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How Can I Take Care of My Skin During Chemo?

image of Genna Pinnick
How Can I Take Care of My Skin During Chemo?

Skin changes are common with chemotherapy. While some skin issues can be prevented, there is no way to reverse the effects of cancer treatment on your skin and hair. Skin reactions often occur in early stages (within 1-2 weeks) of a new treatment or as treatments change, but they can appear at any point during treatment—and sometimes years after therapy has ended.

Six of these changes you may experience can include:

  1. Skin rashes and flaking caused by radiation therapy.
  2. Redness due to thermal burns from hyperthermia.
  3. Nausea and vomiting causing dehydration.
  4. Hair loss that occurs while you’re receiving treatments as well as after treatment ends.
  5. Dry lips and mouth from medications
  6. Peeling nails caused by steroid medications given for long periods of time in high doses to reduce inflammation, swelling, itching or rashes.

What Can I Do To Keep My Skin Looking and Feeling Comfortable, Even Beautiful, During Chemo and Radiation?

There are several things you can do to keep your skin looking and feeling its best throughout the course of treatment:

  • Wash your face twice a day, morning and night. Use extremely mild, neutral skin cleanser or glycerin-based cleansers rather than harsh soaps, which are drying. Quiet Wash by Hale and Hush is an oncology hospital-recommended choice for washing your skin. 
  • Remember to rinse well by gently splashing water or using a delicate, spongy cloth to remove all traces of wash from your skin. Pat dry gently with a delicate towel (do not rub). This will help prevent excessive dryness and irritation, as well as breakouts in people who tend toward acne. Avoid hot showers or baths because heat can damage the top layer of cells on your skin. NOTE: This is especially important during radiation therapy.
  • To get even more hydration and calming use Hush Hydrating Gel and Relief Bio Powder  for restoring an intense calm and healthy hydration for protecting your skin's protective barrier.
  • Hydrate and protect this moisture retention daily after cleansing your skin. Apply an emollient lotion like Hale and Hush Vital Lipid Lotion on areas where there is thinning tissue such as around the eyes and lips—the drier these areas become, the greater risk for tears that lead to infection. It's also important to protect other sensitive areas like underarms, groin area, etc., by applying extra moisturizer while wearing loose clothing made from natural fibers like cotton instead of synthetic fabrics that trap moisture against the body more readily leading to irritation, rashes, and potential scarring.
  • Seal in moisturize with an oncology-recommended moisturizing cream that is fragrance free and noncomedogenic (won’t clog pores). Moisturizers can help prevent dryness of the skin and minimize flaking. Try Hale and Hush Saffron Meristem Cream  and Hale and Hush Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen , which has UVA/UVB protection.

Stop The Itching

For a non-steroidal remedy for itching caused by chemotherapy agents, you might try Sarna lotion (available over-the-counter at drugstores), but don't use it if you're allergic to menthol or camphor.  Some people even report getting relief using baby powder. Just make sure whatever powder-type product you choose doesn't have talc in it because we've all come to know how bad that talc can be for your health.

Skin reaction care: If itching or redness occurs around an injection site immediately after administration of cancer medications, apply cold compresses using ice wrapped in cloths for 15 minutes three times daily; leave them on longer if needed—as long as it feels comfortable without causing pain to relieve discomfort .

For severe itching that interferes with your sleep at night, contact Radiation Oncology prior to bedtime so they can prescribe medication specifically designed to treat these symptoms for better relief through the night.

NOTE: Along with other potential reactions listed above, extremely thin-skinned areas include lips, cheeks, chin, chest, abdomen, etc...DO NOT attempt topical applications unless directed by medical professional whether prescribed over counter product or herbal preparation.  Steroid use on your eyelids and lips can cause permanent damage.

Instant Dryness and Burn Relief on Your Lips, Eyes, Cheeks, Chin, Chest or Neck

Get Instant Relief from soreness, itching and pain caused by dry, fragile skin, use Hale and Hush Relief Bio Powder sprinkled directly onto the afflicted site and tap it onto your skin, letting it sit there while it calms and soothes your poor skin or mix a pinch of Relief Bio Powder in with some Saffron Meristem Cream, applying directly to the area for instant quiet and relief.

Dryness, Flaking, Skin Around Your Eyes and Lips?

These areas have highly thin skin and need both specialized care to address the changes chemo and radiation have on your skin, plus the need for anti-aging while in the middle of a fight for your future. If you've done well with the Saffron Meristem Cream, try Hale and Hush Brilliant Eye and Lip Serum.  This is a serious anti-aging eye cream which is so gentle you can use in around your eyes and on your lips. The iridescent appearance is one of the active ingredients protecting and renewing the skin around your eyes and on your lips.

Are You Using Retin A?

You can still use topical retinoids, such as Retin A Micro Gel 0 1% applied once every two nights followed up by a creamy moisturizing formula applied twice daily morning and evening. This have allowed some patients experiencing terrible peeling and flaking issues accelerate healing process tremendously! Try Oncology-Hospital recommended Hale and Hush Vital Lipids Lotion or the more emollient Hale And Hush Saffron Meristem Cream.

A Softer, Kinder Retinal Serum

For a gentler approach to retinal anti-aging, try Hale and Hush Rare Retinal Serum. With a stabilized form of retinaldehyde, an anti-glycation complex and free-radical scavenger, an anti-aging plant stem cell extract that reduces micro-inflammation and redness, evening out the complexion and enhancing skin’s translucency and radiance... all optimized together with Niacinamide and an ingredient for further reducing dark under-eye circles, your softer - Hale and Hush Rare Retinal Serum will actually become your all-round go to from here and beyond. 

Keep your skin clean and dry. Wash yourself carefully with an exquisitely mild soap every day, including under your arms. Pat dry gently instead of rubbing vigorously (rubbing can cause irritation). Apply a moisturizer if needed.

Body Care Basic During Chemo and Radiation

Wash yourself with mild soap every day, including under your arms and groin. Pat dry gently instead of rubbing vigorously (rubbing can cause irritation and trigger a problems with your already fragile skin). 

Apply a moisturizer at any time as needed. CeraVe Body Lotion is very neutral and gentle for your body's skin, while not specialized, it is safe for general use, even on very dry skin.

Shave carefully before chemo treatments to reduce the chance of irritation from shaving afterward. Shaving during chemotherapy may also cause scalp irritation or rashes on your legs if you are treated in an area where there is hair growth. If you shave your underarm hair regularly, delay shaving until after treatment when your hair regrows. This will allow time for any temporary side effects to resolve without adding new ones caused by shaving – especially if you have radiation therapy affecting this area.

Use a soft, spongy cloth instead of a bristle brush or a loofah sponge in the shower. Loofahs tend to be very harsh on already sensitive skin and those suffering from dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea, which often accompany chemotherapy treatment.

Limit how hot your showers are, not too hot, as the hot water can dissolve natural oils in your skin making it drier than usual; aim for tepid water (about 100°F) since it does not strip away your natural oils from your skin like hot water does. NOTE: You might even consider limiting baths depending upon how much fluid weight you lose while receiving treatment, so try taking showers instead when possible as you'll lose less water than when you take a bath.

Apply a lotion after bathing or showering to keep your skin moist but not oily. You may need several applications throughout the day until healing is complete and new skin grows in fully again, which happens over 6 weeks or more from the end of each treatment. Even when you feel better, continue using a lotion or emollient cream on areas of thinning tissue for the rest of that area's life span — another thing chemotherapy takes away from us. Sigh...

Use a rich cream liberally at night on lips, cheeks, chin, nose where there are thinner patches as they heal so they don't become chapped by air exposure while sleeping. Rub it into hands before going to bed as well; some people find their hands stay soft longer than other parts of their body once chemo ends!

Find Out What Works Best for You Personally and Please Use Something

These suggestions have proved helpful, even life-reclaiming, and have helped many women, and men, who had severe problems during recovery periods.

Look Better, Feel Good

Applying a light, powdery cover like a mineral powder foundation, or creamy foundation to cover blemishes while also helping to prevent flaking & peeling. Neither of these will feel heavy or clog your pores. Using Hale and Hush Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen, mix in a bit of foundation to get a gentle coverage which will even out your, skin, looking more like your usual self. Make sure to follow this with a dab of cheek blush. This extra care will do wonders for how you feel. Even men will feel more like themselves with a Bit-O-Tint mixed into their SPF.

Our internal attitude, even these simple happy lifts, will change your emotional strength while you are going through this life-changing treatment. It is seriously therapeutic to feel attractive, pretty and handsome, and to be around friends doing normal things during your treatments. Keep up your spirits and keep up your daily care by washing your hair, protecting your skin & putting on makeup. It's these core things which will change how you feel during this important time. Be well.

You have find out more on Hale and Hush product offerings here

About Genna Pinnick

Genna holds a degree in Biology and an accomplished Concierge Esthetician currently serving Silicon Valley's high-power female entrepreneurs. In 1990, she earned the Premiere European Esthetics Certification of CIDESCO Diplomat in International Esthetics.

Since 1990, she founded and managed her own skincare clinic, growing it through referrals, newspaper, TV and Radio appearances, and as a guest writer in the local Health & Beauty section of the newspaper.

As an early member of the NCA's Esthetics America Education & Trends Team, she offered professional development at the national, state and local level, immersing herself in advanced training from such industry greats as Erica Miller, Robert Lees, and Rebecca James Gadberry.

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Disclaimer: The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only.

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