Thursday, 15 August 2013

Beauty Despite Cancer

I was delighted to be asked to write for Rani’s excellent blog and grateful to be offered the opportunity to tell you all about BeautyDespiteCancer, the website dedicated to helping women maintain their appearance throughout treatment for cancer.

At the moment the site is mainly a shop for Defiant Beauty products, a skincare collection formulated for ‘chemo skin’.

In a few weeks the site will offer more products, a Defiant Beauty Hair Care range, cosmetics and self-tan, all created for cancer patients to use as they go through treatment. The changes are not just restricted to the products on offer – the site will become an online magazine with a team of about 30 writers, all experts in their fields and all providing information to help cancer patients maintain their appearance as they go through treatment. The magazine will also cover  other subjects of interest to the  cancer community such as insurance, finances, well-being and exercise.

Chemo and radiotherapy can damage skin as well as nail and hair growth. Prior to Defiant Beauty there were no UK skin care products developed specifically for chemo skin*.

Many ladies undergoing chemotherapy found themselves unable to tolerate brands that they had previously enjoyed as there skin was now so sore, sensitive and itchy. They want something to soothe and moisturise as well as moisturise their dry skin.

I became involved in skincare for cancer patients as I was asked by some of the women that had already been through treatment at my local hospital if I could develop something to help patients as they went through chemo. Women do not stop being women when they are diagnosed but, on the whole, beauty is denied them, and the team at my local cancer centre wanted to change that.

I met with patients, survivors and the lead nurses from chemotherapy and radiology and they told me of the ingredients they they advised patients against using. We decided upon some objectives for the range – something for body, face, nails and lips that was suitable for sensitive skin, natural, organic where possible and fragrance free.

I decided upon a few more restrictions after having done some research and so the skincare collection is now oil based (no lotions or creams), fragrance-free (with the exception of a couple of products where appropriate essential oils have been included for their therapeutic properties), anti-oxidants at a level that will benefit only the product and no plant oestrogens.

I spent a long time developing the products – all of those restrictions made it difficult for me to achieve those objectives and keep the price low.

Cancer patients have very little income as they go through treatment, finances are a big concern for them and we had to keep our prices as low as possible.  I was asked to provide organic and natural products that helped with some very specific conditions and keep them fragrance free – no wonder it took a long time.

The first version of the Defiant Beauty Collection went into the hospital for feedback and further development. Luckily, not much more work was needed and the Defiant Beauty Skincare Collection went on sale from a specialist salon on the Chemo ward of University Hospital North Staffs in September 2011 and have been helping cancer patients ever since.


*there is an American range but their ingredients do not meet the criteria set out by my local NHS lead team for skincare for cancer patients