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ARgENTUM and the Cotton Rooms ~ where skincare meets patient care

ARgENTUM and the Cotton Rooms ~ where skincare meets patient care

In 2020, just as the world became aware that a novel virus was spreading, ARgENTUM’s founder, Joy Isaacs, found herself quarantined in a hospital for another reason. Her newly-born son was premature, and like many people with health concerns of their own or with loved ones needing vital care unrelated to COVID-19, it was a particularly uncertain and stressful time. Initially, PPE was not mandatory, but as the protocols for face-mask-wearing and handwashing came into play, it became apparent that frontline staff’s skin was suffering. The skin on their hands and faces was cracking and chafing; for some, skin conditions they could usually keep in check were flaring up.

Joy felt infinitely grateful to the Great Ormond Street Hospital and St Mary’s Hospital Paddington staff for supporting her and her baby at that difficult time and wanted to give something back that made them feel equally looked after. ARgENTUM quickly donated £1,000,000 worth of la potion infinie to those medical teams. It’s a cream that supports the microbiome by strengthening the skin barrier and offers a real moment of self-care, whether used on faces or hands. Such a face cream may feel like an indulgence, but the power of touch is in its ability to support the healing process and to connect with ourselves no matter the challenges we each face in our own lives.

Skin is also our largest organ ~ it works hard whether we’re awake or asleep, providing protection from environmental stressors, getting rid of toxins through sweat, and constantly regenerating itself. When we’re unwell, these processes don’t always work well, and it can begin to show in our skin. This can affect us emotionally and physically, which is why caring for ourselves can start with the skin but goes so much deeper.

ARgENTUM wanted to continue supporting the broader staff at UCL Hospital (of which Great Ormond Street is part) beyond the pandemic. It became apparent that ARgENTUM could lend a hand by helping cancer patients feel welcome while staying at The Cotton Rooms. The Cotton Rooms is where patients stay while undergoing chemotherapy with UCLH. It’s neither a hospital nor a hotel ~ it’s a place where patients feel cared for and safe and spend time recuperating in the way that best suits them. For some people, that means being sociable and talking about their experiences in the lounge; for others, that means being able to take a walk on Tottenham Court Road or to Regent’s Park, both of which are on the doorstep. It almost certainly means some time alone when having a small routine can be helpful.

To support this, we created self-care packages containing nourishing cleansing balm, face cream, and facial oil sachets. It’s a relatively small gesture, but one which we hope offers kindness, a moment of reflection, and a sense of being seen when patients see the words “with love” placed in their hands.


Tomorrow is another day.

"The Cotton Rooms. That’s what the unassuming sign says by the door just off Tottenham Court Road. The name feels comforting; it makes me think of freshly laundered sheets. Being so close to the centre of London, I worried it might feel too busy, too hectic, but once we’re in the lift going up to the patient hotel, it feels like a magic entrance to somewhere calm and safe. The greeting on our arrival makes me feel “normal” for a moment ~ I could almost forget why I’m here. Chemotherapy. An exhausting but necessary treatment to help me heal this body. Sometimes, the kindness of strangers brings tears to my eyes. It’s hard not to cry at almost anything at the moment. But I return the warm smile I’ve been shown, and the hand that squeezes my arm lets me know that I will be looked after, even at my lowest ebb.

The room feels like a high-end hotel. Clean, comfortable, fluffy white towels and neatly tucked, smooth bed sheets. Next to the bedside is an emergency call system ~ reception is just a button press away, and I feel reassured with the hospital so close. I wanted to feel independent and wanted my partner to be with me rather than only having him as a visitor. He sits on the end of the bed, watching me and smiling. This was the right decision. He asks how I feel, and I say that I would like to explore. I love to walk, which is why I didn’t want to be an in-patient. He takes my hand, and we walk back out to the corridor. We pass the lounge where I will come to spend many mornings chatting over tea and coffee and afternoons curled up with a book.

As we step out amongst the hustle and bustle, I feel a little like I’m inside a movie. It soothes me to see people going about their day ~ life goes on, and that’s a good thing, even when I’ve felt like life might be falling apart for me. Although I feel like stopping people in their tracks ~ telling the man with the furrowed brow not to worry so much, and the girl running in high heels to please take care. We don’t know how lucky we are to have our health until it’s compromised. Sometimes, I wish someone had told me to slow down, but I know I can do that myself. I’ve developed a more caring inner voice that’s made me realise how hard I can be on myself. So often, we’re our own biggest enemy.

I’d like to walk to Regent’s Park if we can ~ I don’t think I’ll be strong enough to do it in the coming days. I have visions of Queen Mary’s Rose Garden, the sweet smell of roses with whimsical names like Ingrid Bergman, Nostalgia, All My Loving, The Herbalist, and Perception. Over 100 varieties of roses are planted there, some large with velvety petals, others smaller but no less redolent with scent. My partner notices that I’m flagging, puts his arm around me and suggests we head back for a sit-down and a warm drink. He knows me better than I do, I agree, knowing I’ll take these steps on another day.

Later that night, as I lie in the soft bed in the dark, my partner breathing softly in slumber beside me, my brain is whirring with thoughts about tomorrow, the next few days, and the weeks ahead. I feel the sheets clean and crisp against my skin as my mind slows, my eyelids begin to feel heavy, and my thoughts quiet down (surprisingly, thankfully, it’s quiet and peaceful here). A gentle inner voice rises from deep in my consciousness… Tomorrow is another day, and when it comes to any fears about the future ~ well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Cotton Rooms Resident