Essential beauty tips for the cancer fighter

July 13, 2016 | by Joseph Kash, MD

Chemotherapy works to control cancer cells by slowing or stopping their growth, preventing them from spreading to other parts of your body, or destroying those that may have already spread. This is all good as it helps to fight cancer.

However, like most medications, chemotherapy often comes with side effects which may include hair loss, dry skin and brittle nails. You can help minimize these side effects by following a few essential tips:

  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. If you can, start moisturizing your skin to prevent dehydration before you begin chemo treatment. Use lotion after showering and before bedtime for best results. Don’t forget – long, hot showers usually dry out your skin, so be sure to avoid or limit them.
  • Use a gentle, moisturizing soap, laundry detergent or cleansing cream and avoid soaps with heavy deodorants or scents. The Breast Cancer Organization recommends using products like meant for babies because they are usually mild and perfume free.
  • Dress for protection if you are planning to be in the sun. According to a recent study, certain forms of chemotherapy may also make cancer patients more sensitive to the sun’s rays. Limit your sun exposure and use a sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher to protect your skin.
  • Keep your nails short during treatment if they become brittle or sore. Keeping them short makes your nail care easier.
  • If you like to use nail polish, look for a water-based polish that doesn’t contain toxic chemicals that can weaken your nails. Also, use a polish remover that doesn’t contain acetone or harsh solvents. Follow these additional tips for better nail care during chemotherapy.
  • Be kind to your hair. Use a mild shampoo that is gentle on the scalp and stay away from sticky styling products. When you style your hair, use a soft hair brush and avoid drying your hair on high heat.
  • Consider cutting your hair shorter during this time. Having shorter hair will make less of a dramatic change if your hair starts to thin or fall out. When your hair grows back, you will already be used to your new style. It will also take less time for it to grow because your hair is a shorter length.
  • Protect your scalp from the sun if your hair starts to fall out. Wear a hat, headscarf or wig to prevent it from becoming irritated. There are many wig and hairpiece shops designed for people with cancer. The American Cancer Society offers the Look Good…Feel Better program for women undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy to help restore their appearance and self-image.
  • Stay hydrated. Don’t forget to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day.

It can be difficult to adjust to changes in your appearance during cancer treatment. Rest assured, hair will almost always grow back and most skin reactions will go away after treatment is complete. No matter what, remember to celebrate who you are because you are beautiful!

How do you protect your skin, hair and nails? Tell us in the below comments.

Learn more about cancer support services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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