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Survivorship: During and After Treatment

Make-up Tips During Treatment

When going through cancer treatment, you might see changes in your skin texture or color. Chemotherapy can cause you to lose your hair, including your eyebrows and eyelashes. These changes are usually temporary, but feeling like you don't look like yourself can add extra stress during treatment.

Trying to look your best might be the last thing on your mind when faced with a cancer diagnosis. But you might also find that learning a few new make-up techniques to help you look more like your normal self helps you feel better and gives you more confidence while going through treatment. Before using any new skin care products, check with your cancer care team, especially if you are still receiving treatment or if you have had a skin reaction. Here are some tips to help.

To avoid infection: Wash your hands before applying makeup. Buy new make-up before starting treatment and replace eyeliner and mascara monthly.

If you lose your eyebrows and eyelashes

  • Take a good close-up photo of your face before treatment as a guide for applying eyebrows after hair loss, or use an eyebrow stencil.
  • Use a soft eyebrow pencil to create eyebrows. For blondes and redheads, a taupe color works well. Then use an angled brush to apply matching brow powder with light, feathery strokes. The pencil helps the powder to last. You can buy a long-handled, angled brush at an arts supply store for a few dollars instead of spending a lot of money on an expensive cosmetic brow brush.
  • Line your eyes with a soft eyeliner pencil to give the effect of lashes. Smudge with your finger for a softer look.

For a natural skin tone

  • Pat on concealer to hide reddish or dark areas. Then apply a warm tone foundation, blending into your neck for a natural look.
  • Use a powder blush for long lasting color, applying blush upwards from cheek to hair line. Use left-over powder on the brush to give a glow to your forehead and chin.

Add color to your lips

  • Apply lip balm before outlining and filling in your lips with a lip brush.
  • Gently smudge the outline of your upper lip with your finger to give a natural effect.
  • Apply a light coat of lip gloss.

If you have dry skin

  • Use an inexpensive moisturizer often on your face, scalp and body to combat dryness.
  • You may want to carry a small mister with water and use it several times daily to moisturize your face.
  • Use lip balm on your lips.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Cancer Research UK. Day make up to help you feel better. 2019. Accessed at on September 23, 2019

Look good feel better. Makeup step-by-step. 2019. Accessed at on September 23, 2019


Last Revised: February 1, 2020

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