If Looks Could Kill

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“I wasn’t me. I didn’t want to see myself in the mirror.” “I hadn’t died from cancer; but it took away my love for life. It took away my identity.” “People assumed I was going to die. And I, eventually, believed in their assumption.”  But that was not to be.Thanks to Be Beautiful, an initiative that helps deal with the visible side effects of cancer treatment and to ‘feel normal’ again. Femina Middle East learns of a few of the sentiments shared by women cancer patients who are not just battling the disease, but all that comes with it and ways to ‘beautifully’ combat it.

The first of its kind in the Arab world Be Beautiful is a solo initiative by Hanadi El Emam, with help from
enthusiastic volunteers as Zeina Kassem, Oncology Clinic Manager, American Hospital Dubai, Rabia Mahmood from L’Oreal, Mirna Abdallah, Nesrine El Khouri and Zena Fadhil advanced aestheticians and volunteer-trainers at the workshop. It was launched last year in the UAE and this year Lebanon welcomes it.

Be Beautiful, is a non-medical, brand- neutral programme that not only helps women with cancer undergoing various treatment stages look better, it encourages them to be more confident in combating the illness.

Hanadi retraces, “It all began two years ago, when my sister in Canada was diagnosed with breast cancer. During her tougher days I went with her to an informal workshop conducted by Look Good, Feel Betterprogramme,where beauty advisors would demonstrate a 12-step skin care and make-up regime.

“This inspired me to start a workshop similar to Look Good, Feel Better, as there were no such programmes for the Arab women with cancer here,” understands Hanadi. “Women are shocked when they learn of their illness and it gets more difficult when it dawns on them that the effects of its treatment will be daunting.They start worrying about hair loss, paleness, and skin dryness and this has a negative impact of women’s morale and their ability to fight,” she says. Be Beautiful became a natural reaction to this dire need she infers.

The group programme is a step-by-step makeover learning session led by cosmetology professionals using products donated by the cosmetic industry. Each two-hour workshop includes a skin care and makeup lesson, nail care techniques, and professional advice on how to deal with hair loss using wigs, scarves, hats, hairpieces, and other accessories and offer a special discount on wigs.

Says Zena, “Patients receive personal attention and take home instruction booklets and complimentary cosmetic kits in shades that match their skin tones. The workshop also includes istructions about ways to hide the adverse effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.”

These workshops are organized in cooperation with several hospitals such as Tawam Hospital, Dubai Hospital, and the American Hospital in addition to top brands in the field of beauty care like L’Oreal Middle East, La Prairie, Vaseline, and Olay as well as other companies that express interest in taking part in the initiative.

In Beirut, Lebanon, the American University Hospital and the Makassed Hospital are the front-runners with Be Beautiful in conducting these sessions.

According to Hanadi, “These procedures are already followed in more than 20 countries around the world butthe Arab countries, now with the exception of the UAE and Lebanon.” Nesrine explains that it is often an arduous task of first getting in touch with hospitals and oncologists who tell their patients about the Be Beautiful workshop and getting them to sign up for it. The second step is fixing the date of the workshop.

Mirna, an expert make-artist opines, “Many women opt to wear a wig during chemotherapy treatment. This is a chance for many women to experiment with different styles. Feeling good about how you look is always good medicine.”

“The experience is so rewarding, deep and eye-opening. It offers awareness about things we take always for granted, and be thankful and appreciative for life itself,” feels Nesrine.It is more rewarding when you see tears turn into smiles and laughs. It is hope blossoming. And this is the objective of Be Beautiful: To give cancer patients confidence, hope and positive thoughts to rise above what they go through by taking care of themselves and their beauty.

Moreover, adds Zeina, “Along with entertainment and networking with other cancer patients during the workshop, it’s a great support system initiative for female cancer patients; knowing that image issues are crucial for female identity.”

Taking that into consideration, imagine what this can do to a woman undergoing chemotherapy and radiation with all the changes in her appearance. So when she improves her appearance, she becomes more confident making her look better! As her confidence rises and her insecurity falls, she becomes more self-assured and courageous; her life improves in every way, especially if she’s fighting cancer!

It is when you are assured that you “look good” you stop focusing on your appearance alone and begin concerted effort on getting better. “It certainly is no cure for cancer, but it definitely helps to make that stark difference in attitude. Andsometimes, this is all that it takes to recover,” assures Hanadi.

Beauty has always been very important to women, from the ages of Cleopatra to date. Every woman is beautiful, and every woman can be more beautiful! It’s simply a question of appreciating yourself, highlighting your natural beauty to project your own self-image, letting it shine through, and finding out what happens next!


A- Skin Care regimen: Educate the women on skin care during their treatments, since it tends to become
sensitive, dry and blotchy.

B- Make Up lessons: How to cover up changes in skin, loss of eyebrows and eyelashes; and combating them
by creating optical illusions with special techniques, tips and tricks.

C- Scarves and wigs: The variety of choices a woman can have to cover the loss of hair during the treatment
will vary. The most important is the quality of the scarf, it should be cotton or silk.