Cait Kiernan, Beauty Expert & Author of Pretty Sick: The Beauty Guide for Women with Cancer

on her new book, cancer battle & glam squad support system 


I first met Cait about ten years ago when I was a beauty editor at Cosmopolitan magazine.  At the time she was a beauty editor at Life & Style, and I looked up to her as she seemed to have it all figured out.  She's always been supportive of my freelance career and I'm incredibly proud of what she's accomplished during the past few years.  Now a cancer survivor, Cait utilized her relationships in beauty and personal experience to help others fight their battles while looking and feeling their best by writing "Pretty Sick: The Beauty Guide for Women with Cancer."  At her book launch party, she said, "This was never about me writing a book.  This was about me wanting to help others."  And that's exactly the type of person Cait is – selfless.  Here, she speaks to her journey and gives valuable life advice.

If you were to begin each day with a mantra, what would it be and why?

I do actually! It's one I started when I was in chemotherapy. This is it: "Today is an opportunity. Spread love. Show kindness. Be grateful."


Congratulations on your book, “Pretty Sick: The Beauty Guide for Women with Cancer.”  I love how you found a way to help others through your personal battle.  At what point during your treatment did you decide to write this?

I called on a lot of the experts I used to interview for the magazine to help me navigate the side of effects of my treatment - derms, hairstylists, nutritionists, manicurists, you name it. Toward the end of my treatment, I still looked like my healthy normal self that people used to tell me that they didn’t know I was sick. That’s when I decided to put all the best tips I got into a book. Pretty Sick is my way of paying it forward all the blessings I had during my illness to help other women who will be diagnosed after me.

You write, “They say there are more important things in life than beauty and fashion, but I’m here to tell you that they are just as important – if not more – when you’re sick.”   How did beauty play a powerful role in your recovery?

It reminded me of the girl I was before cancer – and who I wanted to be after I was done kicking its ass. The makeup in my bag reminded me that I should show up for my life because I was still living. You lose a lot of who you are when you are fighting cancer. All the things that identified who I was as a woman, I lost when I got sick. First hair starts falling out, then you lose your breasts, then your nails start peeling…the side effects strip you of your identity. Applying makeup, wearing my favorite fragrance, splashing a yummy body oil all over my body – these are the things that made me feel comfortable in my own skin before cancer - and they really helped remind me of who I was during it.

Which beauty experts were your go-tos in helping to navigate your new regimen and lifestyle?

Hairstylist: Ted Gibson. Dermatologists: Dr. Doris Day, Dr. Heidi Waldorf and Dr. Josh Zeichner (although he isn’t in the book).  Manicurist: Elle Gerstein. Dentist: Dr. Brian Kantor. Former Housewife of New York and owner of V-Spot: Cindy Barshop. Makeup artists: Ramy Gafni and Sonia Kashuk.

It reminded me of the girl I was before cancer – and who I wanted to be after I was done kicking its ass.

What were you most surprised to learn throughout this journey?

That challenges in life are really opportunities to grow both emotionally and physically. Halfway through treatment, I had this question that kept nagging me. It was: “Now that you have a second chance at life, what are you going to do differently? How are you going to emerge from this cancer journey a stronger, smarter, more grateful person?” That’s when I decided to start pursuing happiness. I made a lot of radical changes – quit a good, yet unfulfilling job, broke up with a long-term boyfriend and started working on myself. Life has never been the same but it’s never been better.

What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten during this time and who was it from?

Dr. Mindy Greenstein, psycho-oncologist, clinical psychologist and consultant to the psychiatry department at Memorial Sloan Kettering – and also a breast cancer survivor – told me “While your alive – live!  Find what makes you happy and do it often!”

What advice would you give to those beginning a cancer battle?

This is only temporary. Yes, this is going to suck, but there will be an end. Stay focused, stay engaged and show up for your life.

Beauty is ______.

Democratic.  That’s why I love it so much. I might not be able to afford Beyonce’s new Gucci bag. But I CAN recreate her sexy smoky eye with inexpensive products and look every bit as good as her. Beauty is inspirational, aspirational and accessible to all!