A Cancer Survival Journey

What Shocked Me About Skincare During Cancer

+ Pamela Friedman

A personal message from the CV Skinlabs CEO, Pam Friedman

You know, it’s one thing to understand something intellectually, and quite another to experience it first-hand.

I’ve been in the skincare and beauty industry for most of my life, and I’ve always believed in using clean, non-toxic products—one of the main reasons I’m so dedicated to what we do here at CV Skinlabs.

I’m also no stranger to cancer. I’ve been a recurrent caretaker and have been there for family and friends battling chemo and radiation.


But recently I went through something huge: I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and underwent intensive radiation and chemotherapy treatments. I am in full remission now, which is a glorious thing!

At CV Skinlabs, I talk a lot about how chemo, radiation, and other medical procedures can damage the skin. I knew I could expect dryness, a rash or two, and radiation burns, but I was completely unprepared for how severe and painful the side effects would be, or how completely my skin would change.

Here’s what was even more surprising: even now, when we know so much more about the skin and what it needs to be healthy, my doctors and healthcare professionals still suggested I use products filled with petrolatum, parabens, formaldehyde, and more.

Let me tell you what I learned.

Medical Treatments Wreak Havoc On Your Skin

I pray that none of you reading this will ever have to go through cancer or any other serious illness requiring aggressive treatments, but if you do, here’s one thing you need to know: it could have serious effects on your skin, and your doctors may not be much help.

In their defense, they’re busy treating a complicated disease and potentially saving your life—I’m eternally grateful to mine for doing that!—so they are understandably less focused on skin issues.

In the beginning, my doctor gave me no guidance on how to manage my skin during treatments. The nurses and other health care professionals did eventually give me a few handouts and some samples of Aquaphor, but otherwise, my skin was not the big concern. They had other things they were focused on, like the tumor, the spread, how I was responding to treatment, and that sort of thing.

For those of you who don’t know, chemo causes an inflammatory response in the skin, where the immune system is stuck on the “on” position. This can result in dry skin, rashes, hand-foot syndrome, finger and toenail problems, and more.

In my case, I suffered from dry, rough, flaking skin head-to-toe, and peeling and cracking around my toes. I also developed a severe rash that was itchy, red, blistery, crusty, and super painful. It spread from my chest up to my neck and into part of my face.

On top of that, I developed an allergic reaction to the tape they were using. It was so painful that my clothing stung my skin and I couldn’t wear anything over the affected area.

Then there was the radiation. It damages the skin when x-ray beams pass through it to produce irradiated free radicals. These kill healthy cells as well as cancer cells, creating effects similar to those that occur with a sunburn.

As my radiation treatment progressed, my skin became increasingly fragile and inflamed with burning, swelling, and intense pain. It felt like I was literally on fire and I was so swollen and sore…at times it was unbearable.

Here’s the honest truth: the only products that gave me any relief were our CV Skinlabs products. Yes, I’m the CEO of the company so it would make sense that I would say this, but I’m telling you, I tried other things and only our products helped my skin.

My Health Care Providers Recommended a Lot of Surprising Products

Would you be surprised to learn that the main products my healthcare providers recommended were Aquaphor and Gold Bond?

Aquaphor is 41 percent petrolatum, which coats the skin and clogs pores. Gold Bond is also high in petrolatum and contains parabens (linked with cancer), urea (which can emit carcinogenic formaldehyde and can cause dermatitis), and EDTA.

Then they gave me a product that included aloe vera (finally, something nourishing!), but that product also contained toxic ingredients like DMDM hydantoin (a preservative that releases formaldehyde) and disodium-EDTA, a hormone disruptor.

They recommended burn creams like Silvadene, which I never used. It contains petrolatum and parabens. They told me to use Lidocaine to ease the pain—which contains a steroid as the active ingredient, along with parabens, petrolatum, and aluminum—and they even recommended Vaseline to soothe the radiation burns, which is mostly all petrolatum.

Are these products you should be giving a cancer patient? I don’t think so.

At first, I was excited to experiment on myself. I thought I’d try these other products, as then maybe I could understand why my healthcare providers were recommending them. I wondered if they were superior in some way—even with their harmful chemicals.

So I used the products they gave me and the products they recommended, but I didn’t notice any difference in my skin. In some cases, the products were actually irritating. Even the Lidocaine didn’t offer much relief, and when things got really painful, I grew desperate.

In the end, I didn’t care about anything but using products that worked. I just wanted cooling, soothing, and healing relief that would help heal the wounded areas.

I turned back to CV Skinlabs. Only our products soothed the itch and calmed the inflammation. Now I know in some cases the side effects of cancer treatments can get so bad patients may need prescription-strength ointments or even steroids. I’m all for getting the help you need, whatever that may be, but in my experience, that help came from our products.

I used all four of them—our Rescue + Relief Spray, Calming Moisture, Body Repair Lotion, and Restorative Skin Balm. All were more soothing and healing than any of the products they were recommending, so I can say now from experience that our products really work, even on skin that is super sensitive and raw.

Nurses Impressed with CV Skinlabs Products!

Here’s another example for you. At one point, after undergoing chemo and radiation, I ended up in the intensive care unit (ICU).

The radiation burn was so severe and excruciating, I was desperate for relief. The nurses applied ointments and creams containing lidocaine and nothing helped. One of the products they used burned like heck.

When I was able to, I asked them to use the CV products I had brought with me, particularly the Rescue & Relief Spray and Restorative Skin Balm. They were the only products that helped. The nurses complied, and they were impressed, particularly with how fast my rash healed—faster than they expected, they said. (Because of the nourishing ingredients lacking in the other products, I wanted to say!)

An oncology nurse came to talk to me. She’d heard about how fast my skin was healing, and she had to find out for herself what products I was using. When I showed them to her, she said our ingredient list looked better than anything they were using!

Indeed, throughout my treatments, the nurses and other healthcare providers were eager to hear about safer skincare alternatives. These people are in the trenches and they see how their patients suffer. I ended up leaving samples everywhere, even for fellow patients who needed them.

My Top 3 Tips for Sensitive Skin Care

After everything I’ve gone through, I have three tips when it comes to caring for super sensitive skin:

1. Focus on keeping skin hydrated and protected.

A healthy skin barrier is key to healthy skin and a healthy body. Particularly now, when we’re all worried about getting sick, it’s become even more important to be sure the skin—which protects you from germs—is protected.

That means moisturizing as much as you need to. I use moisturizer now 2-3 times a day all over my body. It also means protecting from UV radiation as well as dust, dirt, and pollution. Sensitive skin in particular needs that extra layer of protection, so don’t forget to use clothing, hats, and umbrellas as well.

2. Read the ingredient list!

During my treatment, I tried some other so-called “natural” products, thinking for sure they would be safe for sensitive skin. I was wrong. Several of them did nothing to help me, and some even made my skin worse.

We’ve long recommended reading the ingredient lists on your products, but now I’m urging you even more to turn that bottle over and read the fine print. Manufacturers can put the word “natural” on anything they want—there are no regulations concerning when or where they can use it. It means nothing.

Check the ingredient list and if you see items like those listed on our Ingredients to Avoid, pass that product by and choose another.

3. Be careful with exfoliation.

Before cancer treatments, I used retinol and alpha-hydroxy acids to exfoliate my skin and help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. After cancer treatments, these ingredients cause my skin to react. I become inflamed or suffered from acne breakouts.

Yet my skin looked dull and lifeless, so I knew I needed to exfoliate.

Here’s what I do: when I use any of these ingredients to exfoliate, I apply our Rescue + Relief Spray immediately after. It works! It gives a calming effect and prevents my skin from reacting.

You may also want to exfoliate less often and use the gentlest formulas you can.

There Are Solutions for Sensitive Skin!

Sensitive /reactive skin people, I’m one of you now and I get it—you don’t want to try anything new because when your skin reacts, it can take up to a month to get it healthy again. But I can tell you that our products are made for the most sensitive of skin types, and they work. Don’t put up with all that other stuff they tell you to use—try CV Skinlabs. I can tell you from experience that you’ll find relief, healing, and yes, even radiant, glowing skin.

Have you gone through medical treatments that affected your skin?

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