Cancer & Skin Care

Your skin is the first line of defence against infection. Taking care of your skin is a key part of well-being at all times, but it’s especially important if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer. If you’re going through cancer treatment, you’ve likely noticed changes in your skin. This is one side effect that you can do something about, and taking care of your skin can help you look and feel healthier again.

Skin health

Common skin complaints during and after cancer treatment are extremely dry or flaky skin, sensitive skin, dermatitis and radiation burns. Many people think of dry skin as a cosmetic problem, but very dry skin during cancer treatment can become inflamed and more prone to infection. Your skin is also part of your lymphatic system and good skin care is one way to reduce the risk of secondary lymphedema. Many treatment side effects cannot be avoided, but you can take steps to heal your skin from the inside out. The best time to start is before chemotherapy or radiation therapy begins. So, if you are newly diagnosed, it’s time to think about the health of your skin. The key to healthy skin, during and after cancer treatment, is to keep the skin clean, exfoliated and moisturized. This helps you maintain a barrier to infection. Chemotherapy can affect your skin’s natural moisture because it reduces the amount of oil your glands secrete. A good moisturizer helps counteract this; during the day, use one with protection against UVA and UVB rays, even in winter.

Skin facts

  • Your skin is the largest organ in your body.
  • Studies show that people who wash their face with soap in the morning are about 50 per cent less protected from the sun. This is because alkaline soaps strip the skin of oils that form a protective barrier.
  • Studies show that it takes about two hours after a shower for the skin to regain its normal pH balance; using a moisturizer within 15 minutes of showering helps.
  • It only takes 26 seconds for your skin to absorb what you put on it, so the creams and lotions we use every day will have an impact on our health.

What should I use on my skin?

A stroll down any aisle of a store selling personal care products can be confusing. With so many products out there, how do you know which are the safest? Reading the label is a good start, but you need to know what the ingredients are – and what to avoid. Let’s be honest, most of us don’t! There are several key ingredients found in personal care products that should be avoided, including: parabens, formaldehyde, alcohol, and mineral oil or petroleum by-products. Check out David Suzuki Foundation’s “Dirty Dozen,” for a more complete list of cosmetic chemicals to avoid and why.