From working out of her New York City apartment to opening two brick-and-mortar lash spas in sunny LA, celebrity lash expert Dionne Phillips is now using her platform to share her experience with breast cancer to inform and empower others.
With a storied history in the beauty and fashion industry, Dionne Phillips has provided countless aesthetics services to an international portfolio of customers over the course of her career. Based in Los Angeles, Phillips is a celebrity eyelash extension and beauty expert, and founder of the eyelash extensions brand D’Lashes by Dionne Phillips.
From early beginnings as an aesthetician working out of her kitchen in New York City, Phillips followed her dream to California, where she would eventually open a brick-and-mortar lash spa in the affluent neighborhood of Beverly Hills, called D’Lashes Luxury Lash Spa. Following her breast cancer diagnosis in 2022, Phillips began to combine her professional talents and passion for helping others with her personal cancer experience. Not only does she now provide beauty services for those in or recovering from cancer treatment, she also uses her platform — primarily through Instagram, where she has over 40,000 followers — to educate and empower. In particular, she encourages women to get regular cancer screenings and to self-advocate for their own health.
Looking back, Phillips explains that she first ventured into the world of eyelash extensions while working as a model and actress in New York City, doing her own lashes for auditions. “My Polaroids always looked better with my lash extensions,” she says. Soon enough, with just $65 in supplies, Phillips started her small business in her New York apartment, offering eyelash extensions to other models and actresses.
Her innovative silk fiber lashes and unique talents proved to be a big hit, and through word of mouth, Phillips’ business was soon booked out months in advance. Since moving to Los Angeles in 2005, her celebrity clients have included Serena Williams, Victoria Beckham, Sandra Oh, Paris Hilton and Mindy Kaling, among many others.
As the popularity of Phillips’ work spread in the Los Angeles area, she was connected with a local oncology center and started offering beauty services to patients undergoing cancer treatment, prior to her own diagnosis. Phillips explains these services can provide confidence, relaxation and a sense of normalcy to those experiencing hair loss and other physical side effects of cancer treatment. According to Phillips, eyelashes in particular are slow to grow back post-treatment, and she started gaining more customers for post-chemotherapy extensions as well.
While Phillips’ talent and dedication speaks for itself given her years of success in the beauty industry, her passion became personal following her diagnosis. Like many people, Phillips had fallen behind on her health screenings due to the pandemic. A mammogram in 2019 had been clear, she explains, but after noticing a lump during a self-exam in the shower, she made an appointment for breast imaging. She would ultimately receive her cancer diagnosis following 3D mammogram imaging (also known as breast tomosynthesis — a type of imaging she hadn’t received in breast cancer screenings prior to 2022) and pathology.
“I was shocked, but I didn’t cry right away — I was stunned,” she says. Phillips learned that the tumor may have been present in her breast tissue for many years, but had not been detected on her earlier scans.
Phillips soon had a team of doctors who quickly devised her treatment plan. She would have chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor, followed by surgery — the details of which would be decided based on the cancer’s response to chemo. She learned her doctors would monitor the disease through these initial steps and determine whether or not she’d need radiation therapy as well.
Thinking ahead to her five-and-a-half-month chemotherapy regimen, followed by surgery and various other treatments and monitoring, Phillips was initially hesitant to share her diagnosis publicly. She wanted to avoid the unsolicited comments and opinions that often come with sharing a diagnosis, as Phillips knew they would not be helpful for her. “I wanted to have my own journey. I didn’t want pity, for people to feel sorry for me,” she says. Instead, she was determined to “persevere through anything, just like I did when I was getting started in New York,” Phillips says.
While taking ownership of her personal experience was essential, Phillips also realized that sharing glimpses of her life in cancer treatment could help educate and empower others. So when the time came for her chemotherapy port to be installed and to start infusions, she was ready to share her news with the outside world. She posted to social media and even live-streamed her infusion session, telling others about her diagnosis and treatment process. She also encouraged her followers to stay up-to-date with their own cancer screenings, and in particular to ask their doctors about 3D mammogram options. While in active treatment, Phillips maintained her positive attitude and energy, and continued to run her lash business. “I’m lashing out on breast cancer!” she wrote in her posts.
Phillips dedicated herself to protecting her positive energy while taking care of her body and mind in the best way she knew how. She had a healthy lifestyle before her diagnosis, but she explains her cancer experience motivated her to ultimately commit to clean, plant-based nutrition. She also found strength in the mantra, “I am healed and cancer-free.” Combined with her conventional cancer treatment, Phillips says, these approaches helped her manage cancer treatment both physically and mentally.
After completing chemotherapy, Phillips proceeded with a bilateral mastectomy and DIEP flap reconstruction surgery (in which autologous tissue is used to reconstruct the breasts). Phillips then underwent 25 sessions of radiation therapy, which she finished in late 2022 — and, fortunately, led her to achieve her cancer-free status.
Phillips expresses deep gratitude for the success of her treatment and the support from her loving community. While she celebrates her outcome, she knows firsthand why the cancer experience is so difficult — not just for those in active treatment, but even individuals well into cancer recovery and survivorship. Seeing the inside world of cancer enlightened her to the complex challenges of navigating insurance, employment and treatment decisions — not to mention the shock and information overload in those early days of a diagnosis.
While the pandemic “taught us about self-care,” Phillips says, the general public needs to expand this mindset into maintaining regular health checkups as well. Phillips stresses the importance of early cancer detection and genetic testing, in particular. She also strives to normalize self-breast exams as a quick and easy routine to maintain every month. “This is just something you do, like getting a tune-up for your car,” she says.
Phillips carries this experience and knowledge with her as she continues to serve others through her beauty and personal care services. With the opening of her new business location, the D’Lashes Luxury Lash and Wellness Spa, in early 2023, she looks forward to offering additional services that are particularly beneficial for anyone who has been through cancer treatment, including facials and lymphatic massage. Above all, she resolves to continue educating others and urging them to take an active role in their own health. “I will continue doing whatever I can do to encourage others,” she says.
For more information about Dionne Phillips and D’Lashes, go to www.DLashes.com, or find her on social media at @dlashes
Meghan McCallum is a freelance writer and French to English translator. Since being diagnosed with stage III triple negative breast cancer at age 32, Meghan has taken an active role in the cancer community to share stories and resources. She strives to support conversations around cancer and empower others to advocate for their own health and well-being.