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Cancer treatment can cause multiple skin changes. Dryness, redness, and itching are among the most common complaints. Some over-the-counter lotions and creams may help prevent or relieve these side effects.
This article discusses how chemotherapy can affect the skin and how to choose skin lotions. It also explores skin lotions in further detail, skin care tips for people undergoing chemotherapy, and frequently asked questions.
Dry skin can develop when the layers of skin lack oil and water. This can occur when people are dehydrated or their skin is exposed to heat or cold.
According to the
- Chemotherapy: People who undergo chemotherapy may have dry, itchy, red, or darker skin that may peel more easily. They may also have a higher chance of developing sunburn, and their cancer treatment may cause a minor rash.
- Radiation therapy: Dryness and itchiness can develop when doctors treat the skin with radiation therapy. Radiation may also cause wet, painful sores and skin that looks sunburned.
- Immunotherapy: The rash that appears after immunotherapy can be severe, causing dryness and blistering.
- Stem cell transplants: These can cause graft-versus-host disease, a condition in which the donor’s stem cells attack the healthy cells present in the recipient’s body. As a result, this can thicken the skin and lead to rash and blisters.
According to an
- ingrown nails
- inflammation of the mucous membranes
- abnormal hair growth
People undergoing chemotherapy may also develop thickened, dry, scaly skin with painful cracks on the hands and feet.
It is important to note that side effects depend on the type of chemotherapy. A person should speak to their doctor about what to expect with the chemotherapy they are receiving.
Learn more about the skin changes that develop after chemotherapy here.
There are some factors that a person going through chemotherapy should consider when choosing a skin lotion. These include:
- Ingredients: According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), people should choose fragrance-free products, as those containing fragrances can irritate the skin or cause a reaction. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recommends people also avoid products containing preservatives.
- Moisturizing effect: Lotions containing hyaluronic acid may be beneficial. In a 2014 study, products with this ingredient increased skin hydration by
up to 96%. The ASCO recommends avoiding anti-acne products containing retinoids or alcohol, as they may dry out the skin.
- Use: A person should check that the lotion works on the desired skin area. Some products are suitable for the whole body, whereas others are for specific body parts.
- Price: Lotions come at different prices, and a person should buy one that is compatible with their budget. Some companies sell products in bundles to help customers save money.
Creams may be more suitable than lotions. A person should consider speaking to their doctor before choosing a product. The product list in the next section contains both lotions and creams.
A person should also speak with their doctor if any concerning rash or skin change occurs while on chemotherapy. Treating a skin condition early may help prevent it from getting worse.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All product information is purely research-based and correct at the time of publishing.
For a steroid- and paraben-free lotion
This product is designed to rehydrate dry, itchy, painful, and cracked skin due to radiation or chemotherapy. The company claims this cream produces immediate results.
- purified water
- emulsifying wax
- salicylic acid
It is steroid- and paraben-free. Also, the formulation does not contain dyes, colorants, or fragrances.
The company recommends a person should apply this product before going to bed when their skin feels irritated.
The price is$14.95.
For wet skin
This body lotion is suitable for those who have dry and sensitive skin.
It may help relieve any skin effects related to radiation or chemotherapy, such as dryness and flakiness. People can also use this product to help reduce facial rash and itching.
The company states that individuals can use this lotion daily, preferably when the body is wet.
This product costs around $29.50 on Amazon.
For hands and feet
Bag Balm’s moisturizing hand lotion contains shea butter, jojoba, and cocoa seed butter. This product may be convenient for people who are on the go, as it comes in a tube.
A person can use it to relieve dryness on their hands and feet.
It is free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and fragrances.
The price is $7.99 for a 3-ounce (oz) tube.
For a hypoallergenic product
Oncoderm’s cream is suitable for people who have cancer, as it can provide hydration to severely cracked and dry skin that may develop on the hands and feet.
It may also soften the fingers and heels.
It does not contain fragrances, petrolatum, or phthalates.
This product costs around $35 on Amazon.
For lower budgets
Gold Bond’s skin therapy lotion contains vitamins A, C, and E to help prevent moisture loss, improve the skin’s appearance, and reduce signs of aging. It also contains aloe that works by soothing and hydrating the skin.
The company claims that individuals who use this lotion can stay moisturized for 24 hours.
The price is around $8.76 on Amazon.
For an 8-in-1 product
This product contains lavender, chamomile, thyme, and ginger essential oil to help relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and speed up bruise healing.
The formulation also comes with organic aloe vera, jojoba oil, and vitamin E to strengthen the skin and help prevent signs of aging.
The company claims that people can also use this lotion for eight different purposes.
This product costs around $21.95 on Amazon.
For a pack of two
Lubiderm’s lotion contains vitamins E and B5 to help strengthen the skin’s moisturizing barrier.
The company claims this product can hydrate the skin, providing moisture that lasts for up to 24 hours.
It is fragrance-free and nongreasy.
According to the manufacturer, the skin absorbs this lotion in seconds, and individuals may notice that their skin looks healthier in 1 week.
The price is around $16.79 on Amazon.
For face, body, and hands
CeraVe’s daily moisturizing lotion contains hyaluronic acid to provide hydration and retain the skin’s moisture.
According to the company, the lotion is smooth and lightweight, and it does not feel greasy. CeraVe also claims the product is suitable for oily, sensitive, dry, and normal skin types. A person can use it as a body, hand, and face lotion.
In addition, it should not irritate the skin, as it is free of fragrance.
Prices start at around $13.99 for 12 fluid ounces on Amazon.
- moisturizing the skin with alcohol-free creams twice per day
- using mineral or baby oil
- shaving with an electric razor
- applying sunscreen and wearing sun-protective clothing, according to the AAD
According to the AAD, people should also try:
- not washing the skin with hot water
- not scrubbing the skin
- not using aftershaves and after-bath splashes with alcohol
- limiting time outside when temperatures are low
A person should contact their doctor if their skin is painful, red, rough, or showing signs of infection, such as tenderness or pus.
Below are some of the most common questions and answers about chemotherapy and skin.
Why is my skin so dry after chemo?
According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, cancer treatment prevents the skin from renewing itself, which can lead to dryness.
What helps dry skin from chemo?
In addition, doctors may recommend using creams or ointments for severely dry skin. People may also use moisturizers to help prevent the skin from becoming dry.
Does your skin go back to normal after chemo?
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center states that skin changes related to cancer treatment generally are not permanent. The skin should return to its previous state after a person stops the treatment.
It recommends that individuals start using a moisturizer before beginning their treatment. They should also let their doctor know if they have had eczema, psoriasis, or skin cancer.
Is CeraVe good for chemo patients?
CeraVe products can be beneficial for people undergoing chemotherapy.
The company states that its skin care products provide moisture and penetrate the skin’s surface. They are fragrance-free, so they do not irritate the skin, and most of them do not clog pores or cause acne.
Chemotherapy can cause the skin to become dry, red, and itchy. Other types of cancer treatment may also cause skin problems. There are various lotions that a person can use to manage these side effects and increase the skin’s hydration.
However, these products should not contain fragrances, as they may irritate the skin. Doctors may also recommend applying sunscreen, staying indoors when it is cold, and avoiding scrubbing the skin.
A person may also wish to speak with their doctor for advice on which skin lotions to use during chemotherapy.