I don’t know what it’s like. I’ve never been there, and pray I never will be. From diagnosis and shocking news, to the pain, tears, triumphs, and rock-bottom lows and sometimes highs of going through cancer treatment, it’s all rather unfathomable if you haven’t experienced it. I’ll never pretend I know what it’s like or how to get through it, but I know I can help. I can use the gifts God’s given me to bring hope, love, encouragement, joy, and beauty to a terribly painful time. If you’ve never been the lash artist for a client/patient/friend who is going through chemo and radiation, I suggest you say yes when the opportunity is presented to you - and there are so many reasons why.
Before we talk about that though, this is based on my personal experience with lashing during breast cancer recovery, and yes, tears may be shed as I write. A friend, a mentor, a cheerleader of life and loved one cherished by so many, graced my studio every few weeks to every so often as she went through breast cancer treatment - the first time around. I never hesitated in offering to do her lashes, on me, through her treatment. I just knew that when her lashes were bound to fall out, there would be no lashes to attach extensions to any more, but why let that stop us? We decided to go for it and let her naturals lead the way. If I could give you any heads up or advice, I’d break it down into these points:
Get her doctor’s consent.
If for no other reason than peace of mind. When we are working with the kind of chemicals we use to apply lashes combined with medical conditions we aren’t educated in, there could be things and conditions we haven’t anticipated. I’ve never had a doctor fail to give consent, but if they do I’d assume it's for a very good reason, so please respect that decision.
How to maintain beautiful lashes during chemotherapy.
This may seem obvious that when naturals are there they can have extensions, and when they aren’t they can’t. However I know many clients and lash artists who seem to hold out hope that there is some way to maintain the lashes when naturals are nowhere to be found. This is where strip lashes would come in, because it’s the only option after the rest are gone. I personally would advise against strip lashes for daily use if patients are working on recovering their own naturals for extensions again - we don’t want to accidentally inhibit the natural lash growth process. (Now, I wear strips successfully on a daily basis, but that is a whole different subject, and one for another time ;) The most important part of this process is knowing what to expect in hair growth - 1) When the lashes started to go, they all went, within a week. 2) When lashes start growing back in - all at the same time - they were so tiny and thin and fine (read: all baby lashes) that I actually did a full set of 0.03 3D lashes in 8mm-11mm. ISOLATION is hard to impossible and booking LOTS of extra time for that full set was absolutely necessary. 3) Lashes grow back faster and thicker than I thought possible during treatment and within 2 to 3 fills we were back at big, full, fluffy lashes. Until they fell out again.
Cold Cap Therapy and lash growth serum seemed to help the lashes hang on longer.
She used Cold Cap Therapy to keep hair as long as possible, which seemed to affect her eyebrows and lashes as well! A prescription lash growth serum was used through the whole process as ok’d by her doctor. The most amazing thing about this part of the process was her naturals hung in there longer than I expected them to, so I made sure to not weigh them down with too many lashes so she could keep them as long as possible.
After Chemo was over, lashes continually grew on the same cycle, and shed on the same cycle.
I don’t know how long this goes on for - unfortunately we never got the opportunity to see the long term results. I’m sure they will gradually start to grow in different cycles as one at a time a few shed sooner or later than the rest, but I will say it was a shock to see that there continues to be periods of little to zero lashes after treatment has been concluded. It felt like flashbacks of what we had already gone through together. If you embark on this journey with anyone, let them know what to expect, and prepare them for the fact that you both may experience the same or different scenarios than what I did. While we may not always know what to expect, open communication and vulnerability through the process is key. You might both be working through something you’d never expected.
Addressing the uncomfortable thought about how to charge for these services
I didn’t. Plain and simple. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to. Do you have the means to donate these appointments to someone who could use them? If yes, that’s a heart-decision for you. If it would come as a financial burden to provide something like this for free, this is me telling you that is ok, as always, the services we provide are worth it. If you can’t afford to provide them for free, don’t offer to, and don’t feel guilt about it. One of the coolest things happened after the first few services - she found out that lashes could be covered by her HSA (health savings account) under some kind of self-care services section. I don’t have the details, but don’t be afraid to let her know she can look into lashes being covered or partially covered by programs or insurance plans during this time.
If you get one message out of my experience I’d hope it is this, and it isn’t about the technical stuff. It’s about cultivating life. It’s about connection. It’s about serving. It’s about helping a woman feel feminine and beautiful in a time when those things feel like they are being stripped away. It’s helping her continue to have some pampering and normality in life when life itself is brought into question. It’s letting her talk or cry or hug it out when there are no more words, and saying goodbye at the end of the service with a smile and a wave only to cry alone in the bathroom afterwards. It’s her husband saying thank you, because when she gets home from her lash appointment she glows and bats her eyes at him constantly and talks about how beautiful she feels. It’s because, for this period of time, YOU have something to offer her that nobody else can. It’s heartbreak and reward all at the same time and it is so worth it.
As Breast Cancer Awareness month is in full swing, I encourage you to not only get involved by taking care of yourself by getting checked, raising awareness and donating to causes working to find a cure for this life-stealing disease. Please consider being open to letting the world know you are available to provide this service to women going through what must be literal hell. If you are a lash artist you know the power that these tiny, beautiful little things can have for our clients who are just going through day to day life. Imagine that power multiplied for someone going through the unimaginable. What a beautiful thing we can do for others! Being in the beauty industry is about so much more than the beauty we see on the outside. Let’s remember and embrace that this month - and moving forward into the months and years to come. We have so much to give. So let's give back where we can with our gifts in the best ways we have, lashes!
Love you, lash babes!
With love & lashes,