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Protect your nails

Protecting Nails during Chemotherapy

Just like your hair can be affected by certain products used in chemo, due to a decrease in cell division, your nails can also be affected during chemotherapy.

Your Symptoms

Your nails can become brittle, ridged, split, and sometimes, pigmentation, decolouration or nail loss can also occur during chemotherapy. They become extremely fragile, break more easily and do not grow as quickly as normal. The skin around your nail becomes dry and your cuticles are damaged.

No need to fret, your nails progressively go back to normal after stopping cancer treatment.

Important Things to Keep in Mind During Chemotherapy


  • Cut your nails short to reduce the risk of breaking.
  • Avoid cutting your cuticles, push them back gently instead.
  • Do not bite your nails! If it is difficult to stop, wear thin cotton gloves to help you get out of the habit.
  • Wear gloves when you are doing any housework or gardening, and avoid any prolonged contact with detergent and water to reduce the risk of infection.


  • Moisturise and massage your hands and feet daily with moisturisers or oils, paying particular attention to your cuticles and nails.
  • Avoid any exfoliating lotions and hand creams that contain glycolic acid, lactic acid or salicylic acid (alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) or Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)) as they can weaken your nails.


  • Try to use nail polish remover as little as possible as it dries and weakens your nails.
  • Only remove and reapply your nail varnish if it is chipped and exposing your nail.
  • Avoid fake nails as they are a nest for bacteria and cause infections.


  • If you have any redness around your nails, soak your fingers in a bowl of Hexamidine Transcutaneous or Chlorexidine to disinfect them.

Additional Tips During Chemotherapy

  • No matter your choice, it is best to favour strengthening nail varnish with silicium or calcium, free of formaldehyde and rosin and containing anti-UVA and UVB filters.
  • To keep your fingers flexible and moving, squeeze a foam stress ball several times a day.
  • Never go without nail varnish! During your cancer treatments, your nails should not be exposed to light. It is also recommended to continue applying nail varnish for at least 6 months after your last chemotherapy session.
  • If you do not want to wear bright colours (especially for men), protect your nails with a strengthening opaque nail varnish (silicium or calcium), for example, a nude colour.
  • Do not add layers to your varnish when you want to touch up your colour, as you will suffocate your nails and increase the chances of them falling off.

Active Agents / Cytotoxics

  • Docetaxel (Taxotere)
  • Paclitaxel (Taxol)
  • Bleomycin (Blenoxane)
  • Doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
  • Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Procytox)
  • 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU, Adrucil)
  • Etoposide (VP-16, Etopophos, Vepesid)
  • Methotrexate

Check out our video on how to take care of your nails during chemo on our YouTube channel !