Los Altos Hills resident Sarah Zebb has styled hair and makeup for decades locally, and over the years her understanding of who sits in the salon chair has changed.
“Over 30 years doing hair, I lost clients to cancer – some of them going through chemo. I feel like with my job, I’ve got to help somehow,” she said. “For me, working with hair, I see a lot – maybe more than normal people, because I’m in this business.”
Once or twice a month Zebb heads to Stanford Hospital and other treatment centers to give makeovers and teach women trade secrets to coping with skin changes and hair loss.
Zebb went to the Veterans Administration Health Care System’s Palo Alto campus last week to beautify Cindy Dang, a veteran who was getting married while undergoing cancer treatment.
“She served our country, I wanted to make her feel good for her wedding that day – I wanted to do my part for her,” Zebb said.
She volunteers for a program administered by the American Cancer Society, Look Good, Feel Better. In addition to providing haircuts and makeovers, Zebb brings makeup kits to give away and offers tutorials on how to paint over some of the treatment’s pernicious physical effects. To fundraise for the program, offered free to participants, Zebb is harnessing her scissors and blow driers for an event 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday. From her chair at Voila Salon at 221 State St., Zebb will offer haircuts and blow-outs, with all proceeds going to the Look Good, Feel Better program.
“The whole thing is to put a smile on their faces,” she said. “Things like this show community, the support – that we all have to get involved and help. Everybody is touched by this, not just one person.”
Women and men undergoing cancer treatment don’t just shed hair and eyebrows – their skin tone and coloring can change, and days spent at war with their body can affect how they feel about their look. One woman told Zebb that going through chemo treatment itself hadn’t been as bad as losing her hair and eyebrows.
“A lot of these women come in – they don’t even wear makeup, but because they’re going through treatment they want to wear it – it makes them feel better. Self-image and self-esteem is so important for women,” she said.
Participants can experiment with wigs, hats and turbans, pick up tips from other women getting the training and learn advanced eyebrow art. Eyebrows can be a particular sticking point – many women don’t have experience drawing in faux brows, and a hat can’t mask their loss, Zebb said.
Next week’s fundraiser isn’t the first time she’s touched locks in Los Altos with an eye to cancer fundraising – you may have seen her set up outside Starbucks a few months ago, chasing donations with the offer of a bright-pink extension, tied into your hair while you wait.