Skin care during and after cancer treatment

Starting chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment can be one of the most difficult times for patients with cancer and other conditions. Not only can chemotherapy be hard on your body, but it can also be harsh on your skin.
During and after chemotherapy, one can expect the skin to become drier, dehydrated, dull, greying, irritated and more delicate than ever.

Skin rash

Additionally, if treatment involves radiation, this can lead to another set of skin reactions which include possible redness, rashes, tenderness, itching, swelling, peeling and hand-foot syndrome.

Hand and Foot Syndrome

Cancerous cells grow and multiply at a faster rate than healthy cells in the body. Chemotherapy drugs stop them from growing and multiplying, but healthy cells are affected, too. Skin cells are growing and replenishing themselves all the time and that makes them targets for the ravages of chemo.

When you are on chemo, your skin cells don’t replace themselves like they normally would, and your skin becomes fragile and dry. Your complexion can also change during treatment, looking grey or yellow. Cuticles become brittle and crack, nails don’t grow and often lift up off the finger bed, hands and feet get red and hypersensitive and hair often falls out. Due to dehydration skin may look dry and wrinkly. There’s an increased risk of infection when your skin barrier is disrupted, and immune system is compromised by chemo.

All of this means that you have to be very careful with how you care for skin during chemotherapy treatment.
The best thing to do is to change up your skin routine to rely on simple, moisturizing products for sensitive skin. All of the rules that apply to sensitive skin are true for those going through chemotherapy. Search for products that are gentle, hydrating, and hypoallergenic. Rather than waiting to deal with symptoms after treatment starts, patients can take steps to minimize skin problems about one week before beginning chemo. Then, they can continue the regimen during treatment.

There are things you can do to help lessen the effects from treatment on your skin.

These include:

  • Use gentle soothing, softening, anti-inflammatory, designed for cancer patients onco creams
  • Use gentle, fragrance-free soaps and laundry detergents
  • Ensure you are eating healthy foods and drinking fluids. Some gentle exercise is useful too
  • Use moisturizers, preferably creams or ointments rather than lotions because the thicker consistency is better at preventing skin dehydration. Apply the cream or ointment within 15 minutes of showering. Reapply moisturizer at night, and moisturize your hands and feet every time after you wash them
  • If your skin is very dry and flaky, ammonium lactate cream can increase moisture
  • Avoid tight fitting clothes
    Wear soft fabrics like cotton. Avoid synthetic fabrics and heavy wool
  • Avoid extremes in temperatures i.e. hot water bottles, ice packs, hair dryers
  • Bathe with lukewarm water
  • Gently pat the skin dry with a soft towel—do not rub
  • Keep skin folds dry
  • Protect your skin from sunlight
  • Shaving in the treatment area should only be done using an electric razor.

Onco – dermatology is a relatively new field and many people are just now starting to learn about it. Onco-dermatologists care for skin, hair and nail reactions from cancer therapy. Onco-dermatology links the two specialties to focus on the prevention and treatment of the skin, hair and nail problems that often arise as side effects from cancer treatments.

I went through debulking surgery in 2015 followed by 6 months of chemotherapy. I had never heard about
onco–cosmetics or had a chance to use them. In addition to a medically induced menopause my skin got damaged. I experienced burning, itching, nails cracking and foot skin peeling. I was using “baby creams” in addition to prescribed steroids. It didn’t help.
When my cancer came back and I had to start another set of chemotherapy treatment my skin got even worse. I am cancer free now for the last 4 years thanks to maintenance therapy (I am on Olaparib), but the medicine I take causes a lot of side effects. One of them was skin problems. My skin was delicate, dry, itchy and easily damaged. My hair was thinning and my hair line was red, irritated and the skin was peeling off. The skin on my face looked tired, wrinkles appeared in a very short time and the area around my eyes was always red and tender.
I visited the GP, a dermatologist, my oncologist and a gyneacologist – they all prescribed emollients and steroids. They did work but once I stopped using them, the problems came back.

I decided to try APIS COSMETICS Apiderm line dedicated to cancer patients. It was the best decision I have ever made. My skin now looks and feels much better. It is hydrated, soft and looks healthy. No cracking skin and nails, no redness, peeling or itching. I am using Apiderm cosmetics solely for about 6 months and I am very happy with the results.

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