STYLE

Women In Business: Why Jennifer Young Created A Skincare Range And Blog For Women With Cancer

20/03/2015 15:57 GMT | Updated 30/03/2015 17:00 BST

When a woman is diagnosed with cancer, she doesn't stop being a woman.

She may be exhausted from treatment or worried about her future, but that doesn't mean she doesn't want to pamper herself and feel like a normal person.

Unfortunately, regular beauty products can often be a no-go for women with cancer, due to the effects treatment can have on their skin.

That's where Jennifer Young comes in.

The 45-year-old from Cheshire turned her back on a successful corporate career to retrain in the field of skincare.

Much to her own surprise, she ended up creating a range of skincare products for people with cancer after meeting a group of truly inspirational women.

The range, Defiant Beauty, was just the start. She's now the editor of popular blog Beauty Despite Cancer, where women who have been affected by the disease can share their stories and find support.

jennifer young

You used to run a global consultancy firm, why did you leave the corporate world behind?

I used to work in the field of occupational health, helping managers to look after those that work for them in high risk environments.

When I started the consultancy business it became very busy, very quickly and that wasn’t what I wanted to happen. I wanted to control the hours I was working so I could spend more time with my three children.

I became quite poorly with a chest infection, to the extent that a GP who came to see me called 999.

A friend came to see me while I was unwell and bought me some eucalyptus oil. Somehow, I made the connection between essential oils and their therapeutic benefit.

There are few skincare products that focus on therapeutic wellbeing, so I decided to develop a bespoke range called Jennifer Young.

Where did the idea for Defiant Beauty come from?

During the process of developing the Jennifer Young range, our local hospital contacted me to ask if I had anything for cancer patients. I didn’t, because I didn’t realise the challenges they faced with their skin, so I visited the hospital.

It became very clear when I stepped onto that chemo ward for the first time that there was a group of people whose needs hadn’t changed fundamentally, but so few of the things that they wanted to access as a woman after diagnosis weren't available to them.

Their skin couldn't tolerate their usual skincare products but their desire was still the same - to look and feel fabulous.

I realised there was nowhere for these ladies to go to for information and products, and worked with the hospital to create a solution.

How does Defiant Beauty differ from other skincare ranges?

While attacking a tumour, a lot of chemotherapy regimes will also attack skin, nails and hair.

Skin changes remarkably during treatment, it becomes much more sensitive and very reactive. At times, it can hurt when a person gets into a bath of warm water if they have recently had treatment.

Nurses and patients on the ward told me what they wanted from the new skincare products.

They wanted them to be natural and they wanted them to be effective against their new skin conditions - that's what I aimed to create.

defiant beauty

Why did you create the Beauty Despite Cancer blog?

As the business grew and I met more patients, it became very clear that there were a huge number of people who were doing fantastic work for people with cancer - from making wigs to running support groups - but they were all working as individuals, and didn’t have a huge online presence.

I’m a great believer in strength in collaboration, so I asked 30 people if they could provide me with approximately 1,000 words a month to make Beauty Despite Cancer its own entity.

They all said yes, and I thought 'how on earth am I going to manage this?' But it was fantastic and just grew from there.

What is your day to day routine now like?

I’m awake by about 6 o’clock, either because the children or my husband, Martin, has woken me up - it’s not usually by choice.

If the children are awake, I’ll spend some time with them before school but if not, I’ll check my emails in bed. I’m also writing a book at the moment, so then I might do some editing.

Then, I'll take my youngest to junior school before going for a run with the dog.

The rest of my day could be spent on anything from product development with my team to speaking at a conference.

At about 3.30pm I suspend work to pick the kids up and take them to after school clubs. I’ll come back to the house and cook for the family, before hopefully finding time for a yoga class.

When I get back, I'll catch up on anything I've missed with work and family and aim to be asleep by about 10.30pm.

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How do you maintain work-life balance?

My family is hugely important to me. They are the driver and they are the reason we shifted work in our family. I try and be with my children as much as possible.

We’ll try and do things at the weekend that’s completely different from work and focus on new experiences, rather than things.

Last time it was half term, we had bizarre outings, such as going to play with meerkats!

What's the best thing about your job?

My favourite days at work are the ones when I can make a difference.

I am lucky enough to work with all kinds of folk who have been through cancer and every day I speak to even more as we have a freephone appearance advice line. I answer the skin and beauty queries.

The most memorable call was from Emma. Emma was diagnosed when she was newly pregnant and, despite a poor prognosis, both mum and baby were doing well when Emma called me about a year after her diagnosis.

Emma's treatment was taking it's toll on her skin, particularly on her hands and feet. The area around her nails was very sore - she was unable to fasten her daughter's baby grows without pain.

When I saw the pictures that Emma later sent to me, I could understand why and was determined to do all I could to help.

I sent her some of our Defiant Beauty Hand Balm, Cleanse and Moisturise and a special balm that I formulated specifically for her. I used the images she provided as I guide to formulate 'Emma's Miracle Balm'.

Soon after, she sent me some more pictures of her hands and feet. Baby grow fastening was no longer a problem.

What have you learnt from the women that you work with?

Life is about focus, not on getting a task done, but on recognising your priorities and taking real joy from them.

Before I went onto the chemo ward for the first time, there was no way I would have imagined working in the area of cancer. I’d imagined it to be grey and full of things that would hurt me emotionally.

But actually, it’s completely the opposite. The women are full of love, light, determination and gratitude and the ward is just the most amazing place to be.

My job teaches me so much about life at every moment.

The Henna Heals Project Helping Women With Cancer