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Back to Blog Main Page Makeup is Therapeutic at MossRehab
By: Jean Carl

Inside MossRehab

Apr 26 2022

MossRehab occupational therapists assisting a patient with putting on makeup.

MossRehab is putting a new face on occupational therapy by offering a makeup skills therapy program to its inpatients at Elkins Park.

Entitled Groom, Glow, and Grow (GGG), the fun and therapeutic grooming sessions assist patients who have an acute or chronic injury to independently apply makeup within the constraints of their impairments. The program, which began in September 2021, also supports the Einstein Pride Program in providing virtual skincare, shaving, and makeup education tailored to the needs of the LGBTQIA+ population.

The brainchild of Stephanie Stein, MS, OTR/L, occupational therapist and team leader at the MossRehab Drucker Brain Injury Center, and Rebecca Carpino, MSW, social worker and medical management coordinator at MossRehab, the program idea developed after both did makeup sessions at Camp Independence, a retreat for adults with physical disabilities hosted by MossRehab each year .

"The campers loved having their makeup done and kept making comments about how they wished someone showed them how to do it earlier," says Stein. "Based on their comments, we thought inpatients at MossRehab would enjoy improving their makeup and skincare proficiency within the realms of their physical disabilities. Rebecca and I received a grant through the Albert Einstein Society (which funds creative solutions which serve the community) and now manage the program together."

The pair originally met when working with inpatients at MossRehab Elkins Park and bonded on a love of makeup. Both are freelance makeup artists who work in the tri-state area. Carpino specializes in makeup for weddings and special events, while Stein's passion is runway/editorial makeup.

"I am a two-time cancer survivor. During my treatments, Stephanie and I worked on the same floor. I would put on makeup to enhance my features and patients and staff would ask how I did my makeup," Carpino explains. "That increased my and Stephanie's interest in makeup as a way to support patients as a form of therapy."

Therapeutic Makeup Skills

GGG was originally modeled as a group program. Because of the pandemic, makeup sessions are conducted one-on-one, providing greater individualization of patient care. Stein notes that therapists from different disciplines who work at MossRehab Elkins Park often refer inpatients to the program to relearn makeup application skills in the setting of a new injury to improve grooming independence.

Physicians and neuropsychologists more often refer inpatients to GGG services to improve their mood. Most patients are recovering from stroke, spinal cord, and traumatic brain injuries, but must be able to use one extremity and sustain attention to engage in tasks for at least 15 minutes. 

"We create a laid-back environment with music while teaching makeup skills," explains Stein. "Following an occupational therapist's plan of care, I may instruct a patient with an arm impairment how to apply skincare products and makeup using a non-dominant hand, or create strategies for those with visual impairments or ataxia (loss of muscle control). I tailor instruction based on a patient's condition.

"For instance, I can provide rudimentary instructions for someone with a brain injury where we just use fingers. Any level of participation is therapeutic because patients are learning to use their weak side or sustaining attention."

"In addition to supplementing an occupational therapy session, we help improve patient's mood and self-esteem," notes Carpino.  "After a makeup session, patients feel uplifted and happy with themselves."

 A MossRehab occupational therapist noted one of his patients began wearing a wig rather than a surgical hair net because she felt more comfortable after her GGG session. A neuropsychologist from MossRehab Elkins Park also commented that the mood of her patient improved after attending the makeup class, especially as patients and staff gave her compliments and positive feedback. 

"The MossRehab clinicians are very supportive of the program and patients are very receptive," notes Carpino. GGG has completed 35 consults with patients from all units at MossRehab Elkins Park, mostly with women, although the program is open to any gender and any age. Makeup style is dependent on patient preference, but most opt for a natural look. One patient did ask for a bolder look with glitter. After makeup sessions, patients are very animated and tend to socialize with other patients and staff. Some take pictures of themselves for posting on social media.

Sarah, a patient who is recovering from a spinal cord injury, noted "doing makeup and feeling good about yourself in the hospital is important when you go through the toughest time of your life." Another patient, Randy, who experienced a traumatic brain injury, says "you can tell MossRehab cares about their patients by supporting a group like this."

Supporting the LBGTQIA+ Community

GGG also conducts virtual educational sessions for the Einstein Pride Program in coordination with Eliza Cornwell, MSW, Pride Program Social Worker and Patient Navigator. The Einstein Pride Program in Philadelphia offers the LBGTQIA+ community a full scope of services for their healthcare needs including gender-affirming hormone treatment, HIV care, affirming OBGYN service, trans care, mental health services, and more. Current and past patients who received care through the Einstein Healthcare Network are welcome to attend.

Every other month, a remote program is conducted online in the evening. The first two focused on “Introduction to Basic Makeup Techniques” and “Skin Care During Hormonal Therapy.”  “Someone transitioning to another gender is faced with a different grooming routine,” notes Stein. “In one session, we presented education on skincare when going through hormonal therapy in coordination with Hussein Safa, MD, (attending physician in the Immunodeficiency Center and medical director of the Pride Program).”

“We are working with an occupational therapist from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) who is going to do a demonstration on basic makeup application and then a more dramatic drag look,” says Carpino.

In addition to having plans to expand the program to other patient populations, Stein and Carpino continue to look for sponsors and donors. Two staff members whose family members work for Estee Lauder have donated hundreds of dollars in products. In addition, GGG is working with the beauty brand MakeUp Forever to donate supplies and provide makeup consultations.  

"The company, like other makeup companies that I met during the Makeup Show in New York City, said they didn't realize makeup could be used in an altruistic way," says Stein. "We currently are in the planning stages of working with MakeUp Forever. It's validation that a hospital program in Philadelphia can attract the support of a global beauty industry leader."

GGG is the first makeup program - at least in the tri-state area - focused on the care of inpatients with all levels of acute and chronic illness, as well as the LBGTQIA+ community. "We want GGG to allow patients an opportunity to become engaged in an activity, despite their physical and cognitive challenges, that can lift their mood and help them feel their best," says Stein

Want to be a makeup sponsor for Groom, Glow, and Grow?  Visit the Einstein Pride Program.   

Inside MossRehab

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