Look Good Feel Better is a free program that has been a game changer when it comes to managing the appearance aspects of cancer treatment. Participants learn tips about skin and nail care; cosmetics; wigs and turbans; accessories and styling; and more from licensed and trained beauty and health professionals.
“Look Good Feel Better is a program that is designed to help women, men and teenagers who are undergoing cancer treatment be able to learn how to manage the [appearance-related] side effects of treatment. They are able to learn what to do and how to do it so that the appearance concerns that happen because of treatment are taken off the table and they can really focus on getting better and moving through the cancer journey,” says Louanne Roark, the executive director of Look Good Feel Better for over 15 years.
The idea of Look Good Feel Better originated with the makeover of a cancer warrior in her 20s who was undergoing treatment and rigorous chemotherapy that had dramatically impacted her appearance. She didn’t look like how she was used to seeing herself and had begun avoiding seeing friends and family visiting her in the hospital.
Her doctor reached out to his friend who was the president of the beauty industry’s trade association, asking if there was something that he could do and whether he knew anyone who could help her with these appearance-related concerns. The friend found professional cosmetologists who could assist her, and they went to the patient’s hospital room for a makeover.
They gave her a wig and styled it, helped her with skin issues and more. When she looked at herself in the mirror, she transformed from withdrawn and depressed to hopeful and confident. Her sense of self that was taken away returned.
This sparked the idea for Look Good Feel Better. Doctors and beauty professionals came together and brainstormed what programs, content and education would be most beneficial for warriors. Built upon these collaborative ideas, Look Good Feel Better officially launched in 1989 and eventually found roots in every state with a global rollout beginning in the 1990s.
“People have cancer treatment. They look at themselves in the mirror and sometimes it’s the first time that they recognize they are ill when they see themselves. They see someone who looks really different looking back at them. It’s a universal experience,” says Roark.
The program is now implemented in 27 countries. It’s a free service on a global scale to boost the morale and self-esteem of cancer warriors everywhere.
Programs include lessons on how to style a wig, how to wrap a scarf and how to apply cosmetics, among other skills. Look Good Feel Better works with several hospitals around the country and has approximately 3000 volunteers trained and certified to deliver the instructional lessons.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has moved to a virtual platform for the time being and has programming in six different subject areas including skincare and cosmetics workshops, alternatives for hair loss workshops, scarf-tying workshops, nail workshops and body image styling wardrobe workshops.
“In 2021, we added ‘Feel Better’ sessions. They are really targeted as complementary content to Look Good Feel Better’s content that’s focused on managing appearance side effects of treatment. We are offering them about once a quarter now—we plan to offer them more frequently in 2022. That program is focused on four areas where there’s good data to support focusing on these areas: mindfulness, nutrition, exercise and inspiration,” explains Roark.
In 2022, Look Good Feel Better will also be adding virtual workshops for teens and men as well. There is content for both teens and men on the website currently.
“From a personal perspective, every day I feel really honored and grateful to have a job like I have that allows me to give back on a daily basis and help people through probably one of the most difficult moments in their lives, and to find new and innovative ways to continue helping them even through the pandemic,” says Roark. “It’s quite rewarding and it’s an unusual circumstance to be in a role where every day I can shut my computer down at the end of the day and know that somewhere I’ve helped someone. We exist to help patients, and we want to help as many patients as we possibly can.”
To learn more about Look Good Feel Better’s programming, visit lookgoodfeelbetter.org.