The skin is probably the last thing you want to think about when you have cancer. However, it is one of the most affected when you undergo cancer therapy since it is the largest organ of the body. It weighs 20 pounds and makes up 16% of your body weight. So, skincare habits are a must for cancer patients!
Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapy can slow down the renewal of the skin’s epidermal layer, causing dryness and dullness. When the skin is affected, this can lead to decreased quality of life. Here are my top skin care tips to help improve your skin’s integrity and resiliency. These tips are applicable at whatever cancer stage you are in.
1. CLEANSE your skin using mild cleansers and quick showers.
The normal pH of the skin is between 4.7 to 5.7 and is acidic in nature. Soap bars that have high pH strips the skin of natural oils that leave the skin dry. Hence, it is better to use mild cleansers with lower pH to help protect the skin’s acidic mantle.
Keep shower time short between 5 to 10 minutes. A study on skin care habits of cancer patients showed that those who bathe for more than an hour significantly increased the chance of skin rash.
2. MOISTURIZE your skin daily after bath and whenever itchy.
Keeping the skin moisturized with lotions regularly helps the integrity of the skin cells. The skin becomes a stronger barrier and helps keep the irritants, allergens and bacteria out of the body. After bathing, regularly apply lotion so that water can be trapped in the skin for better moisturization. Lotions that have no fragrance are preferred for sensitive skin.
Whenever you are itchy massage a moisturizing cream as well to soothe the area. A study on cancer patients regularly applying daily skin moisturizer, face cream and face wash for 4 weeks showed that dry skin, hand foot reactions, and skin rash significantly decreased from baseline to follow-up.
3. PROTECT your skin.
Protect your skin from prolonged sun exposure. Too much ultraviolet light can cause photosensitivity in patients who are on chemotherapy and oral targeted therapy. Avoid sunburns by staying in the shade and by using sunscreen when outdoors for so long.
For cancer patients who are immobile and in bed, protect their skin from wetness and incontinence. Diaper rash (incontinence associated rash) can be prevented with regular use of barrier creams such as zinc oxide. Apply this generously in the groin and buttocks area every diaper change. Barrier creams also help prevent intertrigo between skin folds and bed sores.
Know more about other skincare habits for cancer patients in “Staying Beautiful and Hopeful: A Cancer Patient’s Skin Guide”.
Byun HJ, Lee HJ, Yang JI, et al. Daily skin care habits and the risk of skin eruptions and symptoms in cancer patients. Ann Oncol. 2012;23(8):1992‐1998. doi:10.1093/annonc/mds141
Haley AC, Calahan C, Gandhi M, West DP, Rademaker A, Lacouture ME. Skin care management in cancer patients: an evaluation of quality of life and tolerability. Support Care Cancer. 2011;19(4):545‐554. doi:10.1007/s00520-010-0851-8
Skin Care for Hope is a local skincare brand that offers mild, safe, and moisturizing skincare products that are dermatologically approved and specially formulated for sensitive skin of cancer patients, bringing quality of life through hope and healing.
It is committed to providing safe and gentle skin care products that are paraben-free with moisturizing and calming ingredients; Educating and promoting good skin care and supportive care for those with sensitive skin; Bringing together a compassionate and collaborative skincare community that puts God’s light and hope at the center of it all.
For more information on skincare tips, advice, as well as gentle and moisturizing skincare products for your self-care journey, follow @SkinCareforHope on Facebook.