Strength in Beauty

A One-on-One Discussion with Good Housekeeping Beauty Director, April Franzino

Photo Credit: Davis Factor. Shown above (from left to right): Gina Franzino (sister), Jamie Franzino (sister), Debbie Franzino (mother, breast cancer survivor), Nancy Schempp (mother and grandmother), Stephanie Schempp-Steinsdorfer (aunt, breast cancer survivor), April Franzino (Good Housekeeping Beauty Director)


Screen Shot 2016-12-07 at 12.12.20 PMPhoto Credit: Smashbox

April Franzino is the Beauty Director at Good Housekeeping.  She is responsible for all things beauty at the magazine—producing, pitching, reporting,
writing, editing, and market work—which all culminates with the magazine’s yearly Beauty Awards specials. April believes in the power of a bold lipstick and a big smile. Each page she oversees guarantees readers up-to-date info on latest in trends as well as tested beauty innovations from Good Housekeeping Institute’s famed Beauty Lab. She also represents the magazine on television, having appeared on NBC New York Live and PIX11 News.

When not happily engrossed in all things beauty, April can be found with the people she loves, reading, spending time outdoors, eating good food, baking, and listening to music—especially live.  

Like so many men and women around the world, breast cancer has affected you and your loved ones personally. Can you tell us about your connection to the disease, what those experiences have been like supporting women you care so much about? How has all of your family supporting one another been such a strong part of everyone coming together in strength to rally around each other?

AF: “My mother, Debbie Franzino, and her sister, my aunt Stephanie Schempp-Steinsdorfer, are both breast cancer survivors that were diagnosed under the age of 50. My aunt’s treatment was a lumpectomy and radiation; my mom’s, a double mastectomy. Two of my great-grandmother’s battled breast cancer as well. This is a disease that touches nearly everyone in some way, and gives us all the opportunity to provide those fighting it with unconditional love, support, and encouragement. I’m not sure you realize the depth of your love for someone until they face a challenge like this; it really pushes your love to another level and your willingness to do whatever it takes to be there for them. That’s the beauty in the face of something so destructive.”

As someone who’s been touched by this disease, what were some of the ways that you felt it was important to offer support?

AF: “The most important thing I could do was make sure they knew I was there for them in the ways they wanted and needed me to be. Everyone deals with a life-changing obstacle like this in a different way, so it’s key that you make yourself available for what the person needs individually—whether that’s someone to talk to and words of support, kind gestures and expressions of love, help with day-to-day tasks, accompanying to appointments or spending time with them in the hospital, or any number of needs that come up during this journey—rather than what’s customary or you think is best. The best way to find out what support they need and want? Ask!”

As an expert in the beauty space, what’s your favorite tip for when someone may be looking for a pick-me-up?

AF: “Nothing surpasses the power of touch—treating yourself to a pampering massage or facial can have transformative healing and feel-good benefits. If that’s out of your budget, consider asking a friend or relative to give you one! Oh, and a swipe of bright lipstick never hurts for making you feel like you can conquer anything— even if underneath you’re sick, tired, rundown, or all of the above.”

Are there any beauty tips that you might have for someone undergoing cancer treatment based on what you have seen in your connection to so many women and Good Housekeeping readers?

AF: “I turned to my mother and aunt for their tips, since we constantly share beauty knowledge and they’ve experienced cancer treatment firsthand. Stephanie says, “My advice for women undergoing treatment that does not involve losing their hair is to wash it once or twice per week, dry it to a desired style that will be easy to manage throughout the week (or splurge on a blowout if you’re able), and use a dry shampoo on roots in between to keep it looking fresh. It made my life so much easier not having to worry about my hair, and it always looked nice when going to the doctor. For makeup, I kept it to four products: a quick cover of foundation to even out my skin tone, a little blush, mascara, and tinted gloss—it took no more than five minutes to apply and made me feel put together each day in no time.” Debbie echoes the importance of using beauty to boost your self-esteem during treatment. “Taking the time to make yourself look good helps lift your mood, because regardless of how you feel physically, or think your changing body looks, you’re reminded that you’re beautiful inside and out,” she says.”

How do you define beauty?

AF: “Beauty is so many things and so much more intangible than appearance. It’s not something you can acquire from being born a certain way, applying a product, or anywhere else—it comes from your heart, your mind, and sense of self. There is nothing more beautiful than someone who loves, gives, and respects herself and other people. Real beauty and grace comes through in their eyes, in their smile, and in everything they do.”

One of the central themes of this year’s BCA Campaign is the notion of inspiration. Where do you find inspiration in both your personal and professional life?

AF: “I am inspired every single day by all the strong, powerful, accomplished, brilliant women I am privileged enough to be surrounded by—my friends, family, coworkers, even strangers. I am constantly in awe of how they meld intelligence, generosity, creativity, love, care, passion, and so much more to change the world in ways big and small.”

Are there any beauty regimens that the women in your family swear by? Was there anything in particular that changed when going through diagnosis and treatment?

AF: “We all swear by, first, never sleeping in makeup and second, being religious about our beauty routines every day—especially skincare. “I’m crazy about moisturizing—I always moisturize well before makeup and use hydrating makeup formulas,” Stephanie says. “Exfoliating is a must, too, at least two times per week.” Debbie emphasizes that consistency is key: “We are all huge users of serums and moisturizers as well as sunscreen—some great formulas combine all three, like CC creams.” As for changes during breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, Stephanie says, “The treatments can dry out your skin, so I moisturized my face and body constantly. The best thing I used during treatment was 100% pure aloe. It prevented bad burns and protected my skin, as well as hydrated it. I applied it three times per day and immediately after radiation treatment.” Debbie agrees: “It’s important to keep the skin near your treatment area hydrated, so it can heal and stretch to accommodate any possible reconstruction. I never took using moisturizers very seriously until after I had surgery, but now I diligently apply one from head to toe twice a day.”

What is the most important lesson you learned through your experience being close to those touched by breast cancer?

AF: “The most important lesson I learned is the one so many of us do in difficult situations like this, where you’re reminded of the fragility of life— that every moment is precious, a privilege that cannot be taken for granted, and nothing is more important than the people you love.”

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