What might you experience ?

Whether you’re having radiotherapy, chemotherapy or surgery, all of these can affect your skin. This guide will help you find ways to look after your skin, the largest organ in your body.

This guide will cover:

  • Dry Skin
  • Itchy Skin
  • Sensitive Scalp
  • Weak Brittle Nails
  • Sun Protection

Why does this happen?

  • Itchy Skin - This can be caused because of chemicals released by your cancer, its treatments or problems with your liver and kidneys. For some people, it can be very irritating and can even keep them up at night. There may be medical treatments that can help treat the cause of your itching, so it’s important to tell your doctor about it. There’s also some non-medical ways of helping soothe the itching and help you cope with this troublesome side effect.
  • Dry Skin - You may notice your skin feels drier during treatment for cancer. This may be due to chemotherapy or radiotherapy, hormonal changes caused by an early menopause or from hormonal therapies. You may also find that your skin is drier during winter because of the cold windy weather and use of central heating. There are lots of creams, lotions and emollients that can help keep your skin moisturised.  
  • Sensitive Scalp - If you’re having radiotherapy to your head or are having chemotherapy you may notice your scalp becomes more sensitive and can feel dry, itchy, or sore. So you might want to give it some extra care and attention to help soothe your scalp and stay comfortable.
  • Weak Brittle Nails - During treatment for cancer, you may notice changes to your nails. This affects people differently and can range from discolouration of nails, dry flaking nails, or even loss of nails. Don’t worry, though, your nails should grow back to normal after your chemo stops. In the meantime, there are a few things you can try to help improve the condition of your nails.
  • Sun protection - Everyone should be careful in the sun but when you have cancer you might want to be extra careful as some cancer treatments can leave your skin more sensitive to the sun. So make sure you cover up and use sunscreen when you’re soaking up the sun and if you’ve lost your hair, don’t forget about your scalp.

What can you do about it?

If you've got itchy skin

If you've got itchy skin

Itch relieving lotions - These will help ease the need to scratch by soothing and cooling the skin

Soap substitutes and bath additives - If you notice your skin is itchier after you have a bath or shower, using these instead of soap or bath gels will help and pat, rather than rub, your skin dry

Unscented moisturisers - Try using an unscented moisturising oil or cream as perfumed ones can dry the skin and irritate it, leaving it feeling more itchy

Bamboo clothing and bed linen - Lightweight fabrics made from natural fibres such as cotton or bamboo are less likely to irritate your skin than man-made fabrics which can make it feel itchier

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If you've got dry skin

If you've got dry skin

Moisturisers - Use moisturisers regularly throughout the day to help hydrate your skin, avoid heavily perfumed or lanolin based products and instead opt for colourless products 

Urea-based lotions - Urea based body lotions and moisturisers have been shown to be more effective in reducing dryness, scaling and itching than the usual glycerol-based creams, with 10% urea being a good amount to go for  

Hand creams - Your hands can get really dry and cracked if you’re washing them frequently or using lots of alcohol gel so make sure to use a good hand cream to help soothe your skin

Moisturising Cleansers - Avoid using alcohol or water-based facial cleansers as these can dry out your skin further. Instead chose an oil or lotion based cleanser which will clean your skin and keep it moisturised too

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If your scalp is feeling sensitive

If your scalp is feeling sensitive

Cooling Scalp Spritzers - If you’ve lost your hair and are wearing a wig you might notice your scalp gets a bit ‘overheated’ so using a cooling scalp spritzer is an easy fix for on the go scalp comfort

Scalp cleansers - When you’ve lost your hair your scalp can be a bit more sensitive and dry so opt for more gentle cleansers and sponges

Aloe vera - Aloe vera has long been used to help moisturise and heal irritated and inflamed skin and you can find it in many forms from shampoos to moisturisers and cleansers   

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If your nails are weak or brittle

If your nails are weak or brittle

Moisturising nail drops - Applying moisturising nail drops to your nail bed will help keep your nail bed healthy and improve nail strength and appearance

Water based nail varnish - If your nails are getting discoloured or you’re noticing imperfections try using a dark water-based nail varnish to cover them up

Cooling Gloves/Slippers - These reduce the amount of chemo reaching your nails and therefore helps prevent them from falling out. But speak to your doctor first to check if you’re a suitable candidate for these

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