12 Skincare Tips for Skin Cancer Patients and Survivors

When Hillary Peterson survived melanoma and thyroid cancer and was looking for a clean sunscreen she found Marie Veronique Organics.  She was so excited about the products that she joined MVO and is now their CEO. That is the kind of passion we often encounter with small natural businesses like this one and we’re happily sharing a few insights for cancer survivors from founder and formulator, Marie Veronique Nadeau herself.

The world is full of hazards, and cancer patients – either those currently in treatment or survivors – need to practice extra diligence in avoiding what may present obstacles to their complete recovery. But that doesn’t mean survivors can’t still experience great skin health with the best skincare! Confronted with chemotherapy, radiation and the many challenges cancer survivors face, healthy skin may seem to be an elusive dream. Common skin complaints for people undergoing cancer treatment: dry skin, sensitive skin and dermatitis. While all the effects of cancer and it’s treatment on your body cannot be avoided, there are steps cancer survivors can take to heal damaged skin from the inside out.

There are 3 parts to caring for your skin during and after treatment. The first is to take a gentle approach with your skin. What is true for skin care in general is especially true for cancer survivors. The skin is like an eco system and when it gets out of balance due to treatments, a slow and gentle approach is the way to go. The second is to exercise caution when it comes to ingredients. And thirdly, aim for healthy skin from the inside out. What you put in your body is as important as what you put on your skin. Cancer survivors can help their skin heal better by eating foods that not only benefit the skin, but their health overall during treatments and beyond.

  • 12 Skincare Tips for Cancer Patients and Survivors
    Address the skin care issues you may encounter on your road to wellness

  • Cleanse without stripping skin

    Avoid cleansers that use harsh surfactants or sudsing agents that actually strip the skin of its environmental protective barrier. Creamy cleansers are less alkaline than soaps and gels and may be used at night to wash the face. Consider eliminating your morning cleanse and opting instead for a gentle splash of tepid water.
    Note: Studies show that people who wash with soap in the morning are about 50% less protected from the sun. This is because alkaline soaps strip the skin of oils that form an environmental protection barrier.

  • Retain moisture and avoid trans-epidermal water loss

    In non-science speak TEWL is the loss of water from skin through evaporation. You can make a mist with green tea or white tea that is safe to use whenever your skin needs hydrating. In hot weather, refrigerate the tea and spritz it on cold—very refreshing! Since green teas have catechins and polyphenols that provide UV protection take a big bottle with you to the beach. Spray it on or drink it, it’s all good.

  • Find a face oil

    Replenish the lipid barrier with face oil to address dryness. Most people get a bit nervous when they hear the words oil and skin in the same sentence. But there’s no reason to get nervous. In fact, waxes, not oils, are the major cause of skin congestion. Applying oils to the skin, without the interference of a wax barricade, gives your skin the essential fatty acids it needs. These fatty acids, called lipids, form an environmental protection barrier that prevents the elements from assaulting our skin, keeping all skin types healthy.

  • Use your sunscreen

    Wearing sunscreen every day is the best way to prevent basal and squamous cell carcinomas, and non-nano zinc oxide is the ingredient you want to see in your sunscreen. Zinc oxide because it is safe, even for babies, and it provides full spectrum UV protection. Non-nano because the larger the particle the smaller the risk that the zinc oxide will penetrate past the epidermal barrier. Nano-particles are often coated to achieve greater stability, but the coating can break down to generate free radicals that cause cellular and DNA damage.

  • Read the labels on your personal care products

    Because we absorb 60 to 70% of what we put on our skin it stands to reason that topical substances will have an impact on our health. This is a short list of the chemicals/ synthetics to avoid and what you can use instead:

    • Triclosan. Lab studies link this ingredient to cancer. It is found in many products, including anti-bacterial hand washes and wipes. Plain soap and water works just as well.
    • Fragrance or “parfum.” Most contain contaminated aromatic hydrocarbons that are carcinogenic. Look for fragrance-free or products with essential oils only.
    • Parabens. Used for preservative purposes, ingredients belonging to the paraben family are endocrine disruptors. Look for paraben-free products.
  • Avoid drying ingredients and procedures

    Products containing alcohol can dry skin that may already be extra dry due to certain medical procedures. Sometimes even “moisturizers” contain denatured alcohol. Avoid this ingredient, but don’t confuse it with fatty alcohols like cetyl and stearyl alcohol, which are fine. Creamy cleansers are less alkaline than soaps and gels and may be used at night to wash the face. In the morning a splash or two of tepid water is enough. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skindeep database if you have questions about an ingredient.

  • Green Doesn't Mean Natural, Organic or Safe

    Important in protecting yourself : don't assume "natural" and "organic" labels mean safe products for you. Products that claim to be natural and organic, thus assumed to be safe, can actually be green-washing their claims. Learn to look at what the actual ingredients are.

  • Pink Doesn't Mean Safe

    Over recent months, there has been a rising controversy within the breast cancer arena called pinkwashing - companies who use breast cancer awareness to promote products that are not safe for breast cancer survivors. Similar to greenwashing, recognize the possibility that your favorite "pink" product may not be as safe as it should be for cancer survivors, especially in skin care.

  • Eat Whole Foods

    By whole foods, we mean foods that are not processed. Eat these as much as possible. Whole foods provide better nutrition to your body and contain the least amount of preservatives and other harmful chemicals. Quick tip: when eating out, stick to fresh salad bars and food that is grilled or steamed.

  • Caution When Cooking Veggies

    Cooking, processing and preserving foods can deplete your vegetables of the benefits you're looking for. However, this does not necessarily hold true for all vegetables. The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry studies show that boiling and steaming vegetables like carrots, spinach, mushrooms and peppers actually improve their nutritional value. When in doubt, steam vegetables and eat fruits raw for most nutritional value.

  • Eat a Balanced Diet

    According to the Mayo Clinic, it is important to vary your diet to include lots of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains. When it comes to selecting your entrees, the American Cancer Society recommends that cancer survivors:

    • Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
    • Choose healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, rather than saturated fats or trans fats.
    • Select proteins that are low in saturated fat, such as fish, lean meats, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes.
    • Opt for healthy sources of carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes, and fruits and vegetables.

    This combination of foods will ensure that you're eating plenty of the vitamins and nutrients you need to help make your body strong.

  • Limit Alcoholic Beverages

    Studies have found a link between alcohol intake and the risk of getting a number of cancers: Mouth Throat Larynx,
    Esophagus, Liver and Breast.

    Alcohol use may be linked to colon cancer, too. In people who have already been diagnosed with cancer, alcohol intake could affect the risk for new cancers in these sites. Alcohol intake can also increase levels of estrogens in the blood. In theory this could increase the risk of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer coming back after treatment, but studies so far have not addressed questions like this.

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