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Volunteers help cancer patients with make-up tips

Hair loss isn't the only visual effect of chemotherapy and radiation treatments due to cancer.

There are also changes in skin pigmentation and texture, skin oiliness, peeling and alterations in finger nail texture and growth rate.

There is a program ready to help women mask those changes. The "Look Good...Feel Better" program is for women cancer patients, to teach them make-up and skincare techniques.

"Your skin goes through various changes and can become dry or has different skin changes as you go through the treatment, so they talk about cleansing and moisturizing tips to address the skin changes," said Holly Maurstad, health promotions with the American Cancer Society.

How to use make-up isn't the only topic of discussion either.

"A big part of it is talking about infection control," she continued.

Volunteer facilitators talk about how to use make-up without re-infecting the supply and not sharing make-up with others.

Most women, not only lose the hair on their heads, but also on eyelashes and eyebrows. The class talks about how to draw on eyebrows, and whether or not to use fake eye lashes.

"It talks about make-up techniques, but it's really tailored to the cancer patient," Maurstad said.

Look Good...Feel Better is a nationwide non-profit program. When attending, women can bring a friend or family member as moral support.

"It's really kind of fun to watch actually. When the women come, initially, they seem to be a little reserved. As the class goes along, they're starting to visit a little more, they start laughing a little more, and by the end of the class, they're having such a good time there are smiles everywhere," she said.

"It's a bright spot in their day," Maurstad continued. "Not that they forget that they have their cancer, but they can put it aside and enjoy their afternoon when they're at the class. The title really is appropriate I guess -- when you look good, you do feel better."

During the class, volunteers also show examples of scarf tying and wraps for those who have lost hair.

Maurstad said since the program is non-profit and doesn't necessarily have funds for advertising, many people may not have heard of the program. Look Good...Feel Better works with hospital staff and social workers -- those who work directly with the cancer patients -- to get the word out about the program. From there, it's word of mouth.

Those facilitating the program are volunteer cosmologists who have their cosmetology licenses.

"That helps with quality standards for the program," Maurstad said.

Volunteers go through four hours of training, and then every two years they go through re-certification just to see what's new or if there have been program changes.

There are two volunteers in the Detroit Lakes area.

When women show up for the Look Good...Feel Better session, they receive a free make-up kit, valued at $300.

"It's fun. It's kind of like Christmas -- you open up a brand new bag of make-up," Maurstad said.

Look Good...Feel Better was founded in 1989 by the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, in association with the American Cancer Society and the National Cosmetology Association.

No brands or salons are endorsed through the program. Certified cosmetologists volunteer their time and talents to help female cancer patients improve their appearance and self-image by teaching them make-up and skincare techniques.

The Detroit Lakes class is held the fourth Monday of each month -- with the next session being Aug. 26 -- from 1-4 p.m. in the First Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes. To register, call 1-800-227-2345.