Women's Health,  Female Identity,  Self Care,  Women

Nurturing Your Skin During Chemotherapy

Let’s talk about something super important: self-care during chemotherapy. If you or a loved one is undergoing chemo, you know firsthand the toll it can take on your body and mind. One aspect that often gets overlooked is skincare. Yep, that’s right – your skin needs some extra TLC during this time. More than 80% of cancer patients develop skin-related side effects, and almost 50% experience skin reactions caused by radiation. But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with some tips and tricks to keep your skin glowing and feeling its best.

First things first, hydration is key! Chemo can leave your skin feeling dry and sensitive, so it’s crucial to keep it hydrated from the inside out. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help your skin stay moisturized and healthy. When I was going through therapy I glugged up to 3 litres of water a day. It not only helps your skin cope with the effects of the poison they pump into you, it also plays an instrumental role in flushing the toxins through your system which is key for managing side effects and dealing with any dehydration you may experience related to your treatments. I picked up one of the popular Stanley Mugs which helped me ensure I was taking in the right amount of water everyday. And yes, these mugs are indeed giant sized!

Your skin does some weird things during chemo. I recall getting what I called a “chemo glow” after each of my treatments. My cheeks would get almost rosy like I’d spent the day playing in the snow. I also found my lips became dry, and would suffer from some minor nose bleeds – both likely attributed to dehydration. A good friend of mine gifted me an amazing line of castor-oil based products called Ricinol, which I slathered over my scalp, face and neck daily and used to moisturize my nostrils. It is super gentle, fragrance-free and natural. I continue to use it every day. La Roche-Posay has a number of products that are also chemo-safe (the company have a partnership with the American Cancer Society) such as this skin spray and this super-rich moisturizer, which I use at night in combination with a few drops of my Ricinol oil. 

Next up, let’s talk about cleansing. It’s essential to keep your skin clean, but harsh cleansers can strip away your skin’s natural oils, leaving it feeling even more dry and irritated. Look for mild, non-abrasive cleansers that are free from harsh chemicals. For this I go back to La Roche-Posay again or good old Cetaphil. And remember, less is more – you don’t need to scrub your skin raw to get it clean.

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room – those pesky side effects. From acne to rashes, chemo can wreak havoc on your skin. But fear not, there are ways to manage these symptoms. For acne, try using gentle, non-comedogenic skincare products and avoid picking or popping pimples (I know, easier said than done!). For rashes and irritation, a soothing oatmeal bath or cool compress can work wonders. And if you’re struggling with hair loss, don’t forget to pamper your scalp with a gentle massage and moisturizing treatments. Again I loved Riciniol, and read that castor oil can help to stimulate hair re-growth. I also picked up a silicon hand scalp massager and used it in the shower daily. I still use it today on my curly mop. 

Speaking of hair loss, let’s talk about sunscreen. Chemo can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it’s crucial to protect it with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Even if you’re not spending much time outdoors, UV rays can still penetrate through windows, so make sunscreen a part of your daily routine. And don’t forget to use it on your head!  It’s never seen the sun before in most cases, so will be extra vulnerable. I did my chemo through July and August summer months and picked up some cute straw sunhats like this one that looked fashionable and protected my noggin. 

Now, let’s switch gears and talk about makeup. While it’s tempting to cover up any blemishes or dark circles, it’s essential to choose makeup products that won’t further irritate your skin. Look for mineral-based or hypoallergenic makeup that’s free from harsh chemicals and fragrances. And don’t forget to remove your makeup before bed to give your skin a chance to breathe and regenerate overnight.

Last but not least, don’t forget to pamper yourself! Whether it’s a relaxing bubble bath, a soothing face mask, or a DIY spa day at home, taking time for self-care can do wonders for both your physical and mental well-being. So go ahead, treat yourself – you deserve it!  My girlfriends gifted me three massages and I booked one in lead up to every chemo session. It was a way to relax and pamper myself before my infusion and some research does show massage can help to prevent neuropathy. This was a side effect that worried me and does impact the majority of patients who receive the chemotherapy drug I was given. I am grateful to report I experience no neuropathy or nail issues at all. 

Remember, everyone’s journey through chemo is unique, so it’s essential to listen to your body and do what feels right for you. If you’re ever unsure about which skincare products or treatments are safe for you, don’t hesitate to consult with your healthcare team. 

Caring for your skin during chemotherapy is all about gentleness, hydration, and self-love. I hope these tips and tricks coming from a place of experience will help you weather the chemo storm and keep your skin happy and healthy throughout your treatment journey.

Ellyn Winters-Robinson is a breast cancer survivor, entrepreneur, author, in-demand speaker, women’s health advocate, professional communicator and a globally recognized health rebel. Ellyn's best-selling book "Flat Please Hold the Shame," is a girlfriend’s companion guide for those on the breast cancer journey. She is also the co-creator of, the world’s first conversational AI companion for those on the breast cancer journey. With Dense Breasts Canada and award-winning photographer Hilary Gauld, Ellyn also co-produced I WANT YOU TO KNOW, a celebrated photo essay showing the diverse faces and stories of 31 individuals on the breast cancer journey. Ellyn’s story and have been featured in People Magazine, Chatelaine Magazine, the Globe and Mail, CTV National News and Your Morning, and Fast Company.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *