14 Beauty Essentials for Hair, Skin and Nails to Use During Cancer Treatment

Our fashion market editor, Rebecca Russell, shares the products she relied on during chemotherapy



After I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in March of this year, I was terrified of many things, especially needing chemotherapy. The image we have in our minds of people who have cancer (particularly what’s depicted in movies) isn’t a pretty one. The daunting prospect of losing all of the hair on my head and body at age 31 became paralyzing. Working in fashion, in a job I truly love, I was scared of the person I would turn into, and not just aesthetically — I knew that all the changes I would experience would influence me emotionally, too. So, as I went through treatment, I worked hard to maintain as much normality as possible, for me and everyone around me. Now, I can sincerely say that it doesn’t have to be as traumatic as you’d think.


The following is an honest review of the many steps I took during chemo to limit hair loss and to stay as calm and familiar as possible during the alarming chemotherapy. Below I have listed the cold cap device I used, along with some cruelty-free and safe beauty products that assisted me during this puzzling chapter — I hope they can help you, too. Remember, you are not alone.



DigniCap Scalp Cooling System
I used this FDA-approved cold capping system during every chemotherapy infusion. I’ve managed to keep 70 to 80 percent of my hair so far. It isn’t cheap, but it meant I didn’t have to look like the girl with cancer in public, and I could avoid the pity stares. From $1,500.

EES Essential Eyebrow Solution
For as long as I can remember, I have been known for my bushy brows. As they are a signature part of me, I felt keeping them through chemotherapy would mean I could still look and feel like myself. I religiously used this nourishing, black cohosh-infused solution twice a day for a month before, during and after my treatment (I still use it today) and only a few of my eyebrow hairs have fallen out. $90/oz.

Slip Silk Pillowcase
I slept every night with this mulberry silk pillowcase during and after chemotherapy. Not only does it reduce the damage to the hair on my head that tossing and turning can cause, but it also helps preserve the delicate facial hair I’m trying hard to keep. (The pillowcase can even help fend off wrinkles, too.) It’s safe to say I won’t go back to using a regular one. From $85.

WooLash Eyelash Growth Serum
I used this serum made with natural castor oil day and night, and as a result, I have kept the majority of my eyelashes, which means I could occasionally wear mascara and look awake when feeling extremely fatigued. $50.


Silke London The Poppy Turban
The hair that is left behind from using the DigniCap is very brittle and weak. I wore this handmade mulberry silk hair wrap every night to avoid more damage caused by sleep. I truly believe it has played a big part in saving the majority of my hair. $64.50.

Biosil Advanced Collagen Generator
Let’s not forget about our nails. Chemotherapy can really wear out your nails, so taking these supplements daily helped keep mine strong, which meant I could still use nontoxic nail polish and keep them at a nice long length without breakage. This vegetarian product also helps promote healthy hair and skin. $30/60 capsules.

Sofida Cold-Hot Gel Face Mask
Lastly, therapy freeze packs were a must for me. It sounds chilly, and it is, but during chemotherapy, I would use frozen eye and face masks in another desperate bid to save my eyebrows and help improve circulation. I figured that if I was freezing my hair follicles with the cold cap, why not try a similar method on my facial hair? Frozen packs also help with preventing neuropathy in your hands and feet, so I would hold the freeze packs, too. So far, so good! $15 at Amazon.



Briogeo B. Well Organic + Cold-Pressed 100-Percent Castor Oil
I used this oil — rich in humectants, vitamin E and omega fatty acids — on my scalp once a month after I started experiencing some shedding. It helps to soothe dryness caused by treatment, and nourishes hair follicles and skin. (But fair warning: If you are using a cold cap, try not to overload your scalp or use oils too often as they can clog the pores and prevent new hair growth.) You can also use this on your hair, hairline and eyebrows, which makes it a versatile product to have on hand. $26.

Tan-Luxe The Face
This is more than just a pretty bottle. A couple of drops of this hydrating self-tanner mixed in with your preferred moisturizer or serum will give you that glow you once had after a week in Tulum. Staying out of the sun during treatment is vital due to overly sensitive skin, so give yourself that boost of confidence you are missing. $54.


Beautycounter Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil
Prepare to be taken to lemongrass scent heaven. This smooth cleansing oil gently removes any makeup (though makeup should be kept to a minimum, especially around the eyes, during treatment) and SPF that could clog the pores. $66.


Peach & Lily Overnight Star Sleeping Mask
I did not think it was possible to wake up during chemotherapy looking radiant, but with this restorative product, it is. I would use this quick-absorbing mask — crafted with acai berry and black ginseng root extracts — when my skin needed a boost after drying out from the medication. It’s now my go-to mask, period. $43.

Skin Worship Dew Drops
I carry this around in my bag for quick, healthy on-the-go shine to combat dryness. It’s made with organic jojoba and coconut oils, plus lemon verbena, mint and vanilla extracts — it smells delightful. Use these drops with The Now’s rose quartz gua sha tool ($18) for a smooth glide on the face and neck for the ultimate at-home lymphatic drainage facial. $48.


True Botanicals Stress Relief Aromatherapy
This charming stress relief roll-on oil — featuring tarragon and frankincense — became my everyday product, not just on chemo days. The freshness of the scent helped keep me calm and meant I smelled rather good, too. $36.

Mason Pearson Detangling Comb
If you are using the cold cap, it’s recommended to comb your hair with a wide-tooth comb one to two times a day to avoid matting. I found this tortoiseshell one particularly sleek and gentle to use. $34 at Net-a-Porter.


Feature image: Photo by Maddi Bazzocco/Unsplash.


Oct. 23, 2019

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