Chemo is a bumpy ride, and one of the definite bumps is the effects it can have on your skin, leading it to become drier, more sensitive, sore and often altered in texture and colour.
Here’s a guide to looking after yourself and your skin while you’re undergoing treatment.
- Start boosting your skin resilience about a week before treatment starts: feed it with rosehip oil, and moisturise with a natural balm regularly throughout the day. You’re aiming to make the skin barrier as healthy and robust as possible before treatment starts, so oil-based ointments are generally a better choice than water-based lotions.
- Wash sensitive or sore skin with a gentle, unscented liquid wash (like our 2-in-1 Natural Shampoo & Body Wash) to keep it absolutely clean.
- Keep baths or showers to about 15 minutes, and use lukewarm (not hot) water. Gently pat (rather than rub) dry, with a soft clean towel. More info about bathing with sensitive skin here.
- Afterwards, apply an unscented emollient cream or oil to your skin while it’s still damp. Balmonds Bath & Body Oil or Daily Moisturising Cream are ideal, depending on your preference for lotion or oil.
- Apply a hand cream or salve immediately after washing your hands.
- Change your clothes: wear clothing that’s soft, loose, natural fibre (cotton or bamboo are great) so it doesn’t irritate sensitive skin. Seek out clothing companies making garments specially for eczema sufferers, as they’re likely to minimise irritating, scratchy seams and labels.
- Beat the itch! Try ice packs, ice towels and fans if skin is getting hot and bothered. Balmonds Cooling Cream can be useful for chemo itch, especially on the lower legs.
- Clean cuts, grazes or sores immediately and keep a close check for infection. If you want to use a natural antiseptic ointment, try our Tea Tree balm for minor skin injuries.
- Swap to a fragrance-free natural laundry detergent and give clothes an extra go round on the rinse cycle. (Read our guide to detergents here; the rules for people with eczema and allergies can also apply to those with chemo-induced skin sensitivity.)
- Protect your skin from the sun. Read our guide to keeping skin healthy in the sun here; again, this blog was written for rosacea but similar rules apply for those undergoing chemo.)
- Take care of your nails: check for signs of infection and flakiness and keep them well moisturised. Use a nail oil every night to keep them in good condition (Balmonds Rosehip Scar Oil makes a great nail and cuticle oil) and use hand cream after washing your hands as well.
- Drink and eat as well as you can manage. You’ll need to make sure your body is provided with all the nutrients it needs to repair itself, which includes repair and regeneration of the skin barrier. Omega-rich foods such as fatty fish, seeds and nuts are good for the skin.
- Go scent-free: scents can further damage a fragile skin barrier. Use unscented, neutral, natural toiletries and skincare products and avoid perfumes or colognes.
- Avoid household irritants: see our guide to minimising environmental triggers to flare-up sensitive skin here.
Moisturise regularly and thoroughly with gentle, nourishing emollients to keep skin soft and protected. We’d suggest applying our Daily Moisturising Cream in the morning and afternoon, and our Rosehip Scar Oil last thing at night.
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.