Mississippi esthetician uses self-care for cancer patients

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Okolona, Miss., native Coralis Collins, who was inspired to become a esthetician after seeing the damage chemotherapy and other cancer treatments had on her father's skin, poses for a photo. She said she believes skin care is necessary for both physical and mental health. (Adam Robison/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal via AP)

Okolona, Miss., native Coralis Collins, who was inspired to become a esthetician after seeing the damage chemotherapy and other cancer treatments had on her father’s skin, poses for a photo. She said she believes skin care is necessary for both physical and mental health. (Adam Robison/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal via AP)

AP

Coralis Collins, 28, of Countered Esthetics believes self-care is a mental and physical need.

The Okolona native has been a licensed esthetician for three years. She found her passion for using esthetics as a treatment for cancer patients.

Collins views skin care as science. She attended Fort Valley State in Georgia with a degree in biology. After graduating in 2014, finding a job in her field proved difficult. She originally wanted to be a pharmacist, then a doctor. She moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, to work in a pharmaceutical company, but moved back home after losing her job.

“I was trying to really find something to make ends meet, and it seemed like the only thing I could get was a factory job,” Collins said.

She worked a lot of overtime to make up for what she needed. When her cousin in Indiana left her nursing job to start doing lash extensions, Collins decided to take a big, possibly financially disastrous chance and attend her class.

“I took my last $500 check, my last little check, and I went and took a class on how to do lash extensions,” Collins said.

After that first class, Collins aimed to earn her esthetician license from Amory Cosmetology Academy. She balanced school and work, and while her initial love was lash extensions, she eventually began to like box waxes, facials, and the other treatments.

Collins was searching for a way to return to the medical field when she discovered Oncology Spa Solutions, a training program teaching how to modify skin care and treatment for cancer patients. The treatment was a way to get her foot in the door, she said. Her motivation was her father, who died because of colon cancer.

“My dad had cancer, and I just remember how dry his skin was. (I wondered): Do estheticians work with cancer patients?” Collins said.

She quickly learned that many patients were not prepared for the affect radiation would have on their skin or that there’s help for it. Oncology Spa Solutions taught her how to modify facial treatments for people receiving cancer treatments, what products are good for patients’ skin and how to pretreat skin for chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Patients she treats must bring a form showing they received clearance from their doctor. Collins tries to begin treatments at least two weeks prior to when the patient receives chemotherapy and radiation therapy to help build up their moisture balance to alleviate radiation burns and extra dryness.

Collins treated her first patient in 2020. His story touched her heart because, like her dad, the patient had colon cancer and also struggled with really dry legs.

“They were telling me they just really wish they had some lotion, like a good moisturizer, and that would help them feel better and relieve some of that irritation that they were feeling,” she said.

Collins used a moisturizer that could penetrate the skin deeper. After cleansing his skin, she provided a light massage and patted the moisturizer in.

“When we finished, he said his skin never felt so great, and he was really happy because he said he had tried everything,” Collins said.

She believes when people look good, they feel good. Part of her job is helping people take their minds off cancer and treatment, to give them a little relief. She knows many clients who are moms, and said for some, that’s their only time they have for themselves. Her goal is to have everyone who leaves her table feeling inspired and providing a relaxing environment for the people and patients she sees.

“To lay on my table, to vent, or for me to hear about what exciting news they have going on in their lives, that always makes me happy. It motivates me to keep doing what I do,” Collins said.

Collins currently attends Amory Cosmetology Academy as a student instructor. She plans to one day have her own program offering day, night and evening classes so more people can attend. She wants to open her own body waxing spa and has already begun preparing for it. She also creates her own wax products and kits, including a hard wax that is beginner and student friendly.

“(The pandemic) made me become more innovative,” she said. “I had to think of different ways of what I can do for other people and how I can help people.”

Collins hopes to make more doctors aware of esthetics as a treatment for patients and talking to them about what they can do to prepare their skin. She wants to raise awareness for the importance of self care.

“It’s OK to treat yourself every now and then,” she said. “That’s perfectly fine. You need to.”