Caring for Skin and Nails During Cancer Treatment
You may experience nail and skin changes as a result of your cancer treatment. There are some ways to manage these common side effects. Read on for tips on how to care for your nails and skin.
Dos and Don'ts of Nail Care
Chemotherapy drugs sometimes cause mild, temporary changes in nails and nail beds. These may include brittleness, grooving, discoloration, change in growth rate, heightened sensitivity, and lifting of the nail bed. If the latter occurs, nails should be kept short. It's important that you don't cut your cuticles. Use cuticle removers instead. Massage cuticle cream into the cuticle area to prevent dryness, splitting and hangnails.
Wear gloves while doing chores such as washing the car or the dishes. Excessive exposure to water can lead to fungal infections of the nail bed.
Women can wear nail polish to help keep nails strong and protected from the environment. Clear nail polish can be helpful for men.
Very dry nails can become weaker or more brittle during treatment. To take off polish, use an oily remover. If you're undergoing chemotherapy, avoid artificial nails.
Alert your doctor to any signs of inflammation or infection. Ask a professional manicurist for more information on daily home care to keep your nails healthy and strong.
How should I take care of my skin?
Some people experience very dry skin during chemotherapy. If you're one of them, use mild soaps and lukewarm (not hot) water, or mild cleansing lotions or creams.
- Apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp and take special care of the sensitive area around the eyes and lips.
- Avoid all types of hormone creams (such as products containing hydrocortisone).
- Avoid prolonged sun exposure and use sunblock with an SPF of 15 or higher (many moisturizers include sunscreen) unless otherwise directed by your doctor.
- Skin tone may be altered by the therapy, so it may be necessary to change your foundation color.
- Consult a cosmetologist at Magnolias Salon for specific techniques to improve the look and feel of your skin during treatment.
It's essential to leave the marks your doctor or radiation therapist may have applied. Don't worry: they will eventually fade away. In the meantime, use warm water without soap or creams in the treatment areas.
If the treatment areas itch, tell your radiation therapist. A light sprinkling of cornstarch may help. Some creams and lotions may leave a coating that can interfere with your treatment. Magnolias carries a serum for radiation burns to promote faster healing and comfort. Use only those products which have been approved or prescribed by your doctor. Do not scratch skin near the treatment area.
Temporary pigmentation changes, such as redness or tanning, may occur during treatment. Check with your doctor about using cosmetic concealer and skincare products.
- Avoid exposing treated areas to the sun. Do not use sunscreens on them until all your radiation treatments are completed, unless your doctor approves.
- Do not use cosmetics, perfumes or deodorants on treated areas before checking with your radiation therapist. A non-metallic deodorant is usually recommended. Magnolias Salon has Chemo Kits in stock with deodorant, lotion, lip balm and shampoo formulated for oncology patients.
- Avoid extremes in temperature on treated areas (no heating pads or cold packs).
- Most radiation oncologists prefer that female patients receiving radiation to the breast wear cotton bras with no underwiring.
- Avoid shaving treated skin until treatments are completed and the skin has recovered. If you must shave, use an electric razor.
If your skin is still irritated after your radiation treatment is completed, ask your radiation therapist and/or stylist to recommend a moisturizer and sunscreen. Immediately inform your doctor of any signs of infection or changes in skin color.