacted members of my family, but I haven’t really been affected by it that personally. I knew that you lose your hair going through chemo, but in speaking with Sherry, who is a 25-year cancer survivor (she had stage 4 advanced cancer, as well as inoperable tumours around the heart and was told that there was no hope), I didn’t realize how much of an effect it can have on your whole appearance. During treatment, a weakened immune system is vulnerable to infection. As a result, cancer patients should be more vigilant about skin care and hygiene and only use clean, disposable cotton balls, pads, sponges, cotton swabs, or cosmetic spatulas to apply cosmetics, tossing them after every use. In addition to teaching participants about a proper skincare regime, they learn how to diminish the appearance of dark circles, how to cover broken capillaries, blemishes, facial redness, brighten the eye area, and make eyeshadow last longer, as well as how to apply foundation, powder, blush, you name it. Participants also learn essential tips like how to fill in sparse brows or how to “fake” a natural-looking brow if they lost their hair from chemo treatments. For those who have lost their eyelashes, making dots with their eyeliner along the lash line will create the illusion of lashes. The program also touches on hair, wigs, nails, you name it, all in a two-hour period.
The program is free and works on an honour system. Usually there’s around 10 people in the class, and everyone is invited to bring a companion. The participants are led by a collection of volunteers, all industry trained in hair or makeup. Over the past couple of years, the program has consistently supported 10,000 women all across Canada.
Okay, so you may be thinking, why can’t these women just watch YouTube tutorials? There are tons of brow tutorials on the Internet. Well, it’s not just about the makeup. The program is really about bringing out confidence in women and taking back control of their bodies. It takes a look at the psycho social effects of cancer, which is something that isn’t focused on as much as the physical aspects of the disease. The program isn’t about the makeup (although, I have to say the box they get is amazing, tons of products from MAC, L’Oreal, Rimmel, Estee Lauder, Jergen’s, Marcelle, Clinique, etc. – all for free), it’s about being in a supporting environment and meeting other women who also are affected by cancer. It’s estimated that two out of every five Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime. That adds up to 40 per cent of Canadian women and 45 per cent of Canadian men.
When a woman loses her hair, it can be very traumatic for them, and as Sherry says, is usually just the tip of the iceberg with what is actually going on. It’s not just about the hair loss, it’s the fear of the unknown and a collaboration of many things that are happening all at once, so by learning to apply makeup and choosing the best wigs or how to style your hair, they are taking back some of that control.
Sherry (who is so fab by the way – she keeps a tube of Chanel lipstick in her boot) says that the program isn’t about teaching the women to make themselves look glamourous, they are there to make them look and feel like themselves and help them put their best self forward and take back some of the control that they may have lost.
Since the program is the cosmetic and beauty industry charity of choice, their sponsors include pretty much any makeup brand you can think of. At retail value, they receive around $4 million dollars of products that get packed into 11,000 kits which are given to participants.
The foundation is actually having a few different fundraisers happening right now if you wanted to support (who wouldn’t?!), including The Great Beauty Giveaway spring sampling event at Hudson’s Bay (events are taking place April 10-27, check your local Bay store), where $2 from every $10 ticket will benefit LGFB (with the remaining $8 going towards a cosmetic or fragrance purchase at Hudson’s Bay). There are also LGFG tote bags for $15 with any cosmetic or fragrance purchase between April 11 and May 11, with $5 from each sale going towards the organization. Sears is also having their spring beauty gala on April 30 at Sears stores across Canada, where $2 from every $10 ticket goes towards LGFB (with the rest going towards a purchase). Finally, Shoppers Drug Mart, a double diamond supporter of the organization is having a gala event on May 3 at Shoppers Drug Mart locations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Atlantic Canada on May 3, 2014 where $5 from each $10 ticket will go towards LGFB, with the remaining $5 redeemable on any purchase made at Shoppers during the event.
For more information about Look Good Feel Better Canada – and to find a workshop location and time near you – you can visit them online at LGFB.ca. Also, for those looking for support and networking during treatment, make sure you visit facingcancer.ca, which is a welcoming online community where women with cancer, and those who support them, can share, confide, and connect. The site hosts blogs (including Sherry’s blog), forums, polls, and information about everything else one who is going through cancer may be interested in.
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