A topic that doesn't get quite the level of attention it deserves is that of proper skin care while undergoing radiation, chemotherapy, and other cancer treatments. The intensity of these types of therapy causes damage to skin cells and, for many patients, results in symptoms such as redness and irritation, dryness and itching, increased sensitivity, acne, skin cracking and more. The good news is that by taking a proactive and preventative approach to skin care, those of you who are undergoing cancer treatment can minimize the extent to which you experience these changes.
Lexli founder and lead product formulator, Dr. Ahmed Abdullah, regularly works with patients who are undergoing - or have recently undergone - cancer treatment. Beyond performing reconstruction following mastectomy or other cancer removal surgeries, he also assists patients with the skin issues that arise as a result of their treatment. In fact, he is particularly sought after by those who have experienced radiation dermatitis, a type of tissue injury that ranges from a rash or redness in mild cases to open wounds in extreme cases. The image below shows a before and after photo of one of Dr. Abdullah's patients with radiation dermatitis. Critical to her treatment was the use of pharmaceutical-grade aloe vera.
We asked Dr. Abdullah to share his general advice for men and women undergoing cancer treatments. Overall, he stresses the importance of three main things: gentleness, consistency and hydration.
1. Stick to simple and gentle formulations that incorporate ingredients clinically proven to nurture the skin. This rule applies to any product that touches your skin, including hand soaps, facial cleansers, toners, lotions and more. The immune system of most cancer patients is compromised and weakened, which inhibits its ability to fight infections and foreign substances. We, therefore, don't want to put anything on our skin that can cause inflammation or tax the immune system further. In addition to pharmaceutical-grade aloe vera (the highest purity of aloe vera available and the only aloe vera used in each Lexli product formulation), consider vitamin E, colloidal oatmeal, shea butter and more. Lexli Cleansing Lotion is a gentle aloe vera cleanser that fits perfectly into the skin care routine of those undergoing cancer treatment.
2. Make skin hydration a priority. Immediately after washing your hands or taking a bath or shower, apply a moisturizer that is rich in quality humectants, which draw moisture to the skin; occlusives, which prevent moisture loss; and emollients, which help to make the skin softer. To prevent the skin from getting too dry, Dr. Abdullah also recommends the following:
- Use a humidifier in your home and especially in your bedroom.
- Use lukewarm water when washing hands and face and avoid baths that are too warm, as hot water strips the skin of its protective oils, leaving it drier and more uncomfortable.
- Apply lip balm regularly to prevent lips from cracking.
While staying hydrated is important, drinking water will not prevent dry skin. You have to hydrate from the outside, as well. Lexli moisturizers appropriate for those undergoing cancer treatment include Night Moisturizer and Hand and Body Lotion. Additionally, throughout the day you can spritz Tone & Balance onto the skin. This gentle aloe vera toner keeps skin feeling comfortable and hydrated. Many of Dr. Abdullah's patients who are undergoing cancer treatment use it to soothe skin whenever it feels irritated or inflamed.
3. Keep your skin care routine very basic. While you still want to look your best while undergoing cancer treatment, Dr. Abdullah recommends limiting your skin care regimen to products that cleanse and moisturize the skin. Products that exfoliate and those used for anti-aging contain active ingredients that can be too harsh for fragile skin and are best avoided until after your treatment.
Beyond implementing a sound skin care regimen at home, cancer patients can also tap into professional treatments and services offered by individuals certified in oncology esthetics, a suite of cancer care services offered by a growing number of salons and spas throughout the world. To become certified as an oncology esthetician, licensed estheticians must undergo in-depth training to learn how to implement treatments that are gentle, effective and safe for use on cancer patients. The goal of oncology esthetics is to improve the physical and mental health of individuals diagnosed with cancer while helping to improve their self-esteem. To find an oncology esthetician, start by visiting the Oncology Training International and checking their directory. You can also ask your medical team for recommendations to oncology estheticians in your area.