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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 these tips.

Person stepping out of bathtub.

Use mild products

  • Use unscented soaps and facial cleansers.

  • Use unscented laundry detergent.

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

  • Do not use acne products. These can make skin symptoms worse. These include products with alpha or beta hydroxy acids, retinoids, or benzyl peroxide.

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

  • Ask your healthcare team what kind of makeup is best to use on your skin.

Be gentle

  • Bathe and wash your hands with warm or cool water, not hot.

  • Take short showers or sponge baths.

  • Don’t scrub – wash gently.

  • Apply a water-based unscented cream or lotion on your skin as soon as possible after you bathe or wash your hands.

Limit sun exposure

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

  • Use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher if you go outside.

  • Wear a hat if you go outside.

Stay comfortable

  • Wear clothing and shoes that are comfortable and not tight.

  • Wear cotton instead of fabrics that can irritate, such as wool, linen, or synthetics.

  • Put padded insoles into your shoes.

  • Wear gloves and socks to prevent injury to your hand and foot skin.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Rash or hives

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

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: LoCicero, Richard, MD
Last Review Date: 1/6/2016
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