We are delighted to introduce a specialised menu of therapies to our UK spas developed with Jennifer Young, for those living with and beyond cancer. An associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, beauty therapist and innovative product formulator, Jennifer has combined her extensive knowledge and experience to develop the treatments which include a Rejuvenating Facial, Balance Body & Mind Massage, Indulgent Massage, Manicure and Pedicure. We talked to Jennifer to discover how she came to create her own skincare line for cancer patients and what drives her.
‘About 7 years ago my local hospital asked me to create a skincare range for cancer patients. My background was as a scientist; my first degree was in biology, I’ve got a postgraduate degree in occupational health and I’ve got a further post graduate degree in law. I was accepted by the courts as an expert witness and was working in that space which combines health, the environment and law. I was retraining as a massage therapist, aromatherapist, product formulator and beauty therapist. I didn’t know anything about cancer patients or why they would want different products, but I was honoured to be invited and I really like to learn so off I went to the chemo ward.
I absolutely love what I do and I work with the best people. Chemo wards are full of light and love and laughter and determination and camaraderie. That wasn’t my expectation but as soon as I walked onto that ward you could feel it. The lead chemotherapy nurses and radiotherapy nurses and people who’d been or were going through treatment helped me to inform the skincare range. There was this double injustice: nearly half the population aren’t able to access beauty products that suit them at a time when they need them most and they’re being turned away from touch therapies. It was just wrong, it had to change, so I changed it.
We are very much a ‘can do’ organization. People are diagnosed with cancer and they’re given a stack of information, mostly about things they can’t do. I am completely the opposite; the positive will always inform the work that we do. But for all that we’re ‘can do’, there are ingredients that won’t find their way into our products. The major group of ingredients that we don’t use are those natural ingredients that behave like oestrogen and impact hormones. That was the main rule from the nurses: no plant oestrogens. Lots of cancers are fed by oestrogens and they didn’t want their patients covering themselves in plants that have those oestrogenic qualities.
Massage therapists are taught not to touch cancer patients – it’s a contraindication – and I needed to know why, because I’m a scientist so I will always ask questions. I didn’t think the answers were that compelling so I did the research and discovered that most people are taught that if you massage someone who has cancer, you spread that cancer around their body. There is no evidence to support that whatsoever. There’s a lot of evidence to show the good that we will do through touch.
It’s been an absolute joy training the Cowshed therapists. Our training is really intensive, we cover two body treatments, a facial, a manicure and a pedicure. Not only have the therapists trained in the routines, they’ve also learnt about cancer, its definition, its diagnosis, its treatment and side effects, its emotional and physical impact on the client, psychology, consultation, contraindications.
My next goal? Global domination! Perhaps a bit more specifically, I just want that discrimination to stop. It would make me happy if every patient across the globe had access to a specialist product, and that doesn’t have to be mine, it’s more about ending the discrimination so that they can access beauty, they can access holistics and they can have specialist skincare.
One client explained that she felt panicky during radiotherapy, that she couldn’t breathe deeply enough through the mask. Following her massage she said she would remember her Cowshed moment and how relaxed and at ease she felt - that it would help her through her future treatments. That becomes a very good day at work – this is more than a massage.'