Here are some practical skin care tips for optimal healing and comfort while undergoing radiation treatment:
- Take a warm, tepid shower, rather than a HOT shower before going for treatment, and skip any lotions or preparations until after treatment. Avoid long baths or soaking, because your skin is too fragile and sensitive.
- If you need to bathe, however, skip the bubbles—suds are created by a chemical called Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which can strip away natural oils.
- No exfoliation- keep everything mild and non-abrasive.
- Wear soft clothing that doesn’t chafe or irritate skin. Soft breathable fabric constructions that are sympathetic to the skin are best.
- Choose your deodorant carefully. If you are having radiation in the chest are, make sure that your deodorant does not include any aluminum. Tom’s of Maine makes an effective, aluminum-free deodorant but there are others as well. Read the labels carefully.
- Avoid dandruff shampoos that include Zinc. When undergoing radiation, you should never have any metallic preparations on your skin. If you shampoo with an anti-dandruff shampoo that contains metals, there may be residue on your skin. Better to skip it entirely.
- Pick lotions that will hydrate well. Eucerin and Aquiphor are readily available, particularly mild, and safe to use on radiated skin.
- Keep hands and feet well-moisturized. Cracked, dry feet and hands are portals for infection.
- Carry lip balm in your pocket and apply frequently to keep your lips from cracking and drying, especially at the corners of your mouth. Sores in these areas make smiling, laughing and eating painful.
- Keep hydrated! Drink lots of water – at least 8 8-oz glasses per day.
- Keep the area being treated covered as much as possible. Don’t expose the area receiving radiation to direct sunlight during treatment. Be very careful choosing sunscreen as well. Many barrier sunblocks contain zinc and this cannot be worn during treatment.
- Make sure that dressings placed on the treated area do not have adhesive on them, as this can lead to pull and tear already thin and damaged skin.
- Do not remove any markings put on your skin by your radiation oncology team because they guide placement for the oncology technician.
- Soft cotton sheets may help you feel more comfortable at night and help you sleep better.
If in doubt about what is safe to use, check product websites and read labels!! Make sure to check with your physician before buying creams or lotions from the Internet or over-the-counter. Despite many labels’ claims, there are very few that are “physician approved.” Also, make sure that you are not allergic to anything in the products you’re using.