Skin Care during Chemotherapy & Radiotherapy
One of the most important things to consider when you are going through chemo and radiotherapy is your skin care.
Read on for some tips on skin care while you are undergoing cancer treatment and some product recommendations from my own personal experience.
If you are a supporter of someone going through cancer treatments, read on for some more information that you can use to better support them and use some of my personal suggestions as ideas for practical gifting solutions.
As a cancer patient, your oncology team will advise you that you must be careful of the beauty products you are using. When you are going through chemo your skin and nails can be affected because chemo drugs target rapidly dividing cells and your skin and nails are made up of rapidly dividing cells. Some of the drugs used to help ease side effects such as steroids, can also cause skin issues. Basically, your skin is more sensitive and prone to reactions. You may experience sensitivity to products you have been using your whole life.
When you are undergoing radiotherapy, your skin can react to treatment by turning pink or red and becoming inflamed. Your consultant will advise you best on this but keeping the area fully moisturised is the only way to ease this.
During chemo, your skin may become dry and irritated, even itchy. The first thing to do is to record this and report it back to your oncology team. They will be able to better advise you on specific products and may even be able to prescribe you something to help ease your discomfort, depending on the severity of the reaction. If you notice peeling skin on your palms or the soles of your feet you should let your oncology team know straight away. Also, talk to your oncology team if you experience acne breakout. This happened to me and it was truly miserable. So sore and uncomfortable. My team were able to prescribe me medication that helped almost immediately.
So, here are some Top Tips for your skincare during chemo or radiotherapy:
- Do not be uncomfortable. If you are experiencing dry, flaky, itchy, irritated skin, don’t suffer in silence. Talk to your G.P. or your oncology team.
- Keep your skin moisturised. Get into a regular moisturising daily routine. A few times a day if necessary. Your oncology team can advise specific products and I will provide a list of things I used later in this post. But be aware of the products in your skin care ointments and try and use non-perfumed soaps and water-based creams. The less chemicals the better really.
- Take lukewarm showers or baths, be very careful not to burn or irritate your skin with hot water.
- Pat your skin dry with a towel as opposed to rubbing your skin. Be gentle with it!
- Embrace the shade! Avoid direct sunlight, especially during peak UV ray exposure times; 10am-4pm.
- Apply SPF regularly, even when its cloudy. During chemo or radiotherapy your skin is extra susceptible to UV light and you need to protect it. The recommendation is for a minimum of SPF30 during chemo and SPF50 during radiotherapy, personally I just got used to using SPF50.
- Protect your eyes from the sun! Wear sunglasses or wide brimmed hats to protect your delicate eyelids.
- Layer up! Protect yourself from sun exposure and optimise comfort levels by wearing loose fitting, long sleeved breathable fabrics. Wear loose fitting socks and shoes also.
- Wear loose fitting gloves when you are doing the washing up, cleaning or gardening. Protect your skin from chemicals, risks of infection and exposure to hot water.
- Don’t shave if you can help it. If you’re going through chemo this won’t be an issue and if you’re going through radiotherapy, hopefully you will only be undergoing treatment for a fixed period after which you can begin to shave again.
- Don’t swim in chlorinated water. Even for a while after treatment has ended. Your oncology team can direct you on when you can return to chlorinated swimming pools.
- Stay hydrated! You should be drinking 2-2.5 litres of water a day. This will help flush your system and keep your whole body working efficiently.
Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional so anything that I recommend is from my own personal use and experience. As anyone going through chemo knows, you should always ask your oncology team for advice before using any unprescribed medications or topical ointments. Feel free to bring this list of suggested products to your oncology team to discuss if these products are suitable for your use during chemo.
Skin care product recommendations:
Moisturising Creams with Sunscreen/SPF
For outdoor days or activities (like gardening and walks) I am a huge fan of the Image products and my all-time favourite sunscreen to use on my face and body is Image SPF50. This doesn’t leave a chalky residue and isn’t greasy. I always purchase my Image products from Millies – if you haven’t discovered this Irish shop, you’re welcome. Fabulous range of products and gorgeous people running it. I always love receiving my orders. Their Instagram feed is gorgeous too.
When I am wearing makeup, I like to use Skingredients 04 Skin Shield SPF50. This is a gorgeous lightweight formula that blends into my skin effortlessly. I apply it as the final layer before my foundation or bb cream. It has multiple additional perks as a product; it can be used as a primer and it also provides a shield against blue light from computer screens. Skingredients products are fragrance free, cruelty free and vegan-friendly. This Irish brand is from Jennifer Rock, the Skin Nerd.
For a product with minimal chemicals, lately I am using Elave Daily Skin Defence SPF45. It's SPF5 less than I usually like to wear but I have started wearing this on cloudy days and I love it. This product is from The Gardiner Family Apothecary. These products are fantastic; chemical free and cruelty free. It's also an Irish family business so you're supporting local!
When I was going through chemo, I used CeraVe on my face. This is a gorgeous product; it absorbs quickly with no greasy residue. You should be able to find this range in your local pharmacy but I purchase mine through Boots Ireland when I can't find it in my local pharmacy.
During chemo and while I was undergoing Radiotherapy, I used E45 cream on my body. E45 cream is great because it's so light, unperfumed and hypoallergenic. Again, you should be able to find this range in your local pharmacy or through Boots Ireland.
When I was going through chemo, I had lip balm everywhere. And that has continued. I used Lanolips which I purchased from Boots. Just before I started chemo, I bought 4 of these tubes. I kept one in my chemo bag, one in my handbag, one by my bed and one in my kitchen. They last so long that one and a half years later and all four tubes are still on the go.
If you are looking for a product with added SPF, I have recently discovered the Elave lip balm with added SPF20 which is a fantastic bonus for me.
Hand and Foot creams
With all the antibacterial gels we are using these days, our poor hands are having a tough time. Add chemo to the mix and you’re probably experiencing serious dryness. When I was going through chemo, I used E45 and CeraVe on my hands. The CeraVe in particular was great because it is so lightweight and absorbs instantly so there was zero greasiness or sticky residue.
My feet did start to peel and were severely dry. I discussed this quickly with my oncology team, so it never got worse. I have been a long-time fan of Weleda and used this when my feet were at their worst. I lathered my feet a few times a day and put on fluffy socks to help it absorb. One tip though – be careful showering because moisturising your feet can make them slippery. Before my showers, I would wipe down the soles of my feet and this helped make my showers a less slippery, safer experience. Stay safe out there people!
I have provided some of these tips on my Instagram feed too so make sure you check it out and follow me @theupliftkit
As always, thank you for reading and please feel free to leave comments with any extra suggestions or feedback.