Skincare needs change when you're undergoing chemotherapy
or radiation therapy for cancer. Here, we offer some ways to adjust your
regimen and create a simple and soothing routine that will help you protect
your skin and even give yourself a little pampering during a challenging time.
Starting treatment for cancer is more than a little
overwhelming. On top of all the emotions you're dealing with, there are so many
things to do and keep track of that your head might be spinning. Even when you
have a great support network, it can be hard to figure out what others can do
This is the time when taking care of yourself physically is
more important than ever, but so many of us are so used to pushing our
self-care to the bottom of our priorities when things get stressful that it can
seem like just one more chore to think about skincare too. Fortunately, it
doesn't have to be difficult or complicated to change your regimen to handle
the common effects of cancer treatments, like dry skin and sun sensitivity.
Before Beginning Treatment
- Go through your makeup kit and medicine cabinet
and toss or replace any cosmetics, sunscreen, applicators, and skincare
products that are expired or even just getting a little old. Aging or
often-used products can harbor harmful bacteria that are more dangerous to the
compromised immune systems of people receiving chemo or radiation treatments.
This could be a great task for a friend or family member who wants to do
something to help you!
- Make sure that you have high quality sunscreen with a strong SPF
such as Obagi Sun Shield Matte Broad Spectrum SPF50, a gentle
foaming cleanser, a rich moisturizer free of fragrances or parabens,
and a lip balm with strong moisturizing ingredients like EltaMD's UV Lip Balm Broad Spectrum SPF 31, which contains olive oil and
- Consult with your dermatologist to find out what
kind of side effects you might expect from your particular treatment, and get
recommendations for products that are safe for you to use.
- Keep your skin clean with gentle cleansers formulated for sensitive
skin, like SkinMedica's Sensitive Skin Cleanser. Use warm (not
hot) water, and no harsh scrubbing. Remember to rinse thoroughly,
because soap residue can be irritating. While you need to protect
yourself from germs and toxins, be careful not to over-wash and
strip the natural oils from your skin-- this can make your skin even
more delicate and vulnerable.
- Use your moisturizer every time you wash (twice a day for your face)
to combat the dry skin that commonly follows cancer treatments.
Moisturizer works primarily by forming a barrier that keeps water in
your skin, so make sure you're applying it within three minutes of
patting your skin dry. Try Obagi Medical Hydrate Facial Moisturizer or Obagi Hydrate Luxe, both of which are packed with
natural ingredients like shea butter and avocado.
- Be vigilant about sunscreen! Your treatments can
make your skin extra-sensitive to sunlight and even increase your risk of skin
cancer, so make sure you never go outside with unprotected skin.
- Sometimes patients will develop discolored spots
or redness that makes them feel self-conscious. It's usually fine to use
concealer or color corrector as long as the skin isn't broken, but you may have
to test your favorite products to make sure they aren't too irritating.
- It may take a while for your skin to return to
normal, so plan to stick with your treatment skincare regimen until you see the
side effects clear up. However, you should plan to make sun protection a permanent
part of your personal care.
- If you have lingering spots or scars that are slow to heal, your
dermatologist can tell you whether it's safe for you to use a
brightening or repair serum. Some post-chemo patients swear by SkinCeuticals' C E Ferulic Serum, while others find that SkinMedica's Scar Recovery Gel with Centelline helps speed scar
healing. You might also find that a BB cream helps to even out your skin tone while moisturizing
and protecting your face.
- One of the hardest side effects for patients to
deal with is losing hair, including eyelashes and eyebrows. Many people who
have finished treatment turn to Latisse® lash growth serum to help speed the
re-growth of both eyelashes and eyebrows, and have enthusiastically recommended
it to others as well.
With just a little preparation and research, you can rest assured
that you're taking excellent care of your skin throughout your cancer
treatments at a time when your body's largest organ needs TLC in
order to do its job protecting you. A great skincare regimen is not
only good for your body, it can nourish your spirit as well.