How to care for your skin during cancer treatment

We may use it, abuse it, and take it for granted, but skin is the body’s first line of defence against the outside world, protecting us from the harsh affects of sunlight, chemicals, and infections germs and bacteria. Unfortunately, skin also happens to be one of the first areas of the body to be adversely affected by chemotherapy treatment.

Rough, dry, blisters, swelling, and inflammation are common skin problems associated with chemotherapy, and however temporary, are more than just an aesthetic nightmare. Cracked, flaking, tender skin can be susceptible to infection.

When you’re undergoing cancer treatment, be nice to yourself. These following tips will help you take gentle care of the skin your in:

  • You might be tempted to slather on any cream or lotion you have sitting on your dresser, but it’s important you talk to your doctor before applying any product (including powder, cream, perfume, deodorant, ointment, lotion, or home remedies) to the skin in the treatment area.
  • When you need to use something, opt for gentle, fragrance-free formulas (lotion, soap, and laundry detergent) and those designed specifically for sensitive skin.
  • Pick creams and ointments over water-based lotions – the thicker consistency is better at sealing in moisture. Tip: apply your cream within 15 minutes of your shower, reapply before bed, and moisturize your hands every time you wash them.
  • Very hot or very cold temperatures can aggravate irritated skin. Though they can be heavenly after a long day, skip the long, hot shower or bath. Use lukewarm water and mild soap when washing. Avoid heat and cold therapy treatments.
  • Wear loose fitting clothing made with soft, smooth fabrics, and don’t bother with the starch.
  • No matter how much you itch, don’t scratch! Or rub, scrub, or use adhesive bandages or tape on the affected area. If your skin needs to be covered or bandaged, use paper tape, or other tape specifically for sensitive skin. Also, try to tape outside the treatment area, and not in the same place each time.
  • Stay away from the sun! Your skin may now be extra sensitive to sunlight, so when possible, cover the affected area with dark colored or UV protective clothing before heading out. If your doctor gives you the go-ahead, use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply often. Keep this up even after treatment ends.
  • Don’t use hair-removal creams, or pre-shave and after-shave lotions. If you need to shave, use an electric shaver, but double check with your health care practitioner before doing so.

If you experience any pain or discomfort during treatment, or have questions or concerns, talk to your doctor right away.