Giving Back: How to Help Clients Coping with Cancer

“Everyone’s journey with cancer is very personal… and those that lose their hair feel very vulnerable. Being a stylist, we can give them knowledge to empower them and make them feel beautiful,” says Geneva Cowen, Artistic Director for Sam Villa.

“I had no idea what I needed until she did it for me. It’s hard for me to keep it together to talk about it… but Geneva gave me things I did not know I needed," says Cowen’s guest, Marianne Rush. "It was all so significant. Everyone needs to know this, because it’s such a vulnerable place. Geneva also put so much dignity into a process I did not know I was embarking upon. While she hadn’t had cancer, she already had the wisdom about it because of others she had serviced behind the chair."

Below, Cowen offers her tips on the best practices for helping guests who are coping with cancer, and the hair loss that comes with chemotherapy.

  • When you get the call there is a time stamp on it. They need you now! Do what you can.
  • Ensure they have privacy. It is a painful process and emotions are high. Allow them to go through it in an emotionally safe environment.
  • Offer to go to their home. Some people are very private and the journey and needs are different for everyone.
  • Consult your guest like you would at any other time. If I had to shave my head I would want to do it myself. Then I may need assistance. Some guests may want the haircut they never had the guts to get.
  • Be honest. It is all going to fall out. A cute haircut will only last a week, maybe…
  • If they want to start with a short cut, make sure you are available to step in if they need you. It is not a beautiful process and can be very traumatic.
  • Try not to cry. I am never successful but it is not about us, so I try to do it quietly.
  • When combing out their hair after a shampoo, face them away from the mirror. Get the tangles out and move on. It will not stop coming out. It does not help them to witness it.
  • Find local wig masters and resources for them.
  • Refer them to scarf-wrapping techniques that are beautiful.
  • When they're feeling better, set them up with a makeup consultant. Find an artist that is kind and talented. Department stores are great resources. In addition to hair, eyebrows and eyelashes typically fall out during chemo. Their skin and complexion will change and they will need assistance, new color options and techniques.  
  • I tell them to get some amazing earrings, a conditioning lip-gloss, a rocking pair of shades and a cool hat. I call it “undercover hot.”
  • Be careful with your hair color selections when their hair starts growing in. Hair is so valuable to them, they're not going to want to cut it off. Think six months out and make the choices from there.
  • Have empathy. Just be there for them.
  • Charging for your services is a personal decision. If you plan on not charging your guest talk to your salon management to ensure you have understanding.

Read more, here.

Image Credits
Model: Marianne Rush
Photography: Shalem Mathew
Hair: Geneva Cowen
Makeup: Lorina Alailefaleula

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