Your skin may need special care during cancer treatment. You can help prevent dryness and irritation through simple changes to your skin care routine.
Chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and medications can all cause your skin to change in different ways. Some experience redness, itching, peeling, dryness and acne. Addressing these issues early may help you stay as healthy and comfortable as possible.
If you notice skin changes or experience irritations during treatment, talk with your doctor right away. Even problems that aren’t immediately visible, like an itch or pain, can be the first sign of a side effect.
Your doctor can help you find a solution and may prescribe a medication or suggest an over-the-counter remedy to help provide relief.
Caring for Your Skin
Preventing dryness and irritation can start with tiny tweaks to your daily skin care routine. We’ve collected a few tips that should help:
- While a hot shower or bath may feel good, the heat can make skin irritation worse. Using lukewarm water with a mild soap or shampoo can help your skin retain moisture.
- Keep irritation at bay by cleaning your skin gently. Using your hand to carefully wash treatment areas can help prevent irritation. Avoid rough washcloths, sponges, exfoliators and body brushes, because they can damage the outer layer of the skin.
- Carefully pat your body dry with a towel to avoid rubbing sensitive skin. Using a moisturizer right after getting out of the shower helps lock in moisture.
- Consider using an electric razor to help prevent cuts and irritation while shaving.
- If your skin is mildly irritated, an oatmeal bath powder can help reduce itching and soothe blistered skin. You can find packets of unscented oatmeal powder at pharmacies, or you can grind a cup of dry, uncooked oatmeal into a fine powder.
Managing Skin Changes
While you can’t control the reaction your skin has to treatment, you can take steps to help keep it healthy and manage further irritation. Keep this info in mind during treatment:
- Keeping your skin cool and clean can help avoid dryness and irritation. Be sure to avoid touching and scratching sensitive areas.
- Loose clothes made with soft fabrics can help reduce the desire to scratch. Some people find certain fabrics, such as wool or polyester, make skin red or feel itchy. Breathable cotton fabrics are often most comfortable.
- Lather your skin with mild lotions and creams two to three times a day.
- Skip products with alcohols, perfumes and dyes, because these ingredients can aggravate skin.
- Detergents, just like skin products, can contain perfumes and dyes. To help minimize skin irritation, wash your clothes and bedding in gentle soaps or baby detergent.
- Since some treatments can cause sun sensitivity, it’s important to protect your skin when you go outside. Be sure to cover up with comfortable clothing and apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF 30 rating. Ask your care team if your treatment causes sun sensitivity that may require further precautions.
- Help prevent skin dryness and irritation by not smoking cigarettes. Smoking deprives the skin of oxygen and it can make your treatment less effective.
If you aren’t sure which products are best for you, ask your doctor for recommendations.