Finding good-fitting bras and nonirritating beauty products is hard enough when you’re feeling great. But for those dealing with breast cancer, things become much more complicated. Mastectomies, hair loss, skin sensitivity, and lack of energy can dramatically alter the way you have to approach style, all while undergoing treatments and dealing with the emotional impact of breast cancer. The last thing you need—or are up for—is an additional hassle for something others may perceive as trivial. To make things just a little bit easier, we’ve rounded up local businesses dedicated to helping those with breast cancer feel beautiful, comfortable, and strong.
The Salon at 10 Newbury
Patricia Wrixon, owner of The Salon at 10 Newbury, is known as Boston’s hair replacement expert. She’s been in the business for over 30 years, and she’s built a special salon for women experiencing hair loss. She also runs a nonprofit, Wigs for Well-Being, which donates hair replacement solutions to cancer survivors. The Salon offers human-hair and synthetic wigs and hairpieces as well as accessories like a baseball cap with synthetic hair for casual days and products to foster a healthy scalp as hair regrows.
When cancer survivors come in, they first receive a consultation to discuss what they want to look like. “Most women are looking for their own normalcy,” Wrixon tells Exhale. “They’re not looking to show up looking different.”
Then a wig is ordered according to their preferences. When it arrives, the wig is fit and altered if necessary, and the client receives instruction for care and styling. Women who buy human-hair wigs receive a free washing class. Refittings as clients’ hair begins to grow back are also free.
Wrixon deals mostly in human-hair wigs, which are a more versatile and more expensive option. The wigs can be cut, dyed, and styled using hot tools just like normal hair. Pricing starts at $1,800–$2,200 retail. Synthetic wigs can’t be styled or colored, though they can only be cut minimally. They retail starting at $300–$500. The Salon at 10 Newbury does accept insurance coverage for wig costs.
Tafari Wraps offers handmade, high-end head wraps in bright, energizing colors and soft, comforting fabrics. Owner and designer Imani McFarlane started the business to educate the public about the history of head wraps after experiencing racist comments at her corporate job for wearing them. As she began providing “wrapshops” to teach others how to tie different styles, she noticed that cancer survivors experiencing hair loss loved wearing the stylish wraps.
“I started this program to heal myself and to make a difference in women’s lives,” she tells Exhale. “I have seen a simple head wrap transform a person.” The wraps are designed to bring comfort and joy to wearers. They’re made in soft, lightweight fabrics and tied with a tuck system that doesn’t require any pins.
Tafari also offers a hat wrap that’s premade in an elegant folded style and can just be placed on your head like a hat. Many of the larger wraps can double as a scarf or a shawl. Customers make an appointment with McFarlane to come to her studio. There, they can learn about and shop the head wraps, and McFarlane will teach them one, or several, ways to tie their wraps.
The wraps can also be purchased at the Beth Israel Windows of Hope shop and Anique Nicole Hair Studio in Dorchester. Prices range from $24–$58 for ready-to-wear styles and go up to $160 for couture pieces. McFarlane creates new designs regularly, including special, sparkly collections for the holidays. She’s in the process of negotiating insurance coverage for the head wraps.
The Boston-area intimates institution Lady Grace has been fitting women for bras for 82 years. It recently changed its business model to serve breast cancer survivors exclusively. “We felt we could make a real difference by focusing on post-surgery breast cancer survivors. Our fitters have a combined experience of over 106 years,” CFO Bruce Green tells Exhale.
Customers schedule an appointment at the Woburn facility for a private consultation and fitting. Fitters ask what you need and inspect the post-surgery area(s) to ensure that there’s no swelling or leakage that will alter the fitting results. After reviewing the bra options, you’ll be fit and measured based on either your natural breast, in the case of a single mastectomy, or your desired size, in the case of a double mastectomy without (or prior to) reconstructive surgery.
From there, breast prostheses are selected or measurements are taken for a custom breast form. The Lady Grace bras have special pockets that the prostheses fit into, although you can use the forms with regular bras as well.
Bras range from $35–$53 dollars and prostheses range from $320–$360 each, retail. Most insurance options cover a portion of the cost. Lady Grace also offers camisoles, swimwear, and compression products. Whatever isn’t available in store can be ordered and shipped directly to your house.
Look Good Feel Better
The non-medical public service program Look Good Feel Better teaches cancer patients beauty techniques to manage appearance-related side effects of treatment. The international program hosts small-group workshops in hospitals around Boston so cancer survivors can regain their sparkle. Look Good Feel Better workshops are free and attendees go home with a kit of products to get them started.
Lana Shnayder, the aesthetician who owns Superior Skin in Wellesley, has been volunteering for the program for five years. “I am a breast cancer survivor myself, so I wanted to do something special with my experience,” Shnayder tells Exhale. “My aesthetic background helps me take it one step further.” She says hydration is key for cancer patients because chemotherapy really dehydrates the skin. Though Look Good Feel Better doesn’t promote specific brands, Shnayder independently recommends the Glo Calm Skin Set ($46) to her Superior Skin clients. She also encourages lots of sunscreen protection.
As a certified oncology aesthetician, Shnayder also offers one-on-one consultations at Superior Skin for patients looking for a more private experience. Shnayder says, “Going through the cancer experience is so devastating, the beauty helps to build confidence back.”