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Cosmetology school has cancer patients looking good and feeling better

Mary Azizi-Rad walked out of the Frederick School of Cosmetology with confidence, looking as if she was ready for a night on the town.

Azizi-Rad began chemotherapy on March 4. With the “Look Good…Feel Better” program, she’s prepared to do exactly that.

The free program is sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the National Cosmetology Association and the Personal Care Products Council Foundation that teaches chemotherapy patients how to cope with skin changes and hair loss through proper use of cosmetics. Founded in 1989, the program is available in all 50 states and helps 15,000 women a year. at local cosmetology schools.

The Frederick School of Cosmetology began offering the classes in September of 2006. The class is held twice a month — once at the school, and once at the Frederick Memorial Hospital Regional Cancer Therapy Center.

“We thought it would be a really good experience for the students to interact with someone having chemotherapy,” said Karla Ficken, director of the cosmetology school. “It’s really a great program.”

The classes are taught by Teresa Roys, while students take turns assistanting the class. The classes are open to women of any age with any kind of cancer.

Laurie Frey, the community manager of the American Cancer Society in Frederick , said that the “Look Good…Feel Better” program is a great self-esteem booster.

“You see the women come in and (they) don’t make a lot of eye contact and are kind of quiet. By the end, they’re laughing and having a good time,” she said. “It’s fun, girlie stuff.”

While “Look Good…Feel Better” is also offered at the Frederick Memorial Hospital Regional Cancer Therapy Center, Ficken believes it’s a good idea to hold the classes at the school rather than the center.

“It’s a reminder what they are going through,” she said of classes at the hospital.

Each “Look Good…Feel Better” class emphasizes the importance of keeping makeup containers and applicators clean because chemotherapy affects and lowers the immune system, Frey said.

During the class, participants learn to apply makeup, step-by-step. For example, Azizi-Rad learned how to properly pencil-in her eyebrows.

Because chemotherapy tends to create dry skin, it is also vital for a patient to use a daily moisturizer and sunscreen, Frey said.

Class participants receive a free makeup kit to take home, filled with products donated by top cosmetic companies. The kit includes everything from lotion and concealer to blush and mascara.

Additionally, “Look Good…Feel Better” teaches women how to deal with hair loss — one of the main side effects of chemotherapy. Many women receive free wigs from the program.

The wigs can be styled to their liking by students at the cosmetology school and come in a variety of hair colors. This allows patients to have fun experimenting with different looks.

“Nine out of 10 times they don’t take a gray wig.” Frey laughed.

Since most chemotherapy patients do not wear wigs at night, the class demonstrates how to make a turban or a head-wrap out of an old T-shirt to keep warm.

Although Azizi-Rad admitted that she has never worn much makeup in the past, she plans to put the beauty tips and techniques she learned through “Look Good…Feel Better” to good use.

“I think it was wonderful,” she said.


Publish date: April 21, 2009