By Denice Schwind, PA-C, CMLSO
Facing the challenge of illness can take a toll on every facet of your life, but a bit of TLC can go a long way toward soothing and healing skin that’s battled the harsh effects of chemo and radiation. According to Breastcancer.org, these treatments can leave skin dry, flaky, and more sensitive to exposure to sun, wind, and other elements. Taking a gentle, diligent approach to your daily care routine is more important now than ever. Here, a few wise steps….
Cleanse carefully: An ultra-gentle, creamy cleanser—one that’s free of harsh surfactants known to strip skin of its protective barrier—is a good choice right now. Best to use it at night only, though, when you’re removing makeup or environmental impurities; in the morning, all you really need is a splash of lukewarm water.
Mind your moisture: A daily dose of hydration, either from a rich creamy moisturizer or ointment, will help restore some of the dryness that has likely plagued your ravaged complexion, says Mario E. Lacouture, M.D. a dermatologist at NYC’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, who specializes in treating skin conditions that result from cancer treatment. He recommends applying it twice a day for optimal results.
Watch the labels: The purer the product, the better—as harsh ingredients, like drying alcohol or fragrances can cause already sensitive skin to become even more finicky.
Mind your SPF: Protection from the rays is absolutely critical, and not just on sunny days. Religiously include an SPF of at least 30 in your regimen—either as part of your existing moisturizer, or worn on its own underneath your other, protective layers. “Most anticancer medications and radiation therapy increase your sensitivity to the sun, and studies have shown that skin cancer rates are greater in survivors,” explains Dr. Lacouture.
Pay lip service: The skin here contains few oil and sweat glands and very little melanin…all of which protect against dehydrating rays. Using a soothing, SPF-packed lip balm throughout the day (minus aggressive ingredients like camphor or menthol, which can irritate tender lips) is always a good idea.
Welcome a minimalist approach: Remember, your goal now is a simple routine designed to embrace, heal, and protect your delicate skin…allowing you to focus your energy on being healthy, each and every day.