Founder’s Story: Jennifer Young from Beauty Despite Cancer

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we want to introduce Jennifer Young, the founder of Beauty Despite Cancer and Defiant Beauty, the skincare line that’s made for women living with cancer.

Jennifer Young is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to skincare, with a background in microbiology and qualifications in aromatherapy, beauty therapy, nutritional therapy and product formulation. When she was asked by her local NHS hospital to create a skincare line for cancer patients, she delved deep into the needs of women living with cancer. While the most talked about side effects of cancer treatment are hair loss, nausea and fatigue, she discovered that many of the women’s needs lay in their skincare, hair and nails too. Here she shares her journey to creating Defiant Beauty.

Can you tell us how you started Defiant Beauty?

When I was first asked to develop this skincare line, I didn’t know much about the side-effects of chemotherapy or radiotherapy on the skin, hair and nails. After speaking to and listening to patients, survivors and cancer specialists, I realised there are lots of things that women aren’t told about the side effects of cancer treatments. I took advice from lead nursing staff about the ingredients I shouldn’t be using, spent a lot of time researching and doing trials of the products.

Why did you create Defiant Beauty?

People affected by cancer are generally ignored by the beauty industry – after removing all the ingredients that they can’t use (which is found in most mainstream beauty products), there’s not much they can use. And after all, women don’t stop being women when they’re diagnosed with cancer – it’s important for them to still look and feel beautiful. Most cancer patients do not want to look like cancer patients, they want their appearance to remain the same.

What are the kind of things in beauty and skincare that women living with cancer have to take into consideration that would be different from their usual regime?

The bad side effects come from cancer treatments, not cancer itself. Not only do patients lose their hair, but their skin can also become incredibly sore, itchy and sensitive so a lot of their old skincare products would be too harsh for them. Certain ingredients should be avoided too, for example we don’t use plant oestrogens in the range as some cancers are fed by oestrogens – therefore ingredients like aloe vera, avocado and soy are not added. Plus, everything has to be fragrance-free and natural.

Can you tell us more about the Defiant Beauty range?

These products are 100% natural and safe-to-use with minimal processing, and all fragrance-free. I’ve thought about everything, from using glass bottles and jars to minimise the chance of contamination or cross infection, to the formulation being mostly oil-based as when water is introduced to a product, preservatives are needed. I’ve included only the best and necessary ingredients to help soothe, moisturise and repair skin that’s been affected by cancer treatments.

Why should women living with cancer buy products for the scalp?

A lot of women experience discomfort and irritation with their scalp which can be prone to breakouts and become itchy, sore and tight under head coverings. It’s just as important to take care of your skin on the scalp like the rest of your skin on the face or body. Introducing a scalp routine can help to soothe and improve the skin’s condition.

Meet the Defiant Beauty scalp range…

Raw Shea Butter, £12: I created this super-moisturising shea butter as the scalp can become incredible itchy and sore after cancer treatment. This is totally raw and unrefined, and rich in vitamins A and E, plus provides UV protection so your scalp is comfortable and soothed at all times.

Dry Scalp Treatment, £20: This skin-calming balm relieves the scalp from ay irritation. It’s a great multi-tasking product, which can be used as a moisturiser, a cleanser or a mask to nourish and revitalise the scalp.

Scalp Care Oil, £30: There are lots of luxurious facial oils out there that cancer patients cannot use. I want women living with cancer to feel like they still have access to beautiful skincare, and this oil has lots of antibacterial oils such as tea tree and rosehip to help reduce any feelings of discomfort on the scalp.

Scalp Cleansing Spritz, £20: Scalps can feel hot and uncomfortable under head coverings all day which is why I created this cooling and cleansing mist. It’s packed with anti-bacterial ingredients such as witch hazel and tea tree that leaves a soothing sensation on the skin.