These tips were adapted from Hope and Beauty Chemo Companions from Dr. Shyamali Singhal, a cancer care specialist 

Chemotherapy, as a treatment for cancer is supposed to be toxic to the cancer cells. The trouble is, the most common side effects of chemo are damage to your skin, hair, and nails. Don’t despair! There are some things you can do to help reduce and prevent some of the most bothersome effects.

Before you start chemotherapy: Do Ask about the expected effects

• On the hair on your head, your eyebrows, eyelashes, and hair from other areas

• On your skin 

• Inside your mouth

• Around your genitals and rectal areas

Maximize your skin’s health 

• Use gentle cleansers without dyes, foaming agents or perfumes such as Cerave, Cetaphil and gentle baby soaps.

• Do use gentle, soft cotton makeup pads, a soft flannel washcloth or baby washcloths.

• Avoid using any type of cloth to cleanse the skin that is rough, sometimes terrycloth is too rough.

• Avoid anything that is harsh, scrubs, rubs or exfoliates, such as a loofah sponge or the netting sponges.

• Do not use hot water to wash, as this can irritate the skin more. Instead, use warm water.

• Some cleansers, such as Cerave or Cetaphil can be applied without water and gently wiped away. Remember you don’t need to see soap suds to clean the skin.

• Gently pat your skin dry with a soft towel, instead of rubbing. 

• Look for lotions, oils, and creams that soothe the skin and that feel nice after you’ve gently rubbed them in with your fingertips.

• Apply lotions and oils to the skin, while it is still damp or wet, this helps seal in the moisture.

• Keep lotions with you and reapply throughout the day.

• If your hands or feet are cracking and dry, apply a thicker cream or lotion at night and then cover with socks or gloves to seal in the moisture while you sleep.

Sun Protection

People who are receiving chemotherapy may be more sensitive to the harsh rays of the sun.  

• Be sure to use a sunscreen that’s rated SPF 30 or higher and reapply every 2 hours

• Wear a hat or wig to protect any bald spots, if you’re losing or have lost your own hair

• Cover up with long-sleeved light clothing that reflects the sun

• Find and enjoy the shade, or bring along a light-colored umbrella to protect yourself.

For more information and to find specialized products for people undergoing cancer treatments, you can visit Hope and Beauty 


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