Louise O’Loughlin is a CIDESCO qualified beauty therapist and esthetic trainer. She runs her own skin care centre Iguazu Beauty Therapy in Dublin, and has trained in Oncology Esthetics in Milan. Here she explains to us the importance of knowing your client’s history when it comes to cancer, and how we can help and sympathetically treat in hair and beauty.


This is an issue that has not been widely discussed or learnt about within the professional hair and beauty industry. Whether it was 20 years ago or right now, each cancer, it’s medical treatment and it’s side effects can pose a very real threat to those having hair and beauty treatments. It is not a ‘one glove fits all’, but here are some examples.

Right Now:
If a person is having drug therapy such as chemotherapy, their immune system is compromised and at different times during their treatment it can be worse than others. If a beauty/hair therapist has a cold or a tummy bug which has not been bad enough to keep them at home, this could cause a much more serious problem for the client. So, a phone call to postpone or change in staff member is crucial.

20 years ago:
A lady had breast cancer, had a mastectomy (removal of breast) and lymph nodes removed from axillary (under arm) area. How can this possibly affect her so many years later? Due to the fact that the nodes have been removed or treated with radiation, there may be a risk of lymphedema occurring. Even a standard manicure with metal instruments or electric files can cause a serious infection that a person without node removal would not have to worry about.

It does not have to be a ‘dirty’ premise. The therapist does not need to be rough or unprofessional. In fact, the chances are they don’t have any clue that they may be creating an element of risk. The client, a lot of the time, also does not know the risk, and so when or if an infection or lymphedema occurs, they don’t think for one moment that is was the lovely treatment they had in the beauty salon the week before.
Another person with breast cancer may have had different treatment and therefore can happily have a manicure with little or no risk element. So, it is in fact quite complex. Everyone is different.
As are the beauty treatments we offer these days. A facial doesn’t always just mean working on the face. For example, I like to give a hand or foot massage during the mask time. So, if a doctor gives the client permission to have a “facial”, they don’t know exactly what is in that treatment. Nor should they. They do their job and mostly heir on the side of caution, which is great.
However, if you are 29 and have been told ‘No more massages, ever’. Or how about ‘No more pedicures, ever’? For women young and old this is a big loss. We like to pamper ourselves and we should feel happy and safe doing just that.

So, what can we do?
As an oncology aesthetic trained therapist, I know that it is safe to do massage but only in certain areas and certain pressures. I do a beauty/massage treatment plan and send it to the client’s doctor. I explain why I shouldn’t do x, y and z and that I am aware of x, y, and z happening.
Now that 29-year-old can come for her pedicure and her massage, but it will just be a little different.