Best Lotions For Cancer Patients

best lotions for cancer patients
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Best lotions for cancer patients

I wanted to write about the best lotions for cancer patients because some personal care products have harsh ingredients that should be avoided.

Why might we need a skin lotion if we are on chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy damages the skin

The skin may change when you are on chemotherapy.

Your skin cells are constantly renewing themselves, they divide quickly in the deep layers. The older cells move  up to the top of the skin layers where they are sloughed off. 

Chemotherapy targets cells that have a high turnover, unfortunately skin cells have a high turnover and are affected by chemotherapy. In addition, chemotherapy slows down healing time. 

Both chemotherapy and radiation can disrupt cell turnover process. There are less oils to hydrate the skin, this results in dry skin and other skin reactions.

best lotions for cancer patientsDehydration

Dehydration from the chemotherapy can also lead to dry skin making us look tired and aged. Ensure you are drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Blood tests will be performed to monitor your electrolytes. There is a higher chance of dehydration if you are vomiting or develop diarrhea.

One of the first signs of dry skin from chemotherapy may be itchy skin. The skin may also be sensitive to clothes or jewelry rubbing on it.

Take notice of dry flaking skin. Dry skin may lead to cracking and open wounds. Open wounds can become infected, especially in patients who are on chemotherapy and are immunocompromised.

If you notice that there is redness around the area that is worsening you should alert your physician.

Chemotherapy can also lead to rashes.

According to Memorial Sloan Kettering’s website, “Rash – which may look like acne or measles in appearance – is the dermatologic side effect we see most often in patients receiving anticancer medications.

The best lotion for chemotherapy patients is not an acne medication as you may think.

Consider taking photographs. Taking photos of the affected area can be helpful in the decision making. Sometimes the skin rash will improve prior to your next appointment may may start all over again with your next treatment.

Hyperpigmentation which is darkening of the skin may occur when there is chronic irritation. This can occur as an overall darkening of the skin, or it can be localized. Some of these areas will lighten with time. 

I had lymphoma when I was a teenager. I still have hyperpigmentation (darker skin) on the sides of my neck where I received radiation treatments. I am amazed that it has lasted all these years.

The best lotions for cancer patients contain natural skin lightening ingredients, consider avoiding hydroquinone. 

Ever Skin Care sells 2 products that can help lighten dark spots, Reveal Pads and Remedy Spot Corrector.

Chemotherapy can make the skin more sensitive to the sun, this is referred to as photosensitivity. You need to ensure your skin is protected when you are out in the sun. Ensure you are wearing a hat and a light long sleeve shirt. Sunscreen should be applied an hour before going outside.

Radiation can cause damage to the skin as well. Radiation treatments can burn the skin similar to a sunburn or any other burn. This will make the skin more sensitive. Sometimes there is redness, inflammation or open areas if the skin breaks down.

Treatment of skin changes with chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

An acne like rash can occur from chemotherapy, this is typically referred to as chemo acne. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering’s website,If you have an acne-like rash, do not to use acne medications as that may cause even more irritation.”

Treatment of skin burns after radiation

• Caution should be used when placing products on the skin that are perfumed or have detergents in them. The best lotions for cancer patients would avoid harsh chemicals.

When radiation treatment begins  the best lotions for cancer patients include ointments such as A&D, Eucerin, Aquaphor or CicaBiafine Anti Irritations Moisturising Cream 200ml by HealthMarket

Wear loose clothes over these areas.

Aloe or 1% hydrocortisone can be considered if there is itching. If the itching or redness worsens you should consult your physician as a steroid prescription may be needed.

Skin care tips for  patients on chemotherapy

Avoid the sun between 10 AM and 2 PM and wear sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB. Look for products with micronized zinc.

Consider wearing cotton clothes, they may be more comfortable than other materials if your skin is sensitive.

Avoid wired bras as they can cut into the skin.

Consider using unscented, allergen free detergents. Harsh chemical detergents can cause skin irritation, especially for those patients who already have sensitive skin.

Use gloves to do dishes or clean the house. Many household cleansers have harsh chemicals that will dry out the skin.

Always rinse and dry hands carefully, particularly after contact with cleaning products.

Consider avoid harsh weather conditions. Extreme heat will increase the risk of dehydration. Cold weather and windy weather will increase skin dryness and sensitivity.

Avoid very hot showers as they can dry out the skin. Pat the skin dry and apply lotion before your skin completely dries.

Avoid scrubbing the skin.

Avoid shaving the skin with a razor, consider an electric razor. This will cut down on razor burns.

Drink plenty of water to help prevent dehydration.

All skin rashes should be discussed with your physician as it may be a symptom of an allergy to a medication.

Best lotions for cancer patients

The best lotions for cancer patients would avoid synthetic fragrance which can irritate the skin and cause allergies.

The best lotion for cancer patients would avoid alcohols as they are drying to the skin.

Look for over-the-counter creams that contain anti-itch substances such as menthol, camphor, or pramoxine, or consider taking an oral antihistamine.

Consider avoiding lanolin.  Lanolin is a by-product extracted from the sheep’s wool. The problem is that sheep are exposed to pesticides and these pesticides have been shown to  accumulate in breast milk. 

Use moisturizers regularly. Moisturizers prevent water loss by layering an oily substance over the skin to keep water in or by attracting water to the outer skin layer from the inner skin layer.

Substances that stop water loss include mineral oil and silicone products. Bath oils can be applied to your wet skin after you emerge from the bath or shower.

Substances that attract water to the skin include glycerin, propylene glycol and peptides. 

The best lotions for cancer patients would include a sunblock. After your radiation treatment is completed, the skin will be more sensitive to the sun than it was in the past. It is important to protect your skin with sunblock.

Chlorinated water should be avoided as it is drying and irritating to the skin. If you are planning on going in the pool speak to your doctor about using vaseline which is receommended by the breast cancer site. This will repel the water and keep chlorine of the damaged skin.

One of my favorite skin care lines is Ever Skin Care, this is the line I use. I have dry sensitive skin and there are not that many lines that do not cause swelling of the lower eyelids. I can tolerate this line, it is gentle but effective.

Nails changes with chemotherapy

Certain types of chemotherapy such as the taxanes and anthracyclines may cause nail changes. The nails can change color and develop lines referred to as Beau’s lines. The nails may also become dry, brittle and there may actually be nail loss.

Talk to your physician about possible treatments to help avoid nail problems and nail loss.

Higher risk of nail infections with chemotherapy

Chemotherapy can also cause immunosuppression so you will have less of an ability to fight an infection as discussed further below.

Manicures and pedicures should be discussed with you physician as they can potentially lead to open wounds and infections. Consider using your own products rather than the ones that are found at a nail salon.

Tips for better nail care

Clip your nails short so they can be easily kept clean.

Don’t bite your nails or cuticles, this will increase the risk of infection.

Try to keep the nails short and consider pushing your cuticles back rather than cutting them.

The best lotions for chemotherapy patients to will prevent dryness and splitting of the nail, it will also moisten the cuticle.

Buffing can help smooth out irregularities as well as smooth the nail, consider not using nail polish.

If you do use nail polish try to avoid nail polish with toulene, dibutyl phthalate, and formaldehyde as there are possible health concerns with these ingredients.

Avoid ingredients such as acetone and ethylacetate. Look for gentle nail polish removers that are water based.

Acrylics or other nail wraps can harbor bacteria  which increases the risk of infection. Consider avoiding fake nails for the same reason.

Moisturizing the nail can help give a healthy sheen to them, again it is not necessary to use nail polish. The best lotions for cancer patients does not contain irritating ingredients. 

Always wear gloves while doing chores around the house. Too much water exposure can cause fungal infections. In addition, harsh chemicals used when cleaning can injure the skin as well.  

Gardening should be done with care. Dirt contains bacteria that can get into small abrasions on the hands which will increase the risk of infection.

Infected nail bed that lead to the surrounding finger, hands and forearm being infected may require intravenous antibiotics in the hospital. Discuss any signs of inflammation or infection with your physician.

Hair changes with chemotherapy

• Chemotherapy can cause hair loss.

• Consider cutting the hair short before it falls out. Some people will shave their heads as it is hard to see the clumps of heair coming out in the shower on finding it on the pillow when waking up.

• Losing you hair can be emotionally upsetting. Being prepared ahead of time with scarves and wigs can make this an easier time.

• Scalp hypothermia which is a process of placing a cold cap on the scalp may help prevent hair loss. Talk to your physician regarding possible treatments to avoid hair loss.

Infections that prevent chemotherapy administration

Taking care of your skin and nails is extremely important. Infections on the skin as well as around the nails may affect the dose of chemotherapy you can receive leading to a suboptimal treatment. Patients who have surgery to treat cancer may have treatment delayed if their wounds become infected. When you have cancer and are receiving chemotherapy your body’s ability to fight infection is decreased, this is referred to as immunosuppression. People who are immunosuppressed are more likely to acquire infections. They also have a difficult time fighting infections. The infections may spread throughout the body leading to sepsis.

Skin changes with chemotherapy

The good thing about skin and nail changes is that most results are temporary.

According to Dr Erica Onc from Erica Onc MD

“most skin and nail changes from chemotherapy resolve within weeks to months. Changes from radiation such as pigmentary changes can last long sometime.”

Dr Erica, also points out it is very important to talk to your doctor about persistent vomiting “it is very important to report uncontrolled vomiting promptly as this can initiate a vicious circle with dehydration, more nausea and vomiting, even more dehydration and possible kidney failure”

Look Good Feel Better is an organization that provides beauty tips to women with cancer

I was recently introduced to a Schanica Pickens (thanks, Kathryn) who works with Look Good Feel Better. According to their website “Look Good Feel Better is a non-medical, brand-neutral public service program that teaches beauty techniques to cancer patients to help them manage the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment.”

Schanica is both a makeup artist and a social worker who is working towards her certification with Look Good Feel Better. The certification will allow her to lead volunteer workshops where she can share her skills with those who are on chemotherapy. Shanica has found this a positive rewarding experience. She can teach her skill and help empower women to feel better by looking better.

Look Good Feel Better

• Look Good Feel Better has volunteers who are trained cosmetologists, nail technicians, hair stylists and makeup artists.

• These volunteers share their skills with patients who are on chemotherapy.

• If you are interested, Look and Feel Better is looking for volunteers. You can fill out an application to volunteer.

• Workshops are offered throughout the country. Look for a workshop in your area. If you are not able to attend a workshop a virtual makeover is available. Their website also has a lot of information on beauty  tips.

What do you think is the best lotions for cancer patients

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About Sharon T McLaughlin MD FACS 170 Articles

I am a physician who is interested in providing health information and health tips so that we may live healthy lives.

10 Comments

  1. Wow, what a detailed, if scary, rundown on the effects of chemotherapy. I’ve shared your post on all my social sites in the hope it will help someone. Thank you for doing the research and sharing it,
    Edward

  2. Thank you so much for this Sharon! I know two women going through chemo now and I will forward your very helpful post to them.

  3. Hello Sharon! What a great article! It is crazy to see how skin and nail infections arise after even one dose of chemotherapy! This is such an invaluable share..
    Thank you so much.
    Chery :))

  4. Hi Dr. Sharon,
    Very interested to learn what you had to say about radiation. Less oils to hydrate the skin. Hyperpigmention from radiation treatments that lasted years. I am going to start taking radiation
    treatments. I did not know that radiation treatments can burn the skin as like a sunburn. I will take care of using products without perfume or detergents.Good to use sunscreen that protects for both UVA and UVB, micronized zinc.I am hoping that I will not be taking Chemotherapy only radiation.
    I actually was a cosmetician that worked with the The Look Good Feel Better program many years ago when I was a director with Mary Kay cosmetics. Wonderful organization. Thank you for
    your very informative article on cancer patients and the best lotions to use.

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