Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, drug target therapy and radiation may cause side effects on the skin, most commonly severe dryness, sensitivity, allergic reactions, flushing, hyperpigmentation, photosensitivity and folliculitis.
Listen to your body, and describe any skin changes to your doctor. Chemotherapy comprises your skin structure, so take extra care to follow our tips below.
1. Proper hydration is the key to keeping skin healthy and resilient during treatment. Apply moisturizer or even better, body oil, to seal in moisture after baths and throughout the day. Use a humidifier with cool or adjustable capabilities, a good filter, and a UV-antimicrobial feature to add moisture to skin and hair, particularly while you sleep.
Recommended skin care products: CeraVe® Hydrating Cleanser, AM Moisturizer, PM Moisturizer, Body Lotion. Cetaphil® Skin Restore Moisturizer, Daily Facial Cleanser, Skin Restore Wash, Hand Cream. Neutrogena® Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer SPF 50.
Recommended humidifiers: Vicks® V3800 Cool Mist Tower Humidifier, Germ Guardian® H-3000 Ultrasonic Humidifier.
2. Handle with care. The skin is especially fragile at this time because it cannot regenerate itself in a normal way. Wash your face and body in warm water, never hot. Pat skin dry; never rub. Avoid aggressive skin or hair treatments, such as deep exfoliation, microdermabrasion, or laser treatments. If you get manicures and pedicures, use your own sterilized instruments. Clear any products and procedures (even a mani-pedi) with your treatment team first.
Recommended brands: All® Free Clear, Trader Joe’s® Soap Free Laundry Detergent, Seventh Generation® Natural Laundry Detergent.
3. Choose the right products. Any products that touch your skin should be free of synthetic fragrances, dyes, detergents and other known sensitizers. Use gentle moisturizers with ingredients such as humectants and occlusives. Even if a product says it’s “natural” or “organic” doesn’t mean it’s safe. A good way to be sure is to create homemade skin care treatments using ingredients from your own kitchen! Chapter 13 of “Heal Your Skin” has excellent recipes that were specifically developed for people like you.
4. Wear gloves. Hands are one of the most vulnerable parts of the body to dryness and cracking because they’re constantly being used. Wear clean, dry, long waterproof gloves—rubber or vinyl, if you’re sensitive to latex—for all wet household chores and thin white cotton gloves for dry household chores. Don’t wear gloves for long periods, and wash cotton gloves frequently.
5. Bathe carefully. Avoid harsh bath products, hard scrubbing, pounding pressure, extreme temperatures, and long soaks. Shorten your showers. Avoid saunas and steam rooms. Your skin is already parched, so it doesn’t need to be parboiled in addition to that. If you use a washcloth, try flannel (softer than other materials). Use a freshly laundered one every time, and don’t share it with anyone to avoid infection-causing contamination. Soap sparingly only in strategic areas—underarms, groin, and feet—to avoid stripping skin of much-needed oil. If you’re not very dirty, you don’t actually need to soap your body at all. However, cleanse face to remove makeup.
If you or someone you know has specific skin care questions during cancer treatment, ask us. We’re here to help!