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Posted by on May 7, 2014 | 0 comments

Undergoing Chemo: Hair today, gone tomorrow – Eyebrows & Lashes

Earlier this year it was confirmed I had Ovarian cancer, stage 1. Even with this optimistic diagnosis (it’s always better to find earlier than later), Ovarian cancer at early stage needs to be treated as stage 3. I began chemotherapy six weeks after surgery. I’m putting this blog to work to occasionally post tips and tricks for the beauty challenges that face those undergoing treatment.

Today’s focus is on the challenge of hair loss, specifically eyebrows and lashes.

Pre-diagnosis, I was on a mission to be as groomed as possible for my surgery. Sorry, but people were going into parts unknown, and I wanted it to be decent looking. Legs, Brazilian, armpits (yes, you can do those), brows, mustache and facial…and I’m part Asian. Traditionally we don’t have that much hair! It felt great to be smooth as a baby’s bottom though, with nary a grooming care in the world.

At Jason Wu NYFW in 2011, when models had the appearance of their eyebrow bleached off for the show, only to return and have them colored back on afterwards

Fast forward to the impending hair loss from chemotherapy, and it’s a different story. Long strands I can practically braid hang in patches on my calves. It’s like I can’t let go of what I’ve got. The hair on my head is long gone, but that was easily solved with a wig, and that’s another story. Where I got nervous was when I thought about brow and lash loss. I have really great lashes for, again, someone part Asian. They curl up easily, and while they aren’t the mythical creature length bestowed on my father, husband and son, they are pretty long, and can look fake with mascara. Ok, so fake eyelashes maybe? But how do you address eyebrow loss?

I turned to Ramy Gafni, the Brow King of New York for expert answers. Ramy has a huge list of celebrity clientele that trust him with their brows, and a full line of products available at his spa, and in upscale Duane Reed and Walgreens beauty boutiques across the nation. Not only that, but he is a 15 year Lymphoma survivor, knowing firsthand what’s it’s like to be in the beauty industry and dealing with chemo treatment beauty issues. With all of that, he was kind and generous in his recommendations for dealing with brow and lash loss.

What is the first step one should take when seeing changes in brow/lashes? Should pre-shaping occur? Will any eyebrow pencil do?

If your brows become sparse, or disappear altogether during treatment, here’s what to do:

· Do not remove any hair during treatment, unless its an errant hair, like in the center of your forehead.
· Fill in your brows with a wax based product (powder will not adhere well to bare skin or sparse brow areas. I recommend my Perfect Brow Wand, which comes in one universal neutral shade and has a built in highlighter.

  • Draw the brow filler along your brow bone. It doesn’t have to be perfect match to your eyebrows before treatment. We are striving to create the illusion of good brows, not an exact copy of your pre-treatment brows.
  • Brush through the brow filler lightly to soften the line.
  • Then draw the highlighter along underside of brows and blend in using your finger. The contrast of highlighter and brow filler will make the brows look even more substantial.

What if most of the brow is missing? How do we avoid a drag queen look?

· If you’ve lost most or all of your brows and the brow filler looks too much like makeup, then pat some translucent powder directly on the brows. This will make the brow filler look more like real hair.

Great tip! For eyelashes, do you recommend using false lashes to fill in?

If your eyelashes have thinned or disappeared:

· Do NOT use false lashes as a solution because when you’re in treatment you’re more susceptible to infection from the adhesive. False lashes are fine to wear for special occasions during treatment, but not every day. They can also be cumbersome and uncomfortable if you’re not used to them.

· Opt instead for eyeliner to fill in your lash line and create the illusion of a fuller lash line. Choose an eyeliner in either cake or pen or pencil. I find that liquid eyeliner tends to look like dried paint, especially when your lashes are sparse.

· Draw liner as close to roots of eyelashes and then smudge the liner with a cotton swab, your fingertip or a brush. A smudged liner will be softer and look more like real lashes than a hard line.

· Opt for a neutral liner like brown/black or mahogany. Black can be too harsh, brown too soft, so something in between is ideal.

· If you have enough eyelashes, apply mascara to upper lash line. Do not use water-proof mascara as it’s difficult to remove and you may pull out existing lashes when you remove it. Use standard mascara and very important to remove the mascara before bedtime every day. Leaving the mascara on can also damage or dry existing lashes.

I appreciate how Rami breaks the instructions down to simple steps we can all achieve, so that when we leave a room no one will ever imagine we said this:

For more information on Ramy’s products, spa or services, please visit

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