How to keep skin healthy during chemotherapy

A cancer diagnosis is life-changing.

If you are going to get chemotherapy treatment, or if you are currently receiving chemotherapy, I know that your world may feel that it is turning upside down.

This topic especially comes home to me as my dad passed away from cancer.

I want to help make things easier for you by addressing the topic I have experience with.

While chemotherapy can surely be chaos on your beauty routine – your skin, hair and nails – many survivors, like Caitlin Kiernan, author of Pretty sick: The beauty guide for women with cancer, Say it:

When many things seem to be out of your control, it feels good to have a routine.

For some women, this perfection of their cancer beauty routine can be at stake.

Unfortunately, your skin care routine under chemo is unlikely to be the same as your skin care routine pre-diagnosis (or post-chemo, for that matter).

This is because there are many "normal" products that are large without using while undergoing chemo.

In this blog post we will review how chemotherapy can affect your skin, what products you can and cannot use during chemotherapy (and why) and what you can expect from your skin after chemotherapy.

As always, Follow the instructions of your doctor / doctor first!

You may have special circumstances or certain priorities that do not match the "typical" patient, so it is always important that you follow some medical advice before taking any of my tips into account.

How chemotherapy can affect your skin

When we hear the phrase, "you look sick" it generally refers to our skin.

Although we keep our skin care high on our list of priorities, chemotherapy can throw away the skin.

According to Mayo Clinic, "Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses powerful chemicals to kill rapidly growing cells in the body. "

Although there are different chemicals used in different patients, the general premise of chemotherapy is the same across the board.

The methods of your chemotherapy may vary. Treatments can be given intravenously (IV), orally (by pills), by shot or even creams.

Regardless of the treatment method, the majority of chemotherapy will cause severe side effects.

Some side effects, such as hair loss and weakened immune system, are well known, but skin care is a little less discussed.

So, let's discuss it now!

Generally, chemotherapy causes your skin to become more dry and sensitive (for products and for the sun).

Some treatments can also cause your skin to become discolored.

These effects can also apply to your hair and nails.

Of course, when dealing with important health problems and stressors, our skin can be the last in our mind, but there are some important reasons why you should keep your skin healthy during this time.

For example, sensitive and dry skin may be prone to eczema or itching, which can lead to wounds, which can lead to infections – and this is the last thing you need on top of everything else you have to do with.

Just as if you were chemo, the best way to treat dry skin is with very moisturizing products (like a cream or oil based product).

You also want to avoid anyone sun exposure and try to avoid exposing your skin to extreme weather conditions (eg, gloves to protect your hands in winter).

To avoid dry skin, you also want to avoid artificial scents, long / hot showers or baths. lanolin based products, foaming products and any allergens.

Other tips? Try to keep shaving as long as possible.

If you need to shave, try to use a conditioner or an oil based product instead of scuming foam creams and do not use perfumed aftercare products.

If possible, it will be milder on sensitive, dry skin if you wear cotton clothing.

And finally, even if you're probably already doing this, make sure you drink enough water.

As an extra measure, try to avoid caffeine products and alcoholbecause these diuretics can actually have the opposite effect.

If you continue to have cracked, flaky or scaly skin; together with itching, swelling, sores or rash – it can be more than just dry skin.

Hand-Foot Syndrome (palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia) is a common side effect of chemotherapy.

Although it is not certain how Hand-Foot Syndrome is caused (some believe that the medicine is leaking into small blood cells in the hands and feet), it is certain that there is no drug to cure it easily.

One way to prevent it, like to prevent dry skin, is to cover your hands and feet from elements.

Doctors also recommend that you do not put pressure on your hands and feet for up to a week after receiving chemotherapy.

Another common side effect of chemo on your skin is what doctors refer to as "flushing".

Flushing is simply a temporary redness or patch of redness that occurs on your skin – usually on the face and neck – as a reaction to the expansion of your blood vessels.

Flushing can be caused by some chemotherapeutic drugs, or they can be caused by carcinoid tumors.

Flushing can also be caused by alcohol or other drugs.

Something else that your skin can undergo during your chemotherapy is hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation is the darkness of the skin, sometimes this occurs throughout the skin, but more often the hyperpigmentation is located in some areas.

During chemotherapy, some drugs may result in hyperpigmentation of nails, tongues, gums and fingertips.

Other drugs (especially busulfan, cyclophosphamide, cisplatin, ifosfamide, thiotepa, docetaxel and etoposide) can cause darkening of areas under pressure, such as those parts of the skin that are under the bandage or band.

Another drug called Methotrexate is known to cause "flag signs" (hyperpigmented bands) in the hair of patients with lighter colored hair.

The latest known pigmentation occurs when a patient takes medication (specifically fluorouracil and vinorelbine) intravenously (via IV), which can lead to a darkening of the veins.

The good news is that in most cases, any of the above mentioned hyperpigmentation occurring within the first 1-3 weeks of chemotherapy will disappear about 10-12 weeks after your last round of chemotherapy.

Unfortunately there is not much you can do in the meantime – but you have bigger fish to fry!

Why can't you use some skin care products during chemotherapy

Another problem that you may experience (which we will go into more details about later) is that your skin may react negatively to some products.

Unfortunately, even the products you used without problems before chemo are not safe, so you need to be extra careful.

For example, you want to avoid products that contain artificial scents, alcohol or preservatives.

If you have read my blog before, you may know that I generally recommend some products with these ingredients already.

These ingredients can cause irritation even in the average user, but for anyone who goes through chemo, it is even more important to avoid products containing the above mentioned items, as your skin will be extra sensitized.

The last thing you want to handle is a skin reaction from a cupcake-scented body lotion.

Another thing to watch out for, if you are based in the US, is products that have been linked to cancer.

Unfortunately, while the EU has banned over 1,300 toxins from being used in products, the United States only has banned about 30-Why, unfortunately you have to scan products yourself.

Avoid products containing parabens, synthetic paints, phthalates, triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / sodium laurel sulfate (SLES), BHA, formaldehyde, toluene and propylene glycol,

Other products / ingredients you need to look out for include the following:


While antioxidants can be good for pre-chemo skin, antioxidants can interfere with your cells during chemo, making them a no-to-chemo patient.

Botanical essential oils

While many women have been successful essential oils During their post-chemo recovery (aromatherapy is always nice), you should not use essential oils while still undergoing chemotherapy.

According to Robert Tisserand, author of Important oil safety, "[essential oils] Can protect normal cells from safety damage, it can also protect the cancer cells that the treatment is designed to eliminate. Therefore, limitation of the use of essential oils seems appropriate. "

Any skin care purchased through a third party (like amazon)

It's hard to decide what's in our skin care products that are sold from reputable brands, but the water gets even smoother when it comes to a third-party seller like Amazon.

Numerous reports have been submitted where consumers have found counterfeit beauty products sold on Amazon, Target and other retailers we generally trust.

While you should never skimp on skin care (and if a deal is too good to be true, it is probably). During this time in your life, it is even more important to be extra careful about what you expose your skin to.

If you can, you can always buy products directly from the source (ie buy an Epicuren product from

You may also want to know that Whole Foods, Trader Joe and Costco have proven to have some of the strictest product standards, so you should feel safe buying skin care from one of their stores.

The products / ingredients you can use during chemotherapy

When looking for what to replace your now (unfortunately) useless beauty products, look for products that are hypoallergenic, soft and hydrated.

And of course, products that are natural and have ingredients that you recognize on the label.

Unfortunately, because the US doesn't regulate terms like "Natural" and "Organic" you have to make a little Nancy Drew with yourself – don't trust a nice label too fast!

When it comes to which products to use, here are some recommendations:

Urea moisture sensor

While chemo affects everyone differently, an effect that is extremely common among all patients is very dry skin.

Not only is urea moisturizer excellent (and safe) for preventing and treating dry skin, they also has been shown to prevent hand syndrome.

Urea moisture transmitters have also been shown to reduce itching, dryness and scaliness more effectively than glycerin-based moisture sensors.

A 10% urea cream is generally what is recommended.

hand cream

While you can safely use the urea cream on your hands (and you may want to), you may also want to consider having a large-size hand bottle in your hand (or in all your wallets, glove box, etc.).

Oil or lotion based cleaners

We already discussed why you should hide alcohol-based products, and this includes your cleaning agent.

But you should also probably replace your water-based cleaner for any oil or lotion-based.

You know you feel tight when you wash your face? You don't want it!

That feeling is actually the product that strips your face of its natural oils, and you want to keep them!

Heavy Duty Healing Ointments

There is a reason why Vaseline does wonders on your deceived lips.

It acts as a barrier to the elements.

During chemo, you want a similar product that protects your skin from the outside world, as it becomes extremely sensitive during this time.

Ask your doc for a recommendation on this!

castor oil

Of course, hair loss is a natural side effect of chemotherapy for most patients.

While this blog post is mainly focused on skin care, I would like to mention castor oil as an excellent natural and safe alternative to stimulate hair growth.

You can rub castor oil into the scalp, on your eyebrows and even on your eyelashes to stimulate growth.

Brands I Love

An easy way to dig out all non-chemically friendly skin care products? Search for "oncological friendly" products.

Of course, being "oncology-friendly" is not always sure that they are safe at every stage of chemo or any type of cancer, so always check with your doctor first.

Osmosis products are available on my site and are "oncology" friendly.

The StemFactor Growth Serum is an excellent product to give you the "healthy" glow.

Other cancer survivors has sworn with products from Farmaesthetics, Skin And Co. and 100% Pure.

Other resources for products

Another resource for finding products that are safe to use is Think dirtywhich verifies "clean" beauty marks.

Environment Working Group's Skin Deep database, on the other hand, you can find your favorite products and see if they contain any ingredients that pose a potential risk.

Of course, you do not want to use any of the products here without first consulting your doctor.

As I mentioned, each patient and every treatment plan is unique, and your doctor's words always come first.

Post-chemotherapy: What is expected from your skin

The good news is, as I mentioned earlier, many of the troublesome skin care problems you treat during chemo will clear up a couple of weeks after you finish chemo.

Unfortunately, the fight with cancer does not always end in chemo.

In many cases, you will still be on a lot of medications and treatments after chemo, and these can also touch your skin.

Many women who have been through chemotherapy have unfortunately struggled with acne in the subsequent stages.

Other women noticed a complete change in skin tone and felt the need to buy a new foundation that matched their new shade.

Although you can go back to the products you used before the cancer diagnosis, you may need to completely renew your routine for your skin and the ever-changing need.

But there is nothing wrong with a little attempt and error, and fortunately there are plenty of women who have gone through similar things that can lend a helping hand or a suggestion!

You may also want to go back to the basics and check out mine chapter for chapter The series on how to get perfect, younger and healthy skin.

Specifically, consider re-evaluating your skin type – It may have changed!

Final thoughts

I know you might be going through a lot right now, and I hope I've helped a little by giving you this blog post!

If you have had personal experience with chemotherapy, I would like to hear about how you treated your skin and what worked (or not) before, after and during your treatments.

Last updated by Alana on .