Makeup Restores Cancer Patients' Image, Improves Quality of Life
If I can provide care for someone on the outside, they automatically feel rejuvenated
on the inside.
Oncology patients at UChicago have access to a free service that gives them a greater sense of control over their cancer. They can schedule a private session with Lori Ovitz, who drew from a 20-year career as a makeup artist for celebrities and models to create tips and techniques to help cancer patients look and feel like their healthy selves.
While researchers at The University of Chicago are developing new ways to effectively prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer, many of today's cancer treatments carry side effects. This may make confronting the mirror a difficult experience for patients who may see tired circles around their eyes; thinning or nonexistent hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes; a blotchy complexion; and a gaunt or puffy face.
Of these side effects, hair loss can be the most challenging. "A lot of people are more worried about losing their hair than they are their disease," Ovitz said. She said many patients are concerned about being stared at by strangers, scaring their young children, and worrying their families.
Looking Like Yourself
Ovitz shows cancer patients techniques for evening out skin tone, returning color to the face, covering scars, and—perhaps most importantly—using makeup to create
natural-looking eyebrows and eyelashes.
"It's not about using makeup to look like a beauty queen," Ovitz said. "It's about using makeup to look like yourself—a healthy version of yourself."
She said when patients view themselves in a mirror after their makeover, they instantly feel uplifted, energetic, and more confident. Ovitz recalled one woman who, for many months avoided leaving her house, suddenly felt like going dancing with her husband after she received a makeover.
"If I can provide care for someone on the outside, they automatically feel rejuvenated
on the inside. It gives people a more positive outlook as they go through treatment," said Ovitz.
Patients at UChicago can learn about Ovitz's services through the Cancer Resource Center, which is a partnership between the UCCCC and the American Cancer Society that connects oncology patients with information about cancer, support groups, financial assistance, and other aspects of cancer care.
Ovitz provides doctors and patients at UChicago with free copies of her book, Facing the Mirror with Cancer, which is a step-by-step guide to applying makeup and includes chapters about skincare and wigs written especially for cancer patients. Ovitz and her husband, Bruce, a 40-year cancer survivor, selfpublished the book and donated a large portion of the proceeds to cancer research. Ovitz serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of The University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation, and she is a board member of Comer Children's Hospital.
Ovitz also travels around the country to participate in workshops at top cancer centers, but her home base for the past 12 years has been at UChicago. She visits with children and teens at Comer Children's Hospital each week, bringing them toys and helping them feel better enough about themselves to return to school.
Ovitz said, "Makeup can't cure cancer, but it can help patients face the mirror."