It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which means it’s a good time to talk about skincare after radiation therapy for breast cancer.
I’m no stranger to cancer. I recovered from stage 4 cancer. It wasn’t breast cancer, but I underwent intensive radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
I know how much both of these treatments can damage the skin. They leave it red, irritated, inflamed, and even burned and oozing.
Unfortunately, doctors and nurses don’t always often have good solutions for these issues. My doctor, for example, gave me little guidance on how to manage my skin during treatments.
They had other things they were focused on, like the tumor, the spread, and how I was responding to treatment. I’m grateful for their help there, but I did suffer from a lot of skin issues.
The remedies the nurses offered included products (like Aquaphor) that are mainly made up of mineral oil—a petroleum-based product that can smother your skin and cause more dryness over the long term.
So in this post, we give you some safe and effective solutions for how to take care of your tender skin during and after radiation therapy.
Skincare After Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer: What Happens to Skin
First, let’s take a quick look at how radiation therapy damages the skin.
Radiation kills cancer cells, which is why it can be an effective way to banish a tumor, but on its way into the body to attack the tumor, it can also damage skin cells. It doesn’t discriminate. It just barrels through killing cells.
Because of this assault, it’s also harder for skin to protect itself or regenerate, which means that it may no longer be able to tolerate alcohols, synthetic fragrances, and harsh preservatives in conventional skin care products.
Depending on the intensity or strength of the beam and how many sessions you have, you may suffer from minor redness and swelling, like a sunburn, or more severe blistering, peeling, and flaking.
When treating these types of burns, the standard, over-the-counter petroleum-based product just won’t cut it. Petroleum covers the skin, but does nothing to nourish or heal it, and can contribute to more dryness over the long term. Chemical preservatives and fragrances can also contribute to irritation and pain.
Instead, what you need when treating radiation burns is a) something to cool it down, b) something to heal it, and c) something to deeply moisturize.
Skincare After Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer: How to Help Your Skin Heal
When you’re going through cancer treatments, it’s more important than ever that you choose non-toxic skin care products.
Because of the trauma to the skin—which damages its protective outer barrier—chemicals can more easily penetrate and get into your bloodstream, where they may affect your healing process.
Dry skin can also create cracks, plus with radiation burns, you may be talking about open wounds. That means you must be much more tender and careful with what you put on your skin.
CV Skinlabs products were made specifically for medically treated skin and contain only safe and organic ingredients that soothe and repair.
1. Start by Cooling It Down
With radiation burns, the first thing you will want to do is cool the skin and remove the heat and burning pain. Try cool compresses on the area for short periods. (Make sure they’re clean to prevent infection.) Soothing hydrogel sheets are available from medical and home health suppliers and work well for this purpose.
You can also try a bag of peas covered in a cool cloth. Avoid extreme cold—don’t apply an ice pack directly to the skin. Make sure to have a barrier in between.
One other thing to try: Our Rescue + Relief Spray. It’s specifically designed to take heat away from the skin and help cool and soothe. Keep it in the refrigerator for instant cooling relief and hydrating moisture. It also works to promote wound-healing, supporting tissue repair. The easy spray formula is something you’ll appreciate when your skin is too tender to touch.
2. Moisturize Dry Skin
Once you’ve cooled the skin down, you’ll want to replenish the moisture. Radiation treatments naturally dry out the skin, damaging the outer layer and making it harder for the skin to hold onto its own moisture.
When choosing a moisturizer, be extra careful. Your skin is suffering. It’s inflamed, red, and damaged. It’s trying to recover. The last thing it needs is to have to defend itself from harsh chemicals, preservatives, or fragrances.
We recommend our Calming Moisture and Body Repair Lotion. They are 100 percent free of any irritants, fragrances, or toxic ingredients. Plus, they include natural ingredients like Reishi mushroom and turmeric to help tame inflammation and redness.
We added natural oils that penetrate deeply into the skin to restore strength, provide deep moisturization, and encourage healing. You will find that these products also relieve the feeling of after-burn dryness and tightness.
3. Tame the Itch
Radiation-treated skin often feels tight and itchy. Resist scratching! This can increase skin damage and may introduce bacteria that cause an infection. Remember: While you’re going through cancer treatments, you are much more vulnerable to infection.
Instead, continue to use your cooling compresses or frozen peas and our Rescue & Relief Spray. Then apply a safe moisturizer. Our Calming Moisture and Body Repair Lotion include many nourishing ingredients plus beta-glucan (gluten-free oats) and aloe intended to help soothe and reduce the itch and irritation.
4. Heal Wounded Skin
The more radiation treatments you accumulate, the more likely you will be to start experiencing rashes, radiation burns, or peeling and flaking skin.
This is when you add a healing balm to your daily regimen. This is your extra treatment to help the skin manage the stress and better recover when the radiation is over.
We suggest our award-winning Restorative Skin Balm. It’s a made to instantly soften severely dry and chapped skin. Apply it to the red, burned area for soothing relief, then leave it on for lasting moisturization and protection. (Overnight is good.) It will also help smooth and minimize scarring.
Like our other products, the Restorative Skin Balm was designed specifically for medically treated skin. It’s a 100% natural, petroleum-free healing and protective balm containing Reishi mushroom and turmeric for their productive and anti-inflammatory effects. We also included emollients to safeguard the moisture barrier and a powerful combination of antioxidants and fat-soluble vitamins that help encourage fast skin regeneration.
5. Stay Out of the Sun
Do everything you can to stay out of the sun while you’re going through radiation. Your skin is tender and sensitive and will be much more vulnerable to sun damage—the type that can create lasting scars.
Use hats, clothing, and umbrellas to cover the treated area. We’re not even mentioning sunscreen because it’s best not to expose the skin to the sun at all.
Then use only the mildest of cleansers when cleansing your skin, and rinse gently with lukewarm water. Pat—don’t rub—dry, and immediately apply a moisturizing toner (like our Rescue + Relief Spray) and lotion.
With love and healing,
Let us know:
How did you find relief from radiation burns?