Look Good…Feel Better
The venerable program that boosts the morale of cancer patients celebrates 20 years.
By Joanna Cosgrove
For cancer patients, feeling good about how they look can boost the spirits in a big way. For 20 years, beauty professionals have dedicated countless hours of personal time helping cancer patients look and feel better about themselves through a program called Look Good…Feel Better. Created in 1989 by the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, the Look Good…Feel Better program is a charitable organization established by the Personal Care Products Council. And though it has helped an estimated 550,000 women, men and teens since its inception, its origin began with just one patient.
In 1987, a physician asked former Personal Care Products Council president Ed Kavanaugh how to get a makeover for a woman in cancer treatment experiencing appearance-related side effects. The woman, the doctor said, was so depressed and self-conscious she would not venture outside her hospital room. Mr. Kavanaugh made some calls and was able to provide cosmetics and a makeup artist.
The makeover transformed not just the woman’s look, but her outlook, as well. She immediately felt happier and less burdened, laughing for the first time in weeks. The doctor credited the makeover with improving her attitude and emotional approach toward her treatment.
That success prompted the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) to seize the opportunity for its industry to help more women maintain self-esteem and face cancer treatment with greater confidence. Mr. Kavanaugh presented the idea to the Personal Care Products Council membership who immediately offered funding and cosmetics.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) also joined the effort, providing a national network to assist women seeking information and access to the program. The National Cosmetology Association (NCA) signed on as the third partner, encouraging its member cosmetologists to volunteer their services. The Look Good…Feel Better launched with two groups sessions at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and Georgetown University’s Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington, D.C., in 1989.
To date, the national reach of the Look Good…Feel Better organization counts more than 25,000 hairstylists, wig experts, estheticians, makeup artists and nail technicians. On a global scale—which spans 19 countries—it is supported by 309 cosmetic industry companies and other sponsors.
Look Good…Feel Better Honors Its Outstanding Volunteers
In celebration of its 20th anniversary, Look Good…Feel Better honored three outstanding individuals - Eivind Bjerke of Washington, D.C., Robin Enos of Bakersfield, CA; and Guy Lento of New York City - as its National Sunrise Award Winners.
Mr. Bjerke, co-owner of Lucien et Eivind Salon, has been involved with Look Good…Feel Better since the program’s inception in 1989. He was one of the first Look Good…Feel Better volunteers, participating in the pilot program at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Cancer Center. Mr. Bjerke has helped thousands of women by donating his time and talent to a number of national Look Good…Feel Better projects including videos and training programs, and he has served as a program spokesperson on numerous occasions as well as a local Look Good…Feel Better chairman and national advisor.
Guy Lento, director of makeup education at Chanel Inc., has been a Look Good…Feel Better volunteer since the program’s inception in 1989. He was a part of the 1988 pilot program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York, and also took part in the original Look Good…Feel Better video. He continues to volunteer at MSKCC on a regular basis, bringing “endless energy and dedication, and seeming always able to give a little more than the ordinary,” said MSKCC Look Good…Feel Better Coordinator Penny Worth.
Like Ms. Enos, Mr. Lento is also a cancer survivor and, he said, the experience gave him important insight. “I know firsthand exactly what these women are going through,” he said. That experience inspired Mr. Lento to also help male cancer patients. He is now facilitating a pilot Look Good…Feel Better for Men group workshop program at MSKCC, with the goal of developing a model that can be used nationally.
At the heart of Look Good…Feel Better are its volunteers. “In total, 20,000 volunteers— cosmetologists, health care professionals and individuals—support Look Good...Feel Better globally,” commented Louanne Roark, executive director of the Personal Council Foundation and the Look Good…Feel Better program. “In the U.S., 14,000 volunteers give an estimated 224,000 hours of service each year to the program.”
Each two-hour, hands-on Look Good…Feel Better workshop includes a 12-step skin care/makeup application lesson, demonstration of options for dealing with hair loss and nail care techniques. Held at comprehensive care clinics, hospitals, ACS offices, and community centers, local group programs are organized by the American Cancer Society, facilitated by Look Good…Feel Better-certified cosmetologists and aided by general volunteers. Patients in various stages of treatment receive make-over tips and personal attention from professionals trained to meet their needs. They also use and take home complimentary cosmetic kits in their appropriate skin tones (light, medium, dark, extra dark) with helpful instruction booklets. Professional advice is provided on wigs, scarves and accessories. Teen sessions also include social and health tips.
More than 50,000 individuals participate each year in small groups of five to ten, offering each patient a supportive circle, as well. Group programs represent the highest level of expertise available in Look Good…Feel Better services.
“The great thing about a Look Good...Feel Better workshop is that it is a safe environment for women to address the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment they have experienced,” explained Ms. Roark. “Each woman’s experience with cancer is different, so while it varies for each participant who goes through a workshop, we do find that many women are looking for wig assistance, as well as tips for dealing with disappearing eyebrows or eyelashes. Also, since cancer treatment can change the skin, many of our participants ask us for tips on overall skin care.”
Ms. Roark added that the organization hosts 8,700 group programs nationwide in more than 2,500 locations.
Five years ago, the Personal Care Products Council Foundation launched Look Good...Feel Better for Men, an initiative geared to help the estimated 675,300 men who are diagnosed with cancer each year. This arm of the program is centered around a ten-page brochure, underwritten by The Gillette Company, which provides information on how man can combat appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment to look and feel confident and in control. There is also a tear-out guide, “The Daily Routine,” which reviews basic steps for good skin care and ways to camouflage hair loss.
With its first 20 years down and nothing short of a bright future ahead, Ms. Roark said she looks forward to expanding the program to continue instilling confidence in those who could really benefit from it. “If in 20 years we can say that we’ve helped many more cancer patients approach their disease and treatment with greater confidence—while also expanding our volunteer and partner base—we’d call that true success!” she said. “Ultimately we’d like to increase awareness of Look Good…Feel Better across the country and be in a position to meet the specific needs of every woman, man and teen with cancer who can benefit from our services.”
For more information about Look Good…Feel Better workshops or to volunteer time and or services, visit: www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org.