How Can I Take Care of My Skin During Breast Cancer Treatment?
Treating breast cancer with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy can leave your skin feeling dry, flaky, or irritated. However, following the proper skincare regimen during and after treatment can make these side effects very manageable. There is also concern that certain topical ingredients can affect hormones and should therefore be avoided as a precaution.
This guide offers recommendations on how to care for your skin during chemotherapy and radiation, both to reduce side effects and potential risk factors.
Breast Cancer Patients Should Avoid Estrogen Activating Ingredients
Products that contain ingredients that can activate estrogen receptors should be avoided. These ingredients include:
- Sunscreens with oxybenzone or homosalate
- Some parabens and phthalates
There is concern that the use of personal care products – including makeup, creams, and perfumes – may be associated with breast cancer risk because they may contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals. These include phthalates, phenols, and parabens. However, not all parabens are a problem. Methylparaben and propylparaben are among the types of parabens that are believed to be safe for use in topical products.
Our recommendation is to avoid any forms of estrogen, such as the ingredients in the bulleted list above.
Should I Use Organic Skincare Products During Chemo?
Choosing organic products is not always a good option, because some natural ingredients, such as soy, can have estrogenic effects. Whether a product is labeled as organic or not, it is best to read the ingredient list and look for and avoid the ingredients listed above.
Caring for Dry Skin During Chemotherapy and Radiation
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause skin dryness, flaking, and redness. Below are our recommendations to help mitigate these side effects and make you more comfortable.
Chemotherapy skincare recommendations
During chemotherapy, the skin becomes dry. Barrier repair moisturizers work by mimicking the skin’s natural lamellar structure, using the proper 1:1:1 ratio of ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol to restore moisture levels. This strengthens and restores the function of your skin’s natural barrier, allowing it to keep moisture sealed inside while also locking irritants and bacteria out. The best barrier repair moisturizer to treat skin after radiation treatments is Zerafite Ultra Rich Body Cream. You will need the physician code DRB to purchase it online.
Some chemotherapy drugs can also make the skin more susceptible to sunburn. Choose a mineral-based sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. These ingredients are not absorbed into your skin, but rather create a physical barrier between the sun’s UV rays and your skin. Chemical sunscreens that contain oxybenzone or homosalate should be avoided, as they are known endocrine-disruptors.
There is some evidence that acidic products work well in patients on chemo. Talk with your doctor about using a glycolic acid cleanser for this reason. However, do not use this in areas that you are receiving radiation.
Your doctor might ask you to avoid antioxidants while on chemotherapy, since these ingredients decrease the efficacy of the treatment by protecting cells.
Radiation therapy skincare recommendations
If you are having radiation, studies show that cleansing the area with a gentle cleanser is fine. VMV Red Better Deeply Soothing Cleansing Cream is a great cleanser for those receiving radiation or chemotherapy treatment. Radiation Oncologist Dr. Stuart Samuels, MD, PhD of University of Miami Health System explains that you can gently wash the breasts with an unscented cleanser, being careful not to scrub the area, as the friction can make redness and irritation worse.
The most common side effects of radiation on the skin are redness and dryness. Argan oil such as PAORR Argan Oil because Argan Oil has many anti-inflammatory ingredients that soothe and hydrate and protect the skin. Dr. Samuels recommends using a fragrance-free moisturizer before these side effects appear and throughout the duration of treatment.
“Even if the skin becomes very red from radiation, there is usually little pain associated with it,” says Dr. Samuels. “This is typically a well-tolerated treatment. We have patients who continue to work full-time while getting radiation.”
Looking Better Can Improve Self-Esteem and Outlook
Studies have shown that cosmetic care may help to improve self-esteem, quality of life, and treatment outlook in breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation. Researchers divided a total of 27 patients into two groups: one group used color cosmetic products and the other did not. Each group completed a validated questionnaire to provide information about their quality of life and perception of the disease.
Results showed that both quality of life and perception of the disease were significantly improved in the cosmetic group compared to the control group.
There are many skincare products that can help to reduce the effects of chemotherapy and radiation on the skin. If you are unsure if a particular product is okay to use, bring it into your doctor’s office so that he or she can look at the ingredients.
As a general rule, look for fragrance-free products without ingredients that can activate estrogen receptors. Organic products are not automatically “safe” to use, as many contain soy.
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