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What You Can Do to Care for Your Skin, Hair, and Nails

by Marieo E. Lacouture, MD

  • Knowing what to expect during treatment is key. This will help you ensure preventive measures are taken and allow you to recognize potential problems earlier so you can alert your healthcare provider as soon as they occur.
  • Don’t hesitate to verbalize concerns to your doctor about your skin, hair, and nails.
  • Avoid strong scented soaps and detergents. Use moisturizing washes and soaps and fragrance-free detergents.
  • Dry skin can be aggravated by long, hot showers. Short showers with lukewarm water are recommended instead.
  • Most chemotherapy treatments will make you more sensitive to the sun’s harmful rays. Avoid sun exposure and wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen when you must be in the sun.
  • Skin cancer risk is six times greater in areas that have previously received radiation. If you notice any changes in skin spots or moles, promptly consult your physician.
  • Once chemotherapy is complete, hair should regrow normally within 6 to 12 months. If not, other causes for decreased hair loss, such as low thyroid function, should be examined.
  • For the prevention and treatment of dry skin, creams or ointments are preferred over lotions, which usually contain alcohol. Vaseline®, Eucerin®, and Vanicream® products are relatively free of allergy-causing ingredients and will help restore the skin’s moisture barrier.
  • For scaly, “alligator skin” type areas, use a moisturizer containing urea or ammonium lactate.



♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Dr. Mario Lacouture is a dermatologist and director of the Cancer Skin Care Program of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University in Chicago, IL. His research and clinical interests focus on maintaining dermatologic health in people touched by cancer. Dr. Lacouture dedicates this article to his father, Alvaro Lacouture, a survivor who is bravely facing lung cancer and its associated dermatologic challenges.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2009.