Good to Know

Cancer treatment means taking extra care looking after yourself. We’ve outlined some good-to-know information to help you deal with these changes.

Radiation Treatment
  • Don’t wash off any marks your doctor or radiation therapist may have applied to your skin.
  • Use clear, warm water instead of soap and creams in the treatment areas, patting dry very gently.
  • Avoid exposing treated areas to the sun, and do not use sunscreens on these areas during treatment, unless your doctor says it’s OK.
  • If the treatment area itches, consult your radiation therapist. Prescription creams or a light sprinkling of cornstarch may help.
  • If your skin continues to feel irritated while you’re getting radiation therapy, ask your doctor or radiation therapist to recommend a moisturizer and sunscreen.
  • Don’t use any cosmetics, perfumes, or deodorants on treated areas without checking with a radiation therapist first.
  • Your skin may develop temporary color changes (redness or darkening) during treatment, and that can be normal. Just be sure to let your doctor know about any signs of infection or other changes in skin color if they develop.
  • Chemo can be hard on your skin, so be especially kind to it during treatment.
  • Use mild, gentle soaps, gels, or creamy cleansers with lukewarm (not hot) water.
  • Use a good moisturizer with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply moisturizer to damp skin, if possible.
  • If you have acne, ask your doctor about what types of skin care products are best and safest for you.
  • Do not use products that contain active ingredients that could irritate the skin, including exfoliating and abrasive skin care products, alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs), retinol, and alcohol.
Handling Skin Care and Cosmetic Products
  • To maintain cleanliness and freshness, wash your hands before applying skin care or cosmetic products.
  • Use a disposable hand cloth or a clean towel to dry your hands.
  • When on the go, use travel-size hand sanitizer to protect against germs.
  • Don’t put your fingers directly into product containers because bacteria might be put into the product.
  • Use cotton balls, sponges, spatulas, and/or cotton swabs to apply lotions or creams. And don’t “double dip” your applicator in the product!
  • Always close containers tightly after use.
  • Don’t share your skin care or cosmetic products with anyone, not even a close member of your family.
  • Discard and replace makeup as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Don’t use saliva or water to moisten any skin care or cosmetic products.
Sun Protection

The sun can have harmful effects on skin at any time of the year. However, radiation and chemotherapy treatments, as well as some medications, can increase your chances of sunburn and skin damage.

  • As a general rule, when you’re getting radiation treatment, don’t expose your treatment areas to the sun.
  • Consult your doctor before applying sunscreen or any cream to your treatment areas.
  • Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays in an SPF 30 or higher.
  • Use a sunscreen that’s specially formulated for your face.
  • Apply sun protection daily and liberally – a dollop about the size of a golf ball – to all exposed skin, including the arms, legs, neck, and face, as well as the ears, scalp, side and back of the neck, and upper chest area.
  • Get in the habit of applying sun protection every morning, about 20 to 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply often –at least every two hours – especially after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
  • Remember that you’re still exposed to UVA and UBV rays even in shady areas.
  • Avoid the direct sunlight between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when UV light is strongest.
  • Don’t forget to wear a hat – preferably one with a wide brim of about 3 inches
  • If wearing makeup, apply sunscreen first.
  • It doesn’t add up! If your moisturizer and foundation both have an SPF of 15, it doesn’t mean that you’ll have a protection of SPF 30.
  • Don’t forget your eyes; they need protection too. Wear sunglasses with 100% UVA/UVB protection.
Body Care

A relaxing bath or gentle shower can be a way to ease stress.

  • Use lukewarm water when bathing or showering.
  • If possible, instead of showers, take baths laced with a gentle bath oil. Use a fragrance-free bath oil that dispenses easily in water.
  • Choose soaps, body washes, and body lotions that are formulated for sensitive skin.
  • Avoid using abrasive body scrubs.
  • Gently pat your skin dry with clean, plush towels. Do not rub.

Cheat Sheet

Look fresh in minutes.

1. Tap concealer over dark under-eye circles, blemishes, or broken capillaries.

2. Smooth tinted moisturizer with an SPF of 30 or higher over clean skin to hydrate and protect.

3. Smile, and dust powder blush or bronzer on apples of your cheeks; apply what’s left on forehead, chin, and nose for a healthy glow.

4. Define brows with brow pencil or powder, and apply mascara to upper lashes.

5. Hydrate and protect lips with a lip balm or gloss that contains an SPF of 30 or higher.

Hygiene Tip

Change your toothbrush every month during treatment.


Your cancer treatment may make you very sensitive to perfumes in products. You may want to choose unscented formulas.

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