One of the unfortunate after-effects of excisional surgery is that it often leaves a scar. And, because many skin cancers crop up on parts of the body that are most exposed to the sun, having a carcinoma on the face — and a scar after treatment — is very common.
Fortunately, cosmetics can go a long way to concealing scars, moles, dark sun spots, or the lightened skin that can result from dermatological treatments. In fact, cosmetics can take away much of the self-consciousness following facial surgery by covering post-surgical bruising, puffiness, and scars. They can also aid in concealing non-surgical-related problems such as port wine stains, severe acne scars, or vitiligo.
Cosmetics work in two ways: by using color theory to diminish the appearance of a scar or other defect, or by completely concealing the problem through a layer of foundation or camouflage makeup.
The principle behind color theory is that you can tone down one color by covering it with its opposite shade. Special cosmetics are available in shades that work against common undesirable colors to neutralize them. For example, if you have a scar that has a reddish hue to it, apply a green concealer. For blue or purple discoloration, such as the bruising that can occur after surgery or during cancer treatment, use a yellow concealer. Brown tones can be lessened by white concealers, and yellow tones can be neutralized by lavender concealers.
Creating highlights and shadows via darker and lighter shades of concealer can also help contour a defect: A shade of makeup that is darker than the surrounding skin can appear to reduce the height of a raised scar. A shade that is lighter than the skin around a scar will make a depression look smaller.
Good color-corrective cosmetics are available from several different manufacturers. Some have added sunscreen ingredients, are non-comedogenic, and hypoallergenic. They are available at cosmetic counters, and pharmacies, or by searching for "camouflage cosmetics" online.
Foundation comes in many forms, but its purpose is always the same: to smooth and even out skin's texture and tone. Choosing a foundation should depend on your skin type and the level of opacity needed.
Four basic foundation types are available: oil-based, water-based, oil-free and water-free. Oil-based foundations are better for dry skin, while oil-free work best for oily skin. Water-based foundations generally suit all skin types, and water-free, or anhydrous foundation, is specially formulated to be very opaque and extremely long-lasting, and is used only when complete and total coverage is required.
Your foundation should match your skin tone. Do not try to correct your overall skin tone by using a darker or lighter foundation — the results will look fake, and you could wind up making your scar or other defect look worse. For best results, compare the tint to your skin tone in natural light. Some department store cosmetic companies will custom blend a foundation for you, but regular off-the-shelf foundations are available in dozens of shades and are less expensive.
It is generally believed that the 'dab and blend' technique is the most effective when applying foundation, rather than wiping it on with a sponge. Dab dots of foundation along your cheekbones, forehead, nose and chin, and then blend into the skin with a circular motion using your fingers. Be sure to extend the foundation into the hairline, and an inch below the jawline. If you have chosen a good foundation and blended well, you should not have a visible line of demarcation anywhere on your face. Finish the job by wiping the face in a downward motion with a sponge. This will even out streaks and flatten tiny facial hairs. Allow five minutes for the foundation to set.
For minor imperfections, a regular foundation will usually do the job. But for greater coverage, anhydrous foundations are your best bet. These special foundations, created with a waxy base, are available at drug stores or cosmetic counters. Because of their stiff consistency, they are usually warmed in the hand first to soften them up, and then dabbed on with the fingertips — either to the area that is to be covered, or to the entire face — as you would do any other foundation. Allow five minutes for the foundation to set, and top off with a pressed powder applied with a fluffy brush, if desired. The anhydrous foundations will last around eight hours before needing to be touched up. Because they are waterproof, they will need a special cream to be removed. The cream is usually sold along with the makeup.
The Finishing Touch
Once you have a smooth canvas, so to speak, you can add color via blushers and lipsticks and eyeshadows. You can create the illusion of contours by adding color to the cheekbones or hollows of the face, the nose and forehead, and temples. Finding the techniques that look best can take practice. Visit a cosmetics counter to get tips on to how highlight your best features. However, before considering any type of cosmetics, check with your doctor to make sure the makeup won't interfere with any healing processes.
With a little theory and a little practice, cosmetics can go a long way to help you put your best face forward.