Meet Caitlin Kiernan | Author and Beauty Editor, Pretty Sick: The Beauty Guide for Women with Cancer
Pretty Sick is a complete head-to-toe wellness bible for women coping with the devastating physical effects of cancer and how to look and feel your best during a really harrowing time.
Were you surprised that nothing like this book existed when you decided to write it?
I was surprised. There have been books and articles that have touched upon side effects like hair loss and cystic acne – but there are sooooo many other physical issues cancer patients and survivors have to contend with. Mouth sores, nail lifting, and loss, hives, dry vaginas (yes, 90 percent of ALL female cancer patients will suffer from some sort of sexual dysfunction…). When I was sick there wasn’t one resource – a book, a website, etc. that had all the information I needed in one place. So, that’s when I decided to write the book.
You mention color is curative, what do you mean by this?
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Chemotherapy can cause the skin to change color. One day it’s sallow yellow. The next day it’s red and flushed. The day after that it’s puke green. When I finally found a shade of foundation that made my skin appear even-toned, it helped me look and feel a hint like my “normal” self.
That, in turn, gave me the confidence I needed to go to work, meet up with friends, and go about my life. Foundation may seem like a little thing to most people – but it was a game-changer for me. And that’s just the foundation. A highlighter mimics a healthy glow. A tinted balm can make dehydrated lips appear plump and kissable again. But it’s not the aesthetic results that are so impactful.
It’s the bigger picture effects of makeup that can improve a person’s cancer journey. Being able to control my appearance, even in the slightest, allowed me to take back some control over my disease. A simple swipe of lip gloss reminded me how much I enjoyed getting dressed up, going out for a nice dinner with my friends, flirting with boys – and ultimately - that I loved living. It helped me stay strong and focused to get through the fight. That’s a big deal. So, yes, I 100% believe color is curative because it was for me.
As a New York beauty editor, you have spent so much of your career writing about makeup, skincare, and wellness. Then, the tables were turned and you decided to take your expertise and apply it to educating women about beauty through cancer. How did that make you feel? Was giving back in this way healing and meaningful to you in your journey?
I was very blessed during my cancer experience. Just by living in New York City, I had proximity to some of the top cancer institutions and doctors in the United States. As a beauty editor, part of my job was to interview leading experts in the beauty, science and fitness industries. These two things – proximity and access – make a huge difference in the care one receives. I knew how blessed I was. Writing Pretty Sick: The Beauty Guide for Women with Cancer was my way of paying those blessings forward by making the road less bumpy for women traveling it after me.
What are 3 things you would say to some who has just been just diagnosed?
Find the silver linings. (What I mean by this is, don’t feel pressure to be positive. Look for the silver linings in every situation, even the crappy ones, and it will help you remain optimistic.)
We love that you think no one should have to choose between their health and their beauty. Why do you think there is a stigma attached to caring about your looks when going through an illness?
That belief is a by-product of the stigma of having cancer that has existed in our country for a very long time. There once was a time, not too long ago, that people wouldn’t discuss a cancer diagnosis. Women were labeled “vain” if they wanted a nice-looking wig or if they voiced their desire to have beautiful breast reconstruction. With wellness a growing part of integrated medicine in our country more people are starting to understand the message of my book – that’s it’s not about vanity, it is a quality of life issue.
You are a beauty guru! We all want to know your favorite self-care rituals.
We could be here all day for this one…but what I really love is when I can take a day alone and completely disconnect from the outside world. I just chill out at home, put on a hair or facemask, do some writing, power-watch my favorite Bravo shows and sip on nice glass of wine. Its what I do to relax and re-center.
You can find Pretty Sick: The Beauty Guide for Women with Cancer online at: