Skin Issues

How to Smooth Things Over One Day at a Time

There’s no one solution to prevent damaged skin from cancer treatment, but small actions add up. Start with what you can do right now, then build as needed.

Before or after skin damage

1. Wash your clothes with mild, gentle detergent. Look for brands that are organic and fragrance-free. We like the Honest Company brand.

2. Avoid beauty products with alcohol. Alcohol can strip our skin of natural oils, leaving us with dry, flaky skin. Opt for natural soaps, body washes and shampoos that don’t contain alcohol, parabens, sulfates, perfumes or dyes.

3. Always wear sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Chemotherapy makes our skin much more sensitive to light and more easily damaged by UV rays.

4. Buy better makeup. After a cancer diagnosis, many of us throw out our conventional beauty products and swap them for clean, organic makeup. We love anything by RMS Beauty or Ilia.

Dry skin tips

1. Turn down the temp. Lower the temperature of your showers or baths. Hot water can be very drying to our skin.

2. Add essential oil to your bath. When you run a bath, add a few drops of organic essential oil. It’ll give your skin a silky, moisturized finish.

3. Lube your whole body. Our skin is our largest organ. It absorbs products into our system, so be thoughtful about what you put on or in it. Give this as much thought as you give to what you eat. Moisturize your entire body (not just your face) every day. Do it right after you get out of the shower or bath, while your skin is still damp. Try an all-natural, organic lotion.

4. Try this unexpected nutrient blast. One of our favorite moisturizers is this antioxidant miracle oil. Originally designed to be ingested, this 100% food-grade organic oil is extra healing and nutrient-rich. We use it as a face serum and body lotion for areas of our body that are exceptionally dry or irritated—or have been radiated.

5. Go Dewy. Switch from makeup foundations and powders that deliver a matte finish to products that give you a warm, dewy look.

Scar suggestions

1. Moisture-rich salve. If you have severely damaged skin from cancer treatment—including new scars—a moisture-rich salve can soften and create a soothing barrier to trap in moisture.

We recommend using products that are organic and loaded with antioxidants like vitamin E, calendula, sea buckthorn oil and arnica— all of which are known for their healing, immune boosting, antiseptic and skin-regeneration properties.

1. Tamanu oil. Considered a “sacred gift of nature” in Polynesian culture, Tamanu oil is known for its potent healing properties and regenerating effects. It’s anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and loaded with antioxidants. If you apply it liberally at the site of a burn or scar, it may help your skin heal more quickly.

Radiation burn suggestions

1.  A gentle spray. Sometimes burns from radiation treatment can be painful to touch—so much that rubbing heavy cream on sensitive skin is just not an option. A gentle spray can relieve irritated and inflamed skin with painless application.

2. Burn cream. To soothe, moisturize and speed your skin’s recovery after radiation treatment, try an all-natural arnica- and echinacea-infused burn cream. (Arnica and echinacea are loaded with natural healing properties.) For an extra cooling effect, store the cream in your refrigerator and apply it to damaged skin.

3. Coconut oil and seaweed. For a home remedy, apply coconut oil and a moistened sheet of nori seaweed to burned or radiated areas. Cover with a piece of flannel or gauze and let sit for 20 minutes.

Mouth Sores

If you have sores from chemo or radiation, these tips can help.

1. Drink water and avoid alcohol. Hydration helps manage dry mouth (xerostomia), naturally. Drink 8 glasses of water every day. Yes, it sounds like a lot—but it works!

2. Avoid certain foods. Tomato juice and citrus juice can irritate your mouth. Salty, spicy or rough foods (think crusty bread) can also be irritating.

3. Get a softer toothbrush. Switch to a super-soft toothbrush to minimize more damage to your gums.

4. Stop using commercial mouthwashes. Popular brands like Scope and Listerine contain alcohol, which is best to avoid when you have mouth sores. Instead try Biotene, an alcohol-free and sugar-free mouthwash found in most drug stores.

5. Do mouth rinses throughout the day. To cleanse and soothe your mouth, try a natural warm-water rinse: 4 cups of water mixed with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of baking soda.

6. Try oil pulling. Want a home remedy? Try the Ayurvedic tradition of ‘oil pulling’, which is said to remove toxins that may suppress our immune system and disrupt our hormones. When you get out of bed in the morning (before you eat, drink or brush your teeth), swish 1 tablespoon of sesame or coconut oil in your mouth for 15 minutes.

As the oil mixes with saliva, it begins to pull toxins from the mouth. Spit and rinse with warm water. Alternate between sesame and coconut oil. Each has unique characteristics for detoxification. You can also use cinnamon or mint oil if you like the taste better.

Help your skin heal

Cancer-related treatments can take their toll. Over time, gentle care and high-quality products can make a significate difference and help minimize pain. For more tips on beauty and cancer, check out our articles on nail care and hair loss.


Tammy Phillip has a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Ohio State and is a former Clinical Research Psycho-Oncology Fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Keesha Ewers is the Founder/Medical Director of The Academy for Integrative Medicine and Fern Life Clinic in Seattle, Washington. She is an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner, has a PhD in Sexology and is certified in Functional and Ayurvedic medicine.
Lisa Lefebvre is the Founder of Mend After Cancer. She has experience recovering from 8 cancer-related surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, radiation protocols and hormone suppression therapy.

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