Since you first heard your diagnosis — cancer — your life has been a frightening whirlwind. You’re a fighter, you’ve got hope, and you’re starting chemo soon. You feel a little shallow and silly worrying about your looks, though, when you have so many other things to worry about, but set aside that guilt, sweetie. It’s natural. We women invest a lot of our self-image based on our appearance, so if you’re worried about skin care during chemo, I can help. Here are 7 skin care tips for cancer fighting warriors, like you.
It’s a good idea to begin your new “skin care during chemo” regimen a week or 10 days before you begin chemo. This will give you a chance to get used to the new products you’re using, and to replace any products you don’t like. If you’re worried a week won’t be long enough to develop these new skin care habits, go ahead and start sooner.
Here’s one of the most important skin care tips during chemo: choose products that are gentle! Set aside the harsh peels, scrubs and cleansers and replace them with gentle, fragrance-free and dye-free alternatives. You may also want to consider changing your laundry soap, dish soap and shampoo, too.
While a nice hot bath or shower sounds like a marvelous way to relax after chemo, the hot water may take a toll on your already dry, itchy skin. Hot water can wash away precious natural oils in your skin, so opt for a warm bath with a few drops of oil in it, which can be just as relaxing… and not as hard on your skin. This isn’t just a skin care tip during chemo either — you might find this tip helpful to avoid dry winter skin, too.
As you go through chemo, there are some things you’ll come to rely on that you might have taken for granted before — the calming effect of your mother’s voice, the way ginger ale or chamomile tea can soothe a nauseous stomach, and the importance of a good moisturizer. Invest in a good one, like Philosophy’s Hope in a Jar… it’s a little pricey, but it’s worth it. Also, be sure you’re using your moisturizer at the right time, which is within 10 minutes of showering or bathing, when your skin absorbs it best.
If your skin is extremely dry and flaky, ask your doctor for a prescription for an ammonium lactate cream to help relieve your symptoms and soothe your skin. There are over-the-counter alternatives, if you’re loath to add another prescription to your already-daunting list of meds, too.
If you’re suffering from itchy skin, it may be a side effect from one of your chemo drugs, and not related to extra-dry skin. Try to avoid scratching, if you can, since it can spread infection. To help with the itching, try an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream (ask your doc first), or, if the itching is too intense, tell your doctor, and ask for a prescription-strength steroid cream (or an oral steroid).
This is a tip for skin care during chemo that’s good to keep in mind even when chemo is long behind you and your cancer is gone — wear sunscreen. Choose a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection of at least SPF 30, and wear it every day. If you’re going to be outside, reapply it every two hours… and don’t forget to protect your peepers with sunglasses, and the sensitive skin on your scalp and face with a hat or scarf, too.
You might be lucky, my warrior friend, and your skin may not change at all during chemo, but if it does, you’re prepared. Try to remember that these changes are temporary, and as soon as your cancer is gone, you’ll be back to worrying about that silly breakout before your period and how to fade your freckles. Until then, I hope these tips will help, and I’d love to see what other ideas you survivors have to share!
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