Chemotherapy can save your life, but it may also bring some unexpected changes to your body. Here’s The Skinny on how maintain healthy skin during and after chemotherapy.
If you or someone close to you is facing the harsh reality of battling cancer, it may seem like treatment plans and appointments come rushing at you. You may feel as though you just handed over complete control of your life to a group of people in white coats and gloves. They probably explained to you that the next big “C” word you hear is a necessary evil that has the potential to save your life — chemotherapy.
While it can save your life, chemotherapy can have devastating effects on your skin, hair and nails if you do not take proper care of them. Although you may not feel in complete control of your body, you can maintain control of your skin by adhering to a healthy skin care regimen before and after your treatments. For the best results, start your skin care regimen one week prior to beginning treatment. Below are some tips and tidbits for maintaining healthy skin during chemotherapy.
- Wash your face. Make sure not to over-exfoliate, as your skin is likely to become very delicate from the treatment. Pat your face dry instead of rubbing or scrubbing, which may tear the skin.
- When you wash your body, especially your face, use gentle soaps that are fragrance-free and alcohol-free to protect your sensitive skin.
- Shower and bathe in lukewarm
water. Avoid long, hot showers that can dry out your skin.
Depending on the type of chemotherapy used, your skin may experience some color changes. Lighter skin tones tend to get red, while darker skin tones tend to get darker. Freckles and moles will also darken in color.
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30. You do not have to avoid the sun altogether, but it is in your best interest to apply sunscreen every two hours when you’re outside.
- Fluorouracil (5-FV) treatment will make your skin tan very quickly, so be extra cautious while spending time outdoors.
- Pay close attention to your fingernails and toenails to prevent them from becoming dry, brittle, cracked or ingrown.
It is vital for your skin to stay moisturized during your treatment period. Chemotherapy can leave your skin dry and flaky, which makes it especially susceptible to infection.
Use thick ointments or creams versus regular lotions to lock in more moisture for longer periods of time.
If your skin becomes itchy and irritated, you need to consult your doctor. Steroids or anesthetic medication may work better than weaker over-the-counter drugs.
Avoid pressure sores that can result from sitting or lying in one place for a long time by shifting your weight or changing positions frequently.
The key to healthy skin during chemotherapy is dedication. Make sure to set aside time each day to take care of your body. Try out these tips and tidbits, and let us know which ones worked for you. And, of course, never give up!