Linda Whitehurst was shopping at her local grocery store when she was approached by a beautiful woman who thanked Whitehurst for changing her life. Dumbfounded, Whitehurst thought back to what she could have done to make such an impact on this individual. Whitehurst appears like any average woman. She is a wife, mother and grandmother and manages a local hair salon. She thought back to places where she may have encountered this woman, places such as church or her salon. Soon it clicked, the last time she saw this beautiful woman she had no eye brows, lashes or hair. Whitehurst met her at Look Good..Feel Better, a program aimed at helping women who are undergoing cancer increase their self-esteem through make-up tutorials and workshops.
Twenty-two years ago, Whitehurst saw an ad looking for volunteers. Intrigued and wanting to help, she applied and within a year was certified. Look Good..Feel Better isn’t just a program aimed at teaching women how to apply makeup and wigs. It’s a program aimed at bringing women together in a time of their lives where they may feel lost or alone. Whitehurst is now a member of the Professional Beauty Association|National Cosmetology Association and works on Look Good Feel..Better at a national level. She doesn’t consider herself a hero and presents herself with modesty.
“Every single workshop, I get as much out of it as they do,” Whitehurst says.
Look Good..Feel Better is offered to all women who are undergoing chemotherapy, radiation or other forms of treatment. According to Louanne Roark, Executive Director of the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, in the United States alone, 800,000 women have participated in the program. Look Good..Feel Better offers 9,000 workshops nationwide in 3,000 locations.
The program began in 1989 when a physician asked former Personal Care Council President Ed Kavanaugh, how he could establish a program which would give women undergoing cancer treatment a make-over. Now, almost 22 years later, the program has changed the lives of thousands. It is a collaborative effort of the Personal Care Products Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the Professional Beauty Association|National Cosmetology Association; an organization that includes beauty professionals such as cosmetologists, wig experts, estheticians, makeup artists and nail technicians.
Most women are shy when they enter the workshops, which are held at local hospitals and cancer treatment facilities. Some have never even seen themselves without their wig off before. But for these women, feeling beautiful is more than just dabbing on some blush and applying some lipstick. It’s about being comfortable in their own skin, skin that has been affected by their cancer. Women are given a complimentary cosmetic product kit by participating Personal Care Products Council members and make-up and wig application is demonstrated by volunteer cosmetology professionals. Kits include an assortment of donated cosmetics available in different shades as well as 15 to 20 other beauty products.
“Through the program, patients have learned to mitigate the changes treatments have on their appearance that can affect their quality of life, confidence and ability to cope with the disease,” Roark said.
Many women complain of appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment such as dry skin, uneven skin tone, pale complexion, and hair loss. In a study done by Harris Interactive of 267 patients, 87 percent said that cancer treatment had a somewhat significant negative impact on their appearance. Volunteers such as Whitehurst lead the discussion, and offer practical tips about skin care, makeup techniques and guidance for coping with hair loss. For most of us, the most exciting part of make-up is the bright lipsticks and pretty shadows, but for these women it’s the littlest things that we take for granted that matter the most.
“One of the things that have made the biggest difference is showing them how to do their eyebrows with brow powder so that it looks natural,” said Whitehurst.
The impact of Look Good Feel Better on women undergoing treatment is astounding. Women who come in shy and timid leave laughing and glowing. These women sit around a table, share stories and discuss their appearance concerns and favorite beauty tips. Cancer has had such an impact on the lives of these women and this program brings them back to a sense of normalcy.
“This program totally brought me back. I look and feel like my normal self again. This was the push I needed to get back on track,” said a participant.
Currently, the Personal Care Products Council Foundation provides approximately $2.1 million annually to the program as well as program strategy and oversight. The cosmetic industry also donates approximately one million pieces of cosmetics and skin care products; a value of more than $7 million dollars. The workshops are available in both Spanish and English as well as virtual workshops online. They also have created a separate program for men and teens.
The situation at the grocery story is just one of many instances where Whitehurst has seen her impact on others. Whitehurst, who works at her salon daily, has a different idea of what makes a woman beautiful. She has witnessed many women who have come into the program, feeling like they have lost a battle with their appearance come out feeling more like themselves. When asked about the impact of the program and what it has done for a volunteer such as Whitehurst, she began to get choked up.
“I get emotional just talking about it. It made me so aware that you can’t judge these people by the way they look,” Whitehurst said.
Whitehurst has taught these women many tips but has learned a lot herself. Perhaps, beauty isn’t defined by full lips, a nice smile, gorgeous skin and luscious lashes. Beauty is defined by one’s inner confidence and ability to overcome life’s most difficult times.
Look Good..Feel Better is adding a new style component later this year in the hopes of helping women maintain their style and personality when all else feels lost.