Summer can be challenging if you have sensitive or reactive skin-especially if you’re going through chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments. Everything from sun exposure to oppressive heat and humidity can take its toll on your physical and emotional well-being.
If you’re looking for offers some sure-fire way to beat the heat and protect compromised and intolerant skin this summer and beyond, I’ve got some tips for you.
1. Choose the Right Sunscreen
While sunscreen is essential for everyone–to protect against sunburn, photoaging and skin cancer-those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments can be particularly photosensitive. Certain types of sunscreen can irritate skin, though, and if you’re especially sensitive, you need to choose wisely. That means reading labels.
Physical (or mineral) sunscreens, which contain combinations of titanium dioxideandzinc oxide,help reflect and scatter UV rays, blocking both the UVA and UBV types for broad-spectrum protection. They’re also the least likely to cause skin reactions. The downside is they can be whitening and aesthetically unappealing, though newer formulas have significantly reduced this effect.
On the other hand, hybrid and chemical formulations containing oxybenzone, octinoxate, PABA, salicylates, andbenzophenone, are absorbed by the skin, and therefore wear invisibly. They’ve been associated with a multitude of risks:
- They may generate free radicals that can damage cells
- They often contain estrogenic (hormone-altering) chemicals
- They contain potentially toxic ingredients bad for both your body and the environment
2. Avoid Peak Sun Hours
The sun is strongest during the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. If you’re especially sun-sensitive (ask your doctor which medications can cause photo-sensitivity, or consult BlueCross BlueShield for a comprehensive list), when you do go out, wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, long pants, and during treatment, even light gloves. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated (your skin needs it too), and of course, wear a powerful but safe sunscreen.
3. Behold Your Part
The part most often neglected from UV exposure is the scalp. It’s tough to see up there, and with all that hair, we don’t even think about the skin underneath. But get too much sun and boy, does it burn.
Research shows that melanoma on the scalp or neck is twice as deadly as melanoma elsewhere. Be wise. Wear a hat, alter your part on a regular basis, and wear spray-on sunscreen like Lavera SPF 20. Don’t forget places like your ears, back of the neck, and hands.
4. Dealing with Unwanted Hair
If you are undergoing cancer treatment, it’s likely you will lose your body hair. Not everyone does, though, so what can the lucky few do with unwanted hair in all the wrong places?
First of all, if you are suffering from paper-thin skin as a side effect, waxing is out of the question, at least until after treatment concludes. When shaving, use tools that have been properly sanitized and sterilized-preferably disposable razors that can be tossed after each use.
Be extra cautious as you are at a higher risk of infection, so avoid scrapes and cuts. It is preferable that you switch to electric razors instead of standard blades whenever possible. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen!
5. Eat to Protect
Colorful fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants that naturally protect you from disease. They also help scavenge free radicals created by sun exposure. Try to get in at least five servings a day of fruits and veggies, drink green tea, and enjoy a small amount of dark chocolate. Try these specific items-all of which have shown in studies to provide protection from the sun.
- Citrus fruits
- Salmon and other fatty fish
- Green tea
- Broccoli sprouts
- Carrots and other yellow and orange vegetables
- Red peppers
6. Use Protective Clothing
When you are extra-photo-sensitive, even your skin covered by clothing is at risk! Regular shirts have an SPF of about 12, so wearing clothing that has been embedded with sun-shielding zinc will block the sun much better (it does not fade or wash away in the laundry). Coolibar has some stylish, protective options including lightweight wrap in assorted colors that will not only spruce up a plain t-shirt, but its breathable fibers will keep you cool and sweat to a minimum!
7. Rinse Skin After Swimming
Sensitive skin may react to the chemicals they use in public pools. Chlorine also tends to dry out skin, leaving it parched and increasing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Be sure to rinse well after your swim is over, and then immediately apply your favorite safe and natural moisturizer.
Do you take extra steps to protect your sensitive skin in the summer? Please share any tips you may have.