When I was first diagnosed with aggressive Stage 3 Head & Neck cancer, in November 2021, my beauty and skincare regime wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. Despite being a beauty-obsessed Social Media Manager, I didn’t care how I looked – I just wanted to survive.
However, as I found myself spending more time in the clinical four walls of a hospital ward and as more circumstances spiralled out of my control, I found solace in the comforting ritual of my self-care routine.
Following an extremely invasive surgery on my neck, face and stomach– to remove the tumour and lymph nodes, a generous slather of my favourite Vaseline balm on my lips and a heap of cooling moisturiser on my cheeks and forehead, offered a moment of escape from my hospital bed.
With my skincare ritual featuring my favourite beauty shelf products I was grateful for the freedom I had to maintain some control over my life – however, when I started the next stage of my treatment plan, I discovered this isn’t always the case when you’re a cancer patient.
Chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapies cause severe changes to the skin, hair, and nails. When undergoing cancer treatment, every single product – from toothpaste and the toothbrush you use, to soap, moisturisers, shampoos, deodorants, and hairbrushes – requires a new, gentle approach. This means that cancer patients often must sacrifice their favourite beauty products, because they’re just not suitable anymore.
At Foundation, we have seen a rise in brands competing for ‘cancer-friendly skincare’ and similar terms, including a 350% increase YoY for ‘best skin care products for chemo patients’.
It’s not just beauty products either. From my experience, people going through cancer are, on the whole, overlooked by the mainstream beauty industry. Beauty therapists just aren’t equipped to help those affected by cancer and salons and spas aren’t willing to venture into what they see as the unknown. Despite the fact beauty treatments can massively boost a sense of wellbeing for patients, Vogue reported that “97% of UK spas refuse to treat patients with cancer” due to lack of knowledge and fear of liability.
The market: how brands and organisations are providing hope and new solutions
The C-List is the first ever beauty platform created for people experiencing cancer. It’s the one-stop-shop filled with trusted and recommended beauty products that are gentler on skin. It offers everything from make-up and skincare to hair and nails, plus toiletries, home fragrance and bath and body. The beautiful thing about the C-List is you’ll find some world-renowned brands like Elizabeth Arden and (my personal favourite) La Roche Posay, as well as smaller (but equally amazing) brands such as Lola’s Lashes and Marie Reynolds.
Lisa Potter-Dixon, co-founder of the C-List says, “a lot of brands were petrified to get involved to begin with. Brands have a lot of hoops to jump through when it comes to sustainability, science, and being vegan or cruelty free. Cancer isn’t at the forefront of their minds, which is what we’re hoping to change”.
Making moves in the spa industry is industry leader, Sue Harmsworth MBE – founder of ESPA, who in 2020, launched SATCC (Standards Authority for Training and Cancer Care). The initiative sets out to bring together everyone working towards making the spa industry more accessible for anyone living with, being treated for, or recovering from cancer.
The SATCC says – “With one in two people expected to experience some form of cancer in their lifetime, providing safe and inclusive spa treatments to those suffering with the disease is a more pressing requirement than ever. Recent changes in medical thinking and pioneering initiatives mean that treatments including massages and facials can now be approached without previous concerns to provide welcome benefits to clients, with the correct level of training for therapists.”
At Foundation, we recognise that brands have the opportunity to use their marketing to speak to this substantial market effectively.
Brands have the opportunity to do better:
Raise awareness of products that are already suitable for cancer patients. Do the research, find out if your current products are suitable, check with the specialists, and then make it obvious. This will make cancer patients feel seen and catered for. We’re too pre-occupied to search for products that are suitable, so do the leg work for us.
Include us in your marketing to make us feel included and valued as customers, 365 days a year, not just when there’s a national awareness day. Making your audience feel seen will win you favourability over your competitors.
Cancer skin isn’t talked about online, on YouTube, Instagram, or even TikTok. It’s not even spoken about in the real world. For someone who is newly diagnosed, with little resources in the first place, they’ll turn to Google. But Google ‘cancer skin’ or ‘cancer-friendly skincare’ and you’ll wonder the same question I’ve asked myself – where’s the skincare content for cancer patients, compared to the countless articles that’d come up if I searched for ‘how to get rid of blackheads’ or ‘best vitamin C serum’?
We know this requires a collaborative effort between oncologists, GPs and the beauty industry, however, our take is that the responsibility also lies with brands, as they should prioritise creating a cancer-inclusive offering, so no client or customer gets turned away.
How can we help?
At Foundation, our team of content writers can identify the top searched for keywords and phrases and help create content that both serves you as a brand but also provides relevant, insightful content for patients looking for more information and support.
For more information, please get in touch.