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Skin Care Tips for Radiation Patients

Here are some practical skin care tips for optimal healing and comfort while undergoing radiation treatment:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. No exfoliation- keep everything mild and non-abrasive.
  4. Wear soft clothing that doesn’t chafe or irritate skin. Soft breathable fabric constructions that are sympathetic to the skin are best.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Pick lotions that will hydrate well. Eucerin and Aquiphor are readily available, particularly mild, and safe to use on radiated skin.
  8. Keep hands and feet well-moisturized. Cracked, dry feet and hands are portals for infection.
  9. 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.
  10. Keep hydrated! Drink lots of water – at least 8 8-oz glasses per day.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Do not remove any markings put on your skin by your radiation oncology team because they guide placement for the oncology technician.
  14. 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.

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  1. Tands

    Great article. I think it may be prudent to point of that some of the Tom’s deodorant preparations, while aluminum-free, do contain the zinc salt “zinc ricinoleate.” If you are trying to avoid metals then it is perhaps best to avoid Tom’s deodorants that contain this ingredient?

    1. Elizabeth Thompson Author

      You make a great point. If you are having radiation to your breast, it may make sense to just avoid deodorant/anti-perspirant all together on that side. It’s important to read labels, not just assume that the brand is safe.

      1. lovely Fields

        This was a big help for me I had radiation treatment for my thyroids. After a couple of days my lips turned black. I was using a lip cream n still drinking water my mouth be so dry. This article help me to do extra stuff. Thank You

  2. Sarah Smith

    My husband is going to go through radiation and I’m trying to find ways to take care of him. Thanks for the advice about drinking lots of water. I’ll have to make sure that my husband stays hydrated and that we do everything we can to make sure he can heal faster.

    1. Elizabeth Thompson Author

      Hi Sarah. We are wishing your husband a speedy recovery. We are glad that you found this blog to be helpful during this time.

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