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Cancer Supportive and Survivorship Care Improving Quality of Life Logo

Makeup, Wigs and Quality of Life
Gerd Mairandres, Alexandra Andrews, Chris Wilhite and Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD

Choosing A Wig

Wig Care
Wearing A Wig
Do's and Don'ts

Simple Makeup Ideas
Props for Life

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A cancer diagnosis and undergoing treatment can severely compromise self-esteem. Sources of self-esteem can be threatened by cancer and the effects of medical treatments: appearance, physical abilities the activity level, personal loss of self-esteem attributes (such as being healthy and independent). Quality of life diminishes very quickly when one is fearful, fatigued, in pain, enduring side effects of therapy, or contemplating the possibility of treatment failure and death. Therefore, your first task in dealing with cancer is to regain your equilibrium by addressing these very real issues and creating a support system tailored to your needs.

The most devastating side effects of therapy is loss of hair. Anything that can enhance the way a person feels about themselves and promote an ounce of well-being is significant. It is not about the face you present to the world, but the face you see in the mirror. Think of a wig and simple makeup as an opportunity to reinvent yourself.

Choosing A Wig
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Wig Material
Natural Hair wigs require labor intensive maintenance and upkeep. They are more expensive to buy.
Synthetic Hair wigs allow for easy maintenance and upkeep. They cost less making it possible to purchase several wigs. This allows for alternating wigs to minimizing maintenance and even a new look for the day.

Types of Wigs
Wefted Wigs - Hair is woven onto threads, producing rows of hair which are attached to stretch foundations. These are the least expensive.
Knotted Wigs - Hair is individually knotted onto a mesh foundation. These are the most expensive, most realistic.
Machined Wigs - These approximate knotted wigs. Sometimes half the wig appears knotted onto a monoflilament base while the rest is wefted. These wigs are a good alternative to the knotted wig.
A wig with a micro filament foundation on top imitates the look of scalp. These wigs stand up to closer scrutiny.
You want some elastic in the foundation of the wig. This makes for a better fit.

Wig Choices
Shorter wigs are easier to maintain.
Consider cutting your hair in a style similar to the wig you have chosen. This may create an easier transition.
Remember your stylist can trim your wig using thinning shears.

Wig Color
Find a wig that has more than one color. Many wigs have color blends for a more natural look.
Generally choose a wig color that is a shade or two lighter than your own hair color. Lighter wigs can appear less dense and give a better appearance in day and artificial light.

Wig Care
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Use dishwashing soap or mild detergent to wash your wig. There is no need to purchase a special shampoo or product.
Use cold water to wash and rinse the synthetic wig. Hot water will affect the texture and consequently the style of your wig.
Shake out any extra water and allow the wig to air dry.

Wearing the Wig
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Mesh Caps
Mesh caps are lighter and cooler than a nylon stocking cap. If the elastic is too tight on your forehead then turn the cap around placing the elastic at the top of your head. Caps worn under wigs are only necessary when you need to contain hair under the wig. There is no need for a cap, if you have little or no hair.

Putting On The Wig
Shake out the wig before putting on. Get some air into the style.
Make sure you place the wig on your head evenly. Use the tabs at the ear area and check to that the wig is straight.
Don't place the wig hairline lower on your forehead than your natural hairline.
Don't be afraid to show your ears.
Let your fingers fluff the wig. Fingers are a terrific tool and can produce a natural appearance.
Avoid flat spots. Remember there is a back to your head.
Avoid having the wig too low on your face. Move back on your forehead.
Your wig may need a tune-up. Revisit your stylist.

Do's and Don'ts
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Don't open your oven to check your roast or turkey while wearing your wig. Be careful around open flame and extreme heat such as: an oven, broiler, cooktop. Your wig is easily damaged.

Don't use a curling iron on your wig. Be careful using hot rollers Remember wigs containing synthetic fibers react to heat and may melt.

Don't panic if you get caught in the rain. Your wig will not be damaged by a sudden downpour. Unlike hair, the fiber will not absorb the rain easily. Your hair style will remain intact.

Don't be surprised if your regenerated hair after the end of therapy is different. Your hair may have a different texture (chemo curl) and color than your prior hair type.

Simple Makeup Ideas
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Many times with cancer therapies one loses the hair on the face.
No eyebrows can give a blank look. Eyebrows are the punctuation marks of your expression.
Use eye shadow to sketch in eyebrows. Choose a color that is a few shades lighter than your wig.
To define - add a few lines with an eybrow pencil. Concentrate the color on the outer portion of the eyebrow.
Use a soft toothbrush or eyebrow brush to brush your eyebrows.
First - do the eyebrow opposite the dominant hand
For instance if you are right handed your normal tendency would be to first do your right eyebrow. Instead do the left eyebrow and then do the right eyebrow. This will help match both eyebrows.

Dry lip liner helps prevent lipstick bleeding/following into lip lines

You can use tiny amount of lipstick for your cheek color.
Don't use dark lipstick.
Make sure you apply the color to the apple of your cheek. Remember - A little goes a long way. If you do not wear foundation the lipstick/rouge is a dandy trick for quick color.

Other Tips
Art supply stores can be useful resources for makeup brushes. Chisel point brushes are useful for eyebrows.
If you find your eyebrow, lip, eyeliner pencil too hard. Hold it near a light to soften.

Props for Life
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Gerd Mairandres - Wigmaster for the San Francisco Opera is giving free wig clinics. Props for Life are being held at the Friend to Friend Specialty Store, UCSF Mt Zion Medical Center. Call Chris Wilhite for upcoming dates, 415-353-7776.

You are welcome to share this © article with friends, but do not forget to include the author name and web address. Permission needed to use articles on commercial and non commercial websites. Thank you.

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First appeared August 2, 2006; updated November 7, 2010