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Caring For Your Skin and Nails During Cancer Treatment

  • author name Carol J Kreider
woman applying moisturizer on face

As chemotherapy does its work fighting cancer, the treatment can also take a toll on your skin and nails, creating unwanted side effects such as dry skin, itchiness, inflammation, increased pigmentation, loss of body hair, and sensitivity to sun exposure. Fortunately, there are simple ways to increase your self-confidence by keeping your skin and nails looking and feeling good.

Protecting Your Skin

Dry skin is one of the most common side effects of cancer therapy. One way to prevent skin dehydration is by regularly using moisturizers. Choose body creams instead of lotions. The thicker consistency will lock in moisture for longer periods of time.

Other ways to prevent skin dehydration include:

  • Moisturize your hands after you wash them
  • Avoid hot showers or baths
  • Keep your body hydrated by drinking water

Some chemotherapy can also make your skin more susceptible to sunburn. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of \at least 30 to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Look for sunscreen with zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and avobenzone for the best UVA protection.

Remember to wear sun protection products daily on any part of your body exposed to sun rays.

Cosmetics for Cancer Patients

Cancer therapy can change the tone, texture, and color of your skin, cause hair loss, and may even make you to appear dull, ill, and aged. There are products available to prevent eyelash and eyebrow loss during treatment. While not guaranteed to stop the process of facial hair loss, many patients have positive results. In addition, these makeup techniques can help camouflage loss of eyelashes, eyebrows and pigmentation to your skin:

  • Apply moisturizer and sunscreen and allow it to dry. Then apply primer to your face, to ensure your skin remains moisturized and your makeup remains intact throughout the day.
  • When finding a new shade of foundation or concealer, match the product with the skin color between your nose, eye and cheek. This should be the lightest shade on your face and by using a light shade; you can add dimension through contour, or other means, to appear more natural.
  • Use a cream pencil or brow powder to fill in your eyebrows. Traditional pencils are hard and can pull out facial hair.

Caring for Your Nails

During treatments, nails can become brittle and dry and may even develop lines and ridges. Certain chemo drugs can also darken nails and though the effects are temporary, can last for months.

Here are some tips to keep your nails looking their best:

  • Keep your nails short, hydrated and treated with the appropriate products. (We recommend antibacterial/antifungal tea tree oil that nourishes the nail and cuticle and prevents further nail complications).
  • Remove artificial nails before treatment begins and refrain from cutting your cuticles due to the risk of infection.
  • Help maintain your nails during chemo by getting a relaxing manicure or pedicure at a medical facility that complies with strict sanitation guidelines. Keep in mind your cancer therapy may decrease your ability to fight infection while increasing your susceptibility to bruising and bleeding.

Facilities like The Image Recovery Center at the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute offer salon services (manicures, pedicures, makeup applications), wigs, massage, mastectomy products, and other offerings to help women and men feel more confident about their appearance. Schedule a free consultation by calling 717-544-9440.

author name

Carol J Kreider

Carol J. Kreider is a clinical cosmetologist with the Image Recovery Center at the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute.

Call: 717-544-9400

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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