Side Effects

Chemotherapy Side Effect: Dry, Itchy Skin

+ CV Skinlabs Team

We all experience dry skin from time to time, especially in the harsh winter months. Chemotherapy, however, is a professional thief, and skin moisture is it’s favorite prize. Drugs like 5-FU can cause extreme dry skin, and those who have it can suffer so much that they’re unable to sleep, sometimes experiencing intense itching and scratching that can lead to infection.

“It was as though a giant sponge swooped down and absorbed all the moisture from my skin,” says Pat, a breast-cancer survivor.

What are the signs? Dry skin appears rough and flaky, and can become cracked and peeled.  It may feel tight and itchy, and with scratching, may start to bleed. A slight tear can lead to infection, so it’s paramount you keep your skin as moist as possible.

There are some basic things you can do. Avoid hot water (it makes itching worse); shower or bathe in lukewarm temperatures; pat (don’t rub) dry; and avoid drying soaps-instead, use organic, non-toxic, skin cleansers and creams. Apply moisturizer (or organic body oil like Weleda) when skin is still damp, wash clothes in toxin-free mild detergents, use chemical-free sunscreen (we love Soleo Organics SPF 30), avoid synthetic perfumes and fragrances, use a humidifier in your room, stay away from irritating fabrics like wool and nylons (choose cotton and silk), and protect your skin with gloves and when doing household chores. (You can also purchase thin cotton gloves to protect fragile, sore hands.)

All these things may help, but if you’ve got serious dry skin, you need more. First, let’s talk about relieving the pain or itch. Instead of scratching, suggests massaging the area with an ice cube, or covering it with a cool washcloth. Add baking soda or ground up oatmeal to the tub to further soothe the irritation. suggests Vicks vapor rub for immediate relief, vitamin E oil, baking soda and water paste, or an apple cider vinegar and water solution. If you’ve already scratched, natural aloe from the plant can soothe the burn and moisturize skin, or try Santaverde Aloe Body Lotion. CV Skinlabs Rescue + Relief Spray offers instant, cooling relief to itchy skin-and it’s made only with natural, nourishing ingredients, so you can use it as needed throughout the day.

Regular lotions may be moisturizing to the everyday person, but for those going through chemotherapy, they may seem no more effective than water. Many skin-care enthusiasts recommend virgin coconut oil for its protective qualities. It absorbs easily through the skin to heal and moisturize, plus it won’t break the budget. Other oils great for moisturization include almond, grapeseed, evening primrose, and olive. You can find organic versions of these oils at Aura Cacia. (Try coating your hands and feet in oil and lotion and sleeping in cotton socks at night.) CV Skinlabs Body Repair Lotion is ideal for those going through chemotherapy, as it contains no potentially harmful chemicals, so it’s safe to use, and leaves behind radiant, soft skin after just one use, with long-term use resulting in more comfortable, healthy skin.

Looking for home remedies? Try mashing a ripe banana and applying it to the dry area for ten minutes, or blend together 1 teaspoon green clay powder and 1 teaspoon raw honey and apply for fifteen to twenty minutes. If your skin is super dry and flaking and cracking, try CV Skinlabs Restorative Skin Balm, which was the 2013 pick for best “all-around healer” in the Healing Lifestyles & Spa’s (HLS’s) Earth Day Beauty Awards. Calendula and sea buckthorn oil provide fat-soluble vitamins that help skin recover.

If none of these things help, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence. Dry skin could land you in the hospital with infection, so you have every excuse to pamper yourself with tender care!

Do you have a great solution for dry, irritated skin? Let us know!

Photo courtesy of Snap Village.