Appearance Consultation Tips for skin care
Cancer therapies can change the condition and texture of the skin. By adjusting your normal skin care routine, you can reduce such side effects of chemotherapy and radiation as:
- changes in skin tone –tanned, yellowish- or reddish-looking
- increased oiliness
- inflammation or puffiness due to fluid retention or weight gain
- loss of hair
- increased sensitivity to skin products
- increased skin pigmentation and sensitivity to sunlight
- bruising or petechiae (small, scattered red dots anywhere in the skin due to bleeding directly beneath the skin; caused by low platelet levels and a reduced ability for blood to clot)
The most important step in skin care is to properly cleanse the skin twice daily – morning and evening.
Exposure to the sun can cause burning, itching and swelling at all times. Protecting yourself from the sun is especially important during active cancer treatment because the therapy can increase your sensitivity to ultraviolet light, increase your chance of burning and counteract some types of chemotherapy.
- Use a broad spectrum sunscreen (UVA/UVB) with a SPF of 15 or higher.
- Wear protective clothing.
- Use a broad spectrum lip product with an SPF of at least 15. Lips have very little pigment and exposure to the sun can cause blistering.
- Be aware that sunlight is most intense and damaging between the hours of 10am and 2pm. Be especially sun safe or consider alternate indoor activity during these hours.
- Sand, water, and snow reflect over 80% of the sun’s burning rays. If shading areas like these are impossible, practice being extra sun safe with sunscreen and protective clothing.
- More time spent in the sun requires use of a product containing a higher SPF and reapplication due to perspiration or bodily contact with water.
- Even on hazy days, about 50% of the sun rays are reflected off the clouds and reach the skin. You should still take proper precautions on overcast days.
- Sun sensitivity can be caused by the following drugs: methotrexate, actinomycin-D, bleomycin, dacarbazine, doxorubicin (adriamycin®), fluorouracil (5FU), vinblastine (velban®). If you are taking one of these drugs, be especially cautious.
Approved Skincare Products and Procedures
The following tips are for safely and effectively covering up changes in skin appearance that you may experience due to chemotherapy or radiation.
- Use corn starch (dry) to help relieve an itching scalp or body.
- Apply cosmetic concealor to discolored areas on the skin.
Skincare Products and Procedures to Avoid
A few simple practices can help you avoid skin irritation or infection and disruption in your treatment schedule.
- Discard skin care products over six months old, including eye shadow, mascara, blush and lipstick; this is to prevent possible infection since the eyes and the mouth are potential entry points for bacteria.
- Don’t dip fingers into jars to apply make-up.
- Do not exfoliate during chemotherapy.
- During radiation therapy, marks applied on the skin by your physician or radiation technician should not be washed off. Also, do not use soaps, creams or other products in these areas. Until the marks fade away, clean with warm water only and pat skin gently dry.
Always check with a physician before using special skincare products, medicines and procedures.
- Alcohol-based products, mineral oils, fragranced products and hot-water for cleansing may be drying or cause irritation.
- Instant tanners and their active ingredient tyrosine may cause an allergic reaction.
- Tanning booths may cause more skin damage than natural sunlight.
- Body waxing, eyebrow arching or other hair removal techniques (including creams and lotions) may cause a skin reaction or infection.*
- Steroids can make one more susceptible to infections.
*Note, if a physician gives the “ok” for hair removal, the service should be performed by a dermatologist.