By: Hanah Tetro
Cancer treatments can cause unpleasant and even downright painful skin side effects. In this post, I share some easy skincare tips to make sure your skin stays healthy during cancer treatment. In addition, I’ll give some tips on how to help your skin recover following treatment.
Let’s start with how to cope with dry, sensitive skin during chemotherapy. Since chemotherapy drugs kill fast growing cancer cells in the body, they end up affecting other fast growing cells such as skin, nail, and hair cells. Chemotherapy drugs can also cause oil glands to stop producing sebum (oil) which means your skin can become dry and sensitive. In addition, your skin can appear to age overnight during chemotherapy and take on a gray cast.
Luckily, you don’t need a lot of products to treat these skin issues.
Make sure to gently cleanse your face once a day with a non-foaming or low foaming facial cleanser. Same goes for the skin on your body.
Use a rich cream moisturizer that does not have fragrance in it since fragrance is a well-known allergen.
Carry a small moisturizer with you at all times so you can easily moisturize your hands and face if your skin starts feeling dry. Also have a lip balm with you at all times.
Be sure to stock up on sunscreen during this period since chemotherapy makes your skin extra sun sensitive. It’s best to look for a sunscreen with physical ingredients like zinc oxide since physical sunscreen ingredients are less likely to irritate your skin during this period.
Put all your anti-aging and exfoliating products aside for now. A few months after finishing treatment you can return to using those products again.
Between 3 to 6 months after completing chemotherapy treatment your skin should be back to normal and you can begin using anti-aging products again if you like. If you have outstanding questions about how to best care for your skin during and following chemotherapy it is best to consult with a dermatologist or an esthetician to get some professional skincare advice and instruction.
Your scalp may be very sensitive during this period as well if you experience hair loss during chemotherapy. You can treat the skin on your scalp as you would the skin on the rest of your body. Be sure to use sunscreen or wear a hat (if you aren’t wearing a wig) during this period to protect your scalp from the sun. If you experience any rashes or infections on your skin, scalp, or nails be sure to report that to your oncologist or nurse.
If you like receiving facials you can certainly get one during chemotherapy. Be sure to give your esthetician a full run down of where you are at the moment in your treatments and which drugs you have received and are receiving along with all side effects. You can receive a soothing and hydrating facial during chemotherapy. Enjoy that time to relax and be pampered.
Radiation therapy can cause skin burns. The healthier your skin is during radiation treatments the less likely you are to experience severe burns.
Apply a soothing cream or moisturizer to the areas for your skin that are receiving the radiation treatments in-between treatments.
Wash your skin with a gentle cleanser.
Be sure to use a lot of sunscreen on the areas of your skin that are receiving radiation treatment. Even better – cover your skin with clothing during this period. During the summer wear long, light, loose clothes.
Remember the skin in the area of your body where you are going to receive radiation treatments needs to be clean and dry right before the treatment.
If you are receiving radiation near or in your armpit area you cannot use deodorant with aluminum before or during the treatment since the aluminum in the deodorant can interfere with the effectiveness of the radiation treatment.
Biological treatments may cause rashes and skin sensitives.
Be sure to show any rashes to your oncologist or nurse.
If you do experience skin rashes, wash your face and body with a gentle cleanser and apply a soothing cream or balm that does not contain fragrance to the irritated area. You can also ask your doctor for a steroid cream if your rash is severe.
If you experience breakouts during cancer treatment be sure to show them to a professional (either a dermatologist or esthetician) so they can help you find the right products to treat them. You do not want to accidentally over dry your skin during this time while trying to clear up your pimples.
Surgery & Scarring
Following oncology surgery be sure to keep the skin in the area that was operated on moist, and apply a soothing, healing cream to open wounds in order to lessen the likelihood of developing scars.
If you are left with surgery scars that you do not like the appearance of consider consulting a plastic surgeon for a recommendation on esthetic treatments. Sometimes laser treatments can lessen the appearance of the scars. Some women choose to cover their scars with tattoos.
Here are some ideas of skincare products you can use during your cancer treatment or right after until your skin recovers. Please keep in mind that the products here are a suggestion, not an endorsement on their effectiveness. You can also choose your own products, of course.
ATTITUDE, Sensitive Skin Care, Baby, Natural Soothing Bodycream Daily Moisturizer, Fragrance Free – can be ordered through iHerb.com
Shea Butter for moisturizing – look for 100% pure shea butter. Can be used all over your body including on lips, cuticles, and feet.
iHerb.com sells many different brands and so do many health food stores in Israel.
Reviva Labs Cleansing Milk – facial cleanser, can be ordered through iHerb.com
Weleda Calendula Baby Shampoo and Body Wash – can be purchased at pharmacies in Israel including SuperPharm and through iHerb.com
Earth Science Active Age Defense Whipped Cream Cleanser Kukui & Macadamia – can be ordered through iHerb.com
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo Cleanser – can be found at some private pharmacies in Israel or ordered online through the company website
BabyGanics Pure Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30 – can be purchased through iHerb.com
Think, Thinkbaby, Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30 – can be purchased through iHerb.com
All Good Products, Kid’s Sunscreen, SPF 30 – can be purchased through iHerb.com
Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Sensitive SPF 30+ Sunscreen, Fragrance Free – can be purchased through iHerb.com
About the Author: Hanah Tetro is a medical esthetician originally from the Chicago area now living and working in Kfar Saba, Israel. Certified in Oncology Esthetics, Hanah sees clients in her private skincare clinic and also serves as the official trainer for the international organization Oncology Training International, Inc. in Israel teaching her fellow estheticians how to safely and effectively care for the skin of cancer patients before, during, and after treatment. For more information please visit her website: https://www.hanahtetro.com/