Written by Mary-Margaret Ewens
Reviewed for Medical Accuracy by Torie Croog
Raise your hand if you’ve sat in your oncologist’s office and ever looked down at your hands. Maybe they’re a little shaky, because you’ve just received your diagnosis. Maybe they’re dry and cracked, because you’re going through treatment. Maybe they’re shaking the hands of your oncologist after he's given you the good news of cancer-free scans. Now raise your hand if you’ve looked in the mirror lately. Chances are, you’ve seen some changes, from weight loss, to hair loss, to everything in between. It can be a shock to wake up and not recognize yourself in the mirror, but rest assured you're not alone, nor do your worries or insecurities go unnoticed.
In fact, we found five women—three of them cancer survivors—who created businesses after seeing the need to invest the time and care into creating beauty and skincare products just for cancer patients. From a false eyelash company for those going through hair loss, to a nail company focused on making your nails beautiful on the inside and outside, to two different unique skincare companies, you can put those beauty worries to rest.
Whether you’ve just been diagnosed, you're currently going through treatment, or you’re in remission, here are four beauty experts on their companies, their cancer experiences, and everything needed to help you get back to that “old normal” feeling.
Cynthia Besteman, founder of Violets Are Blue Skincare
Fellow cancer survivor Cynthia Besteman created her company, Violets Are Blue Skincare, out of a personal need.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. It was out of the blue, I had no family history, and honestly, I took the diagnosis pretty poorly,” Besteman said. “I completely fell apart.”
Once home, Besteman began looking at the ingredients in her skincare products and began to notice that she didn’t recognize nor understand many of the ingredients, if not all. “I saw that there really weren’t natural ingredients in the formula of many of the products I used, so I thought, why don’t I make skincare with natural products just for me?” she shared.
While still in treatment, Besteman began making her products not only for herself, but for her friends she met during radiation. “I began using the products everyday, and one day my oncologist stopped me and asked, ‘What are you doing? Your skin looks so healthy,’” Besteman recalled. She shared her secret, and soon her oncologist at Mt.Sinai Hospital was asking her if she would be interested in creating a line of products for the oncology unit.
Her story and experience gives her a unique perspective into skincare, so when she recommends patients and friends going through treatment products to use, she makes sure to recommend products that cover all needs. Her Beloved Trio set is a great combination for anyone looking for healing from head to toe, including body lotion with sustained moisture, lip balm to help with lips chapped from radiation and chemo, and a healing salve usable on hands, nails, cuticles, lips, and the scalp.
“These products are created for women to empower them, to help them feel seen,” Besteman said. “To know that these products were created by someone who came before them, who knows what they're going through—that's huge.”
Cody Gapare, founder of C-Lash False Eyelashes
Cody Gapare’s skincare and makeup journey started with her breast cancer diagnosis. She noticed that cancer seemed to change her skin. “I never really used to wear much besides a bit of moisturizer,” Gapare said. “The skin during cancer treatment, though, gets delicate, and you get sores, so having a good moisturizer makes a big difference. It makes your skin feel less painful.”
Gapare found her holy grail product, marula oil, while looking for a product that could do everything all at once. “I started using marula oil on my skin because it’s a one-stop shop,” she explained. “It’s good for the skin [and] acts as a sunscreen, moisturizer, and primer, so I could put makeup on with it as well.”
Another product Gapare suggests is Skin Generics Arbutus anti-dark spot treatment. Hyperpigmentation, or the darkening of skin, can often be a side effect of certain cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. “I started using [Skin Generics] products after a friend also going through cancer suggested it,” she said. “You can see the product working immediately.”
As for makeup, Gapare only started loving it at the start of her cancer journey. “I never really wore makeup until I was diagnosed,” Gapare explained. “As a way of dealing with my cancer, I would get up and put on a full face of makeup and heels, because it was a way to escape.”
However, Gapare had trouble looking for lash extensions that would work for her. “All of these traditional lashes stick to the existing lashes,” she explained. “I tried to find a product for people without lashes to use, and there was nothing out there.”
That’s what led Gapare to create her own line, C-lash False Eyelashes, for those without their natural lashes. They’re perfect for those going through any type of chemotherapy or radiation that may result in hair loss. “It was more [about] finding a solution for me and those I knew in similar situations,” Gapare said. “…How you look on the outside really does affect how you feel on the inside.’
Allison Smith, director of client services, and Rachel Bacheler, manager director, Dr.’s Remedy
Allison Smith and Rachel Bacheler know the importance of healthy nails. The two women helped bring a healthier, toxin-free, doctor-formulated nail polish to the masses.
Dr.’s Remedy was created by doctors (Bacheler’s husband, Dr. Adam Cirlincione, is a co-founder) so that those with cancer and/or weakened immune systems could use their products in conjunction with treatment. “Our products include ingredients like tea tree oil, which has antifungal properties and can help be used to treat nail fungus,” Bachelor explained. “We also use wheat protein, which strengthens fragile and brittle nails, and biotin, which promotes healthy cell growth and has [strengthening] properties.”
While Bacheler and Smith aren’t cancer survivors themselves, the women discovered early on that people undergoing chemo were looking for ways to strengthen their nails because chemotherapy often weakens and discolors the nails.
“Knowing the science behind a nail polish—knowing that it will penetrate the surface, that it’s breathable—is important,” Bachelor explained. “The nail bed is incredibly porous, and what goes into the pores, gets into the bloodstream. It makes you think twice about using a UV light for gel nails, for example. By making sure [the] products you’re putting on your skin and nails are non-toxic, you give yourself the best odds.”
Dr.’s Remedy doesn’t just supply polishes. For those currently going through chemo and noticing drying, cracking cuticles and nails, the Antifungal Caress Cuticle Oil delivers hydration, nutrients, and nourishing oils for fast absorption, especially when complemented with the Hydration Clear Moisturizing Nail Treatment. Then, slick on a hue of their non-toxic polish for the perfect doctor-approved manicure.
“Looking down and seeing decrepit nails, it makes you feel not like yourself. I think putting that color on makes you feel good. When your hands look good, you feel good.”