How to mitigate the effects of cancer treatments on your skin

Cancer treatments have an impact on physical appearance in general. Often rendered more fragile by these treatments, the skin is no exception. Like the rest of the body, your skin needs time to repair itself.

Whether you’re going through tough times or recovering from them, it’s important to take care of yourself. Adhering to a skincare routine can help you regain a healthy glow.

Woman cheering up her friend who is coping with cancer

How do cancer treatments affect the skin?

All cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy, have negative effects on the skin. Of course, the frequency, nature, and severity of these effects can vary depending on a variety of factors, including:

  • The person being treated
  • The length of treatment
  • The treatment type
  • The number of doses administered
  • The person’s skin type
  • The person’s sensitivity level

Treatments that target rapidly renewing cells (such as cancer cells) often affect neighbouring cells as well. As a result, healthy cells can be harmed. For example, hair, skin, and nails, which are made up of rapidly renewing cells, can take a major hit, leading to signs and symptoms such as:

  • Dryness
  • Itching
  • Irritation and redness
  • Tightness, burning, or pain
  • Dark spots (including brown, purple, and white spots)
  • Rashes resembling eczema, acne, or hives
  • Hand-foot syndrome
  • Photosensitivity
  • Infections

What lifestyle changes can you make to reduce these signs and symptoms?

Lifestyle habits can have a major impact on your overall health, including the health of your skin. To keep your skin looking healthy and radiant, it’s important to ditch bad habits like smoking, which is even more harmful to people with cancer. In addition to causing skin problems, cancer also weakens the immune system. That said, there are certain habits you can adopt that will help keep your skin looking its best. Here are a few examples:

  • Stay hydrated. Keeping a bottle of water with you at all times will help with this.
  • Eat a healthy diet and only drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Stay active. Choose physical activities according to your abilities and limitations.
  • Avoid long periods of sun exposure. If you can’t avoid the sun, cover yourself adequately. You should also apply an SPF of 50 or higher every 2 hours, with your first application going on at least 20 minutes before you leave the house.
  • Take baths and showers in lukewarm water.
  • Do not rub your skin vigorously. Gently pat your skin dry with your towel.
  • Moisturize your skin daily with creams and lotions. Products made with shea butter or that contain ceramides are always a great choice.
  • Avoid direct contact with irritants such as perfumes, clothing made of wool or synthetic fabrics, latex, etc.
  • Try not to scratch, even if you feel itchy.

Talk to one of our cosmetic specialists for help choosing hypoallergenic beauty products or products formulated for sensitive skin. Certain brands, such as La Roche-Posay, have even created products specially formulated for skin that has been weakened by cancer treatments.

Our professionals are here for you!

Before you start a cancer treatment, it’s important to get all the information about potential side effects for your skin. Your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse will be happy to help you. If you notice any skin changes during treatment, notify a health care professional as soon as possible. They will be able to advise you on how to care for your skin to counteract these side effects.

During treatment, remember to treat yourself! Incorporate professional skin care or massage therapy services into your daily routine to give your body and mind a boost.

Last updated on September 23, 2022


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How to mitigate the effects of cancer treatments on your skin

Rendered more fragile by these treatments, your skin needs time to repair itself. Adhering to a skincare routine can help you regain a healthy glow.
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