Stephanie Stein
Einstein Untold: Unsung Heroes and Unknown Stories

Her Makeup ‘Hobby’ Helps Patients Affirm Gender or Recover Skills

By on 06/27/2022

One in an ongoing series

Stephanie Stein has always loved skin care and face makeup. She regularly comes to work at MossRehab wearing vivid eye shadows and glitter. It’s a colorful contrast to the serious work she does helping patients who’ve had strokes or traumatic brain injury relearn basic life skills.

“Makeup is my hobby,” says Stein, an occupational therapist and team leader at MossRehab Drucker Brain Injury Center. “It’s definitely a change of pace from what I do.”

But who would have thought Stein’s hobby would one day enhance the lives of patients with physical disabilities, and also members of the LGBTQ+ community?

Stein, MS, OTR/L, co-founded an unique makeup skills therapy program – called Groom, Glow and Grow – with her colleague, Rebecca Carpino, MSW, a social worker and medical management coordinator for MossRehab’s inpatient Stroke Program.

The program helps patients at MossRehab learn grooming rituals that accommodate physical disabilities caused by stroke or other brain injuries. It also provides makeup instruction, in coordination with the Einstein Pride Program, to members of the LGBTQ+ community who want to learn the beauty and skin care practices to best affirm their gender.

While the use of makeup may sound like a frivolous pursuit to individuals who are otherwise confronting daunting challenges, Stein believes it can be important for those seeking to regain their self-image or adapt to a new one.

“From what I’ve experienced from people who are hospitalized, there’s an impaired body image and perception of self,” she says. “They are focused on how they look different. There is a feeling of loss.

“Grooming is in the occupational therapy framework,” she says, since OT entails helping people relearn to do everyday tasks. “And when you (gender) transition, you may want to learn a whole new grooming routine,” Stein says. “It’s a perfect space for occupational therapy to grow into.”

And while there may be voluminous information available on the internet for LGBTQ+ individuals, Stein says, “you’re inundated with information. Where do you find an affirming and safe space to ask questions?”

Such as: What skin care products work the best during hormonal therapy? How to apply subtle makeup or a more fun, dramatic look? Those are among the topics that have been or will be addressed in online sessions.

Stein and Carpino, colleagues who became friends during Carpino’s treatment for cancer, share a love of makeup. It inspired them to offer “makeovers” to campers at “Camp Independence,” a recreational retreat for adults with physical disabilities run by MossRehab.

The makeovers were so popular that Stein and Carpino applied for, and received, an Albert Einstein Society Innovative Program Foundation grant to provide the sessions to MossRehab inpatients to enable them to apply makeup in a way that accommodates their physical disabilities. Then the program expanded to include the Pride community.

They are both free-lance makeup artists – Stein works fashion shows and Carpino works weddings and special events – who have haunted the aisles of makeup trade shows in New York City together for years.

Their familiarity with vendors worked in their favor when they solicited cosmetic companies for donations and support to supplement the grant. Two popular global cosmetic companies, Danessa Myricks Beauty and Makeup Forever, donated hundreds of products to the program.

Stein says makeup is her only hobby now that she has two small children. Indeed, her 5-year-old daughter picks out her eye makeup every day for her to wear to work.

“It’s always five shades of pink and three shades of blue. And three glitters. She likes seeing how I make it work,” she says.

She’s gratified that she’s made it all work as well, for rehab inpatients and LGBTQ+ individuals, through Groom, Glow and Grow.

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