The side-effects of chemotherapy on skin can present as different kinds of rash, but what do they look like? We take a look at the most common rashes and what they might look like.
Rashes caused by EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) inhibitors:
About 90% of patients being treated with EGFR drugs get a rash within the first 1-2 weeks of treatment; this is usually a spotty, pustular breakout, looking a bit like acne or perioral dermatitis. On pale skin it can appear red, and on all skin tones the skin can look inflamed and discoloured. The rash affects the parts of the body where there are sebaceous glands, ie the face, chin, chest and back.
Radiation recall rash:
Althought not strictly a 'chemo rash', if patients have already undergone radiotherapy before chemo, they are vulnerable to radiation recall rashes, also known as radiodermatitis, or radiotherapy-induced dermatitis. This shows up as hot, stinging patches of skin on areas that have undergone radiotherapy; it looks a bit like sunburn. It can be swollen, itchy, dry, and in worst cases, blistered, cracked and open to infection.
Allergic reaction rash:
Some patients experience an immediate reaction to the drug infusion and break out in hives. Hives, also known as urticaria, are raised bumps or welts across the body.
General dry skin and sensitivity:
Skin affected by chemotherapy can be more prone to dryness, itching, and soreness, which can appear as rashes and sore patches. It can also be more vulnerable to damage from sunlight (which is known as photosensitivity), which can look like sunburn.
Check out our article How To Look After Your Skin Before, During & After Radio- and Chemotherapy for some other things you can do to keep your skin as healthy as possible.
We want to make sure that anyone going through chemotherapy can look after their skin and mitigate some of the more challenging effects of chemo on the skin, so we’ve come up with some suggestions for products that can help keep sensitive skin in good condition during treatment.
Recommended products for those undergoing chemotherapy:
Skin Salvation with hemp and beeswax is a great moisturiser for sensitive skin; it is rich, nourishing, and free from synthetics. It’s a perfect emollient for skin that has been affected by chemo burns, and, because it’s oil- not water-based, is less likely to sting sensitive skin on application. (From £7.99 for 30ml)
Balmonds Cooling Cream with menthol, aloe and lavender works as a light, nourishing hand & body lotion, and to soothe any itchy areas. (£19 for 100ml)
Balmonds Bath & Body Oil with hemp, lavender and chamomile is great to add to a relaxing bath or to use as a lavender-scented massage oil. (£12.99 for 200ml)
Balmonds Rosehip Scar Oil with rosehip, chamomile and palmarosa is suitable for use on the face, nails, or any areas of ‘radiation burn’ or scarring. (£22 for 30ml)
We also offer a fantastic All-Natural Starter Kit which would make a perfect skincare essentials bundle for anyone undergoing chemo or radiotherapy.
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.