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Skin Care During Chemotherapy

Minor skin problems are common side effects of chemotherapy. These side effects occur because the treatment affects normal cells as well as cancer cells. To manage these side effects, try the tips on this handout.

Person stepping out of bathtub.

Itchy, Dry Skin

  • Use baking soda. Add it to your bath water, and apply it instead of deodorant.

  • Take any medications for itching as prescribed by your doctor.

  • Take short showers or sponge baths.

  • Use tepid water; hot water increases itching.

  • Use a water-based skin cream. Apply it while your skin is still moist. Try to do this 2 to 3 times daily.

  • Avoid skin products that contain alcohol. This includes face cleansers, perfumes, and after-shaves.

Skin Discoloration

  • Ask your doctor for advice on skin color changes. In most cases, skin changes disappear soon after treatment ends.

Sun Exposure

  • Stay out of direct sun as much as you can.

  • Block the sun with SPF 15, clothing, or zinc oxide.

  • Wear a hat when you go outside.

Call the Doctor If:

  • You have a rash or hives.

  • You are wheezing or having trouble breathing.

  • Skin near a cut or rash swells, turns red, feels hot or painful, or begins to ooze.

Online Medical Reviewer: de la Cruz, Marlene, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Eisenberg, Seth, RN, OCN
Last Review Date: 11/3/2011
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.