It's a hard enough journey being diagnosed with cancer, but for many women the side effects of treatments such as chemotherapy leave them feeling miserable and wanting to hide away from the world.

A programme called Look Good Feel Better aims to give Kiwi cancer patients a confidence boost.

Twenty women attended a session in Auckland yesterday, during which they were given a free makeover and advice on skin care, makeup, hair loss and wigs and hair accessories.

At the session was 68-year-old Filita'a Fuamata, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in March and has undergone several rounds of treatment.

"It's good to be with other ladies here, it brings me up," said the retired caregiver. "It's nice to get into things instead of hiding and feeling sorry for yourself. I'm so glad I came out today."

Carolyn Parris, 51, also attended the workshop.

"I'm losing my eyebrows and eyelashes so it's quite nice to see what they can do about that and make you feel better," she said. "It's actually quite inspiring seeing everybody here all in the same boat."

Eighty-year-old Joan Swift, who is a volunteer with the programme, said the aim was to help women feel good about themselves while they are going through a rough time in their lives.

"Looking good on the outside helps with feeling good on the inside."

Workshop tutor Lesley Rees, who has been working with the programme for 16 years, said: "Many of the ladies here don't wear makeup and we're teaching them from scratch. It's really rewarding.

"It's like watching a flower open. At the start they're quite shy, they're not sure about makeup, but suddenly they're sitting up straighter and they just want to show themselves off. They're talking to their neighbour and looking across the room at each other you can just see a huge difference in confidence."

Look Good Feel Better began in New Zealand in 1991. The pampering programme has about 680 volunteers in 23 locations from Paihia to Invercargill and is part of a worldwide programme that operates in 21 countries.

By Antonia Anderson