11 Products This Former Beauty Editor Swore By During Cancer Treatment

By Jen Anderson

When Caitlin Kiernan, former beauty editor at Life & Style Weekly, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and began treatment, most people she told the news to reacted with surprise. She didn’t look like how we expect a woman battling cancer to look — she didn’t look sick.

“I knew I was blessed and lucky, but I never realized how truly lucky I was until I made it towards the end, still resembling a hint of myself,” Kiernan tells Refinery29. That’s when she gathered her resources, put pen to paper, and wrote Pretty Sick: The Beauty Guide For Women With Cancer, which launched last month.

In the book, Kiernan discusses her personal journey and shares advice from experts in the industry about what happens to your hair, skin, nails, and beauty routine after being diagnosed with cancer. “This is information that just isn’t out there, and I want to make sure that every patient gets this information; it makes a huge difference in being able to go about your life and look and feel like your ‘normal’ self,” Kiernan says.

Finding her “normal” wasn’t easy; her life had been turned upside down. “Cancer is a health crisis,” she says , “but it’s also an identity crisis, because it takes away from you all the things that informed who you are to society: It takes away your hair, it takes away your breasts (in some cases), it totally changes your skin, it messes with your nails.” Eventually, it was through beauty that she found her way back.

Ahead, she shares some of the beauty products that helped her through her journey — and remain favorites to this day.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For more stories about detecting, treating, or living with breast cancer, click here.

Face Wash

Kiernan alternated between two cleansers. When she wasn’t wearing makeup, she relied on this gentle one from Cetaphil. “It’s is fragrance-free, mild, non-irritating and moisturizing. This [was] critical when [my] skin was super dry and sensitive,” she says.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, $9.59, available at Target.

“When I was wearing makeup, I would use Simple Moisturizing Face Wash. It foams ever so slightly, getting all the gunk off my face while hydrating my dry skin at the same time. I still use both to this day — that’s how good they are!”

Simple Moisturizing Facial Wash, $4.89, available at Target.

Face Lotion

“My skin aged overnight when I first started chemo so at the suggestion of celeb makeup artist Melanie Inglesis, I started using Embryolisse Rich Moisturizing Cream. The formula contains hyaluronic acid, sweet almond oil, and wheat proteins that saved my skin the second I started using it.”

Embryolisse Rich Hydrating Cream, $40, available at DermStore.

Face Oil

During treatment, Kiernan wasn’t able to use any serums with antioxidants (they interfere with the cells during chemotherapy); instead, she used this multi-purpose oil. “I slathered on facial oil morning and night. It made my face feel like a baby’s bottom,” she says.

Darphin Revitalizing Oil, $80, available at Darphin.

Face Mask

“Chemo caused my skin to be so stress and irritated,” Kiernan says. “I would apply a mask almost daily and that really helped soothe my skin and give it back a glow. If there was one thing I could take to a deserted island, my Karuna facemasks would be it!” High praise, if you ask us.

Karuna Karma Kit+ Mask Set, $28, available at Sephora.

Foundation

Because Kiernan found her skin tone changing throughout treatment, she opted out of tinted formulas with low coverage. “What does cover an ever-changing- skin tone is a stick foundation. The wax formula provides more opaque coverage and lasts longer than traditional foundations or BB/CC/DD creams,” she says.

Maybelline Fit Me Shine Free Foundation Stick, $7.99, available at Ulta Beauty.

Sunscreen

“[This formula] is made for the body, but I apply it everywhere,” Kiernan says. “It didn’t make me break out or anything, in fact, it gave my skin a dewy glow.”

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid Daily Sunscreen, Broad Spectrum Spf 70, $12.99, available at Amazon.

Body Wash

To soothe her chemo-induced hives, Kiernan opted for baby wash. “Formulas for babies are typically more gentle and less irritating, so they are a good go-to for those who have sensitive skin from chemo or radiation,” she says.

Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Shampoo and Wash, $8.59, available at Target.

Body Lotion

“This moisturizing cream contains vital ceramides that protect the skin barrier and hyaluronic acid that locks in essential hydration. It’s also fragrance-free. I had a tub of it in my bathroom throughout my treatment, and boy, was it a serious skin saver,” Kiernan raves.

Cerave Moisturizing Lotion, $12.99, available at DermStore.

Hand Lotion

There’s a reason this lotion is one of L’Occitane’s best sellers: “It’s super-creamy, but absorbs quickly. Plus, the formula of shea butter, honey, almond extract, and coconut oil is just divine,” Kiernan says.

L’Occitane Shea Butter Intensive Hand Balm, $36, available at L’Occitane.

Cuticle Oil

This under-the-radar oil brand helped Kiernan salvage her nails after starting treatment. “Since nails grow so slow, any damage that chemotherapy has on the nails/nail bed doesn’t show up for two months after a patient has started treatment. Applying a nail oil doesn’t exactly fix that damage, but it can help nails grow in healthier and stronger,” she says.

Dadi’Oil Organic Nail Cuticle Skin Oil Treatment, $10.75, available at Amazon.

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