A Healthy Skin Care Regimen for Cancer Patients

Oncology-focused esthetician Geralyn O’Brien on caring for skin during cancer treatment
Woman applying face cream

RUSH Oncology-focused esthetician Geralyn O’Brien describes a healthy skin care regimen for cancer patients.

A. Cleanse
Always cleanse your skin twice a day even if you don’t wear makeup. Cleansing removes dirt, grime, sweat and other pollutants from the skin. Before cleansing, use jojoba oil on a cotton pad to remove your makeup. Or you can purchase a microfiber makeup cloth that uses only water to remove makeup. Bed, Bath and Beyond has a four-pack of the soft cloths called Erase Your Face. 

After removing makeup, use a creamy pH-balanced cleanser free of fragrance, dyes, sodium laurel sulfates and parabans. We don’t want any harsh cleansers or exfoliants that will strip skin that is more fragile during treatment. The cleansers we use at Waterford Place are Hale & Hush and NeoGenesis.

B. Hydrating Mist
Hydrating mists should be alcohol-free with soothing ingredients such as aloe, calendula and hyaluronic acid (sodium hyaluronate). Hydrating mists help replenish and nourish dry, dehydrated skin, calm and soothe red, irritated skin, provide an extra hydration boost before moisturizer and can also be used to set makeup. Mists can be used throughout the day for hot flashes or an extra boost of hydration. I will recommend one based on each client’s skin needs. My favorites are NeoGenesis Mist, CV Skinlabs Rescue + Relief Spray for more sensitive, irritated skin. BodyCeutical’s skin line based on the calendula plant has aloe or calendula facial mists.

C. Moisturize 
Due to the compromised immune system, we want to prevent skin becoming dry and cracked as this becomes an entry for bacteria and viruses to enter. Once the barrier is broken down, it is harder to bring skin back to a healthy state. After showering and while skin is still damp, apply a hydrating moisturizer to face and body. If choosing a plant-based oil, choose one free of fillers, fragrance, dyes and synthetics. Jojoba is one of my favorites for body care. Another way to incorporate jojoba is to use it for dry, cracked cuticles – a common side effect of cancer treatment. Jojoba nourishes the scalp, helping to soothe, condition and soften dry skin. Add a few drops of jojoba into your facial or body moisturizer for an extra dose of hydration. 

My favorite jojoba is from the Jojoba Company out of Maine. Their involvement from growing the plants to following high standards in their processing methods produces a pesticide-free golden jojoba. My favorite body lotion for chronic dryness is CV Skinlabs Body Repair Lotion. For your facial serums and moisturizers, CV Skinlabs, Hale & Hush and NeoGenesis have products geared to each individual’s needs. 

D. Sun Protection
Chemotherapy and some medications can make the skin more photosensitive (highly sensitive and reactive to sunlight) so sunscreens are of utmost importance. Use a broad spectrum physical sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Suntegrity® is a good facial sunscreen that can be purchased tinted to use in place of makeup. They also have an SPF lipstick.

E. Makeup
In our “Simply Beautiful” class we recommend mineral-based makeup. Mineral makeup is made by blending and grinding loose pigments such as zinc, titanium, mica and iron oxides. Mineral makeup won’t clog pores or settle into fine lines and wrinkles and is suitable for all skin types. Fewer ingredients mean less chance of skin irritation and reactions. We use Advanced Mineral products in our class. Additional brands include Couleur Caramel, Hynt®Beauty and Mineral Fusion®. Look for brands free of synthetic fragrance, talc, coal tar and bismuth oxychloride.

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