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Skin Care During Chemotherapy

The skin is the body’s largest organ and must be taken care, especially during chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Daily care is a must during cancer treatments to appease dry, sensitive and fragilised skin.

Chemotherapy can alter or dry your skin as it considerably reduces the sebum secretion from your glands. To ease discomfort, you should moisturise your skin several times a day. More than just an outer shell, your skin is an organ that plays an essential role in protecting your body from external aggression, while helping you feel better emotionally and aesthetically.

The aim of most chemotherapies is to stop cell multiplicaton, meaning that cancer cells and healthy cells can not regenerate normally. This has an important impact on skin cells as they cannot regenerate. One of the most common side effects of chemotherapy is extreme dryness. The subcutaneous tissue, which normally acts as a barrier to protect against external aggression, is fragilised.

During cancer treatments, a number of undesirable effects may appear: dry, sensitive, peeling skin, itching, redness, skin rashes (for example, folliculitis (hair follicle infection)).

70-80% of patients, after 2 weeks of chemotherapy, experience folliculitis (a rash mainly on the face and torso). Folliculitis should not be treated like normal acne, even if it looks the same. Talk to your doctor to find the right treatment for you.

Important Things to Keep in Mind During Chemotherapy

It is best to use products that are alcohol-free and fragrance-free as they are less harsh on your skin, even for those with oily skin. Opt for sensitive skin care products!

Clean your Skin to Remove Make Up, Impurities and Flaky Skin:

Wash your face with warm water (not hot!), morning and night, with a neutral pH cleanser, such as a gentle foam cleanser or dermatological bar. At night, remove any make-up from eyes and lips with a gentle cleansing make up removal milk. Apply in a circular motion with your fingertips and remove the excess with a damp cotton pad. Gently pat dry your face with a tissue or soft towel.

Daily Personal Hygiene:

Opt for quick, warm showers over long, hot baths, as it can cause itching. Use a gentle, hydrating cleanser, such as a fragrance-free neutral pH emollient bar or gel for sensitive skin. Always use your hands to wash yourself as it is gentler. Avoid using wash cloths as they may contain germs and bacteria. Gently pat yourself dry with a soft towel, avoid any rubbing.

Stay away from any products that contain alcohol as they can dry the skin: perfumes, colognes, aftershave… If you wish to wear deodorant, make sure it is gentle and alcohol-free. Do not use deodorant if you are being treated with radiotherapy.

Moisturise your Skin:

It is highly recommended to apply regularly, in the weeks leading up to chemotherapy, a moisturising cream as this can help reduce the severity of possible side effects. Moisturise your skin 2-3 times a day if possible and make sure that you are using a moisturising cream for sensitive skin that is richer than your regular body moisturiser. Apply your moisturising cream as soon as you get out of the shower, while your skin is still a bit humid. Pay particular attention to sensitive areas, such as hands, feet and elbows. Moisturise your lips with a thick, hydrating, lubricating lip balm (Lanolin, Vaseline, Cocoa butter).

Engulf Yourself with Cotton: 

Wear loose clothing and avoid any synthetic fibers and wool that will irritate your skin. It is best to choose soft cotton clothes. Use a gentle washing powder to wash your clothes and avoid fabric softeners that can cause your skin to react.

Additional Tips During Chemotherapy

Drink lots of water in small quantities, around 8 to 10 glasses a day. Avoid letting anything touch your skin that is too hot or cold (hair dryer, wind…).