After starting chemotherapy, as well as experiencing hair loss you may lose some or all of your body hair, including eyebrows, eyelashes, nose hair, underarm and pubic hair, and chest hair for men. This can be a shock, especially if you’re not prepared for it.
Avoid highly perfumed deodorants if you’ve lost hair under your arms, as they can irritate the skin.
Losing your eyelashes and/or eyebrows can be upsetting, especially if you’re not expecting it to happen. Some people don’t lose their eyebrows or eyelashes, other people’s eyebrows may thin, and others lose them altogether.
You may find it useful to watch our video tutorials on makeup and beauty tips after breast cancer treatment.
If you lose your eyelashes
If you lose your eyelashes you might find that your eyes get sore easily. If your eyes are inflamed ask your chemotherapy nurse for some drops to help reduce the soreness.
You can use eyeliner to draw along the top of your eyelid to give the illusion of lashes. Choose eyeliner either the colour of your own lashes or a contrasting colour that goes with your skin tone.
If your eyes aren’t feeling sore or sensitive you may want to try false eyelashes but check first with your chemotherapy nurse. Some people can be allergic or sensitive to the adhesive used to keep the eyelashes in place.
False eyelashes come in many different styles, lengths and thicknesses. You could choose eyelashes that are similar to your own, or try ones that are completely different. Make-up counters in department stores are a good source of help, or try your local beauty salon.
Eyelash extensions (usually applied in a salon and designed to last longer than eyelashes you apply yourself) are not recommended.
If you lose your eyebrows
If you lose your eyebrows, or find that they are thinner, you may be very conscious of how this changes the way you look. You can recreate a natural appearance by using eyebrow make-up in a shade that matches your original hair colour.
To create a natural eyebrow shape:
1) Hold an eyebrow pencil vertically against your outer nostril, in line with the inner corner of your eye. Mark a small dot above your eye. This is where your eyebrow will start.
2) Move the top of your pencil so it is now in line with the centre of your pupil, keeping the bottom end against your outer nostril. Mark another dot, slightly higher than the first one. This is where your eyebrow arch will be.
3) Line up the top of your pencil with the outer corner of your eye, and mark a final dot. This is where your eyebrow will end.
4) Join the dots using eyebrow makeup.
There are all kinds of eyebrow products available from the major cosmetic companies – from eyebrow shapers and finishers to pencils, pens and powders. Make-up counter staff in department stores and chemists will be able to give you a demonstration and advise you on the most suitable products for your skin type and colour.
Stick-on eyebrows for people experiencing hair loss are available in a range of shades and shapes, and come in synthetic or human hair. You can find them at many cosmetic retailers and wig suppliers. Stick-on eyebrows are developed for people who have hair loss for a range of reasons and not specifically for people experiencing hair loss from chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy can cause skin changes and sensitivity so the adhesive may cause irritation. Ask your breast care nurse or chemotherapy nurse if there is anything in the adhesive that is likely to cause irritation. You may also want to test the adhesive on a small area of skin first to check for any reactions.
Some people choose to have their eyebrow shape recreated with permanent or semi-permanent makeup (also known as micropigmentation). Micropigmentation is a form of tattooing that can create a long-lasting eyebrow shape. Microblading is semi-permanent and uses a slightly different technique where pigment is implanted into the skin. A precision hand tool is used instead of a machine to recreate hair-like eyebrows. These treatments are not available on the NHS so you will have to pay privately. As the results are usually permanent, make sure you choose a reliable provider that has good recommendations. There is more information about permanent makeup on the Cancer Hair Care and NHS Choices websites.
When will my eyelashes, eyebrows and other body hair grow back?
Other body hair, such as your eyebrows and eyelashes, may grow back more quickly or more slowly than the hair on your head. Eyelashes can be quite patchy when they start to grow back. They may take up to a year to grow back fully although they will usually grow back in about six months after treatment finishes. Recent studies have also shown that applying the drug Bimatroprost to the eyelids may improve the regrowth of eyelashes. You can talk to your GP, a trichologist or a dermatologist about whether this is an option.
Eyebrows will usually start to grow back after treatment finishes, but they may grow back thinner or patchier. They tend to grow back slower than head hair and in rare cases they don’t grow back at all.
Look Good Feel Better workshops
Look Good Feel Better is an organisation offering a free two-hour skincare and make-up workshop to help women with the visible side effects of cancer treatment, including redefining the eye area for women who have lost their eyebrows and/or eyelashes. The workshops are held throughout the UK in hospitals, cancer care centres and the community and cater for women of all skin tones.
Visit lookgoodfeelbetter.co.uk for more details and to find your nearest workshop. Alternatively you can call 01372 747500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org