As a cancer survivor and an oncology-trained esthetician who works with clients at cancer centres and trains estheticians across the United States, I find most of us are surprised by the side effects cancer treatment has on our skin.
Since our skin is the largest organ of our body and a major part of our immune system, this should not be a surprise. But somehow it gets left out of the discussion. Add anxiety, stress, lack of sleep and change in diet due to cancer drug regimens or radiation therapy, and you have a recipe for skin changes.
Here are the 7 tips I have found that can help you manage skin changes or even stave them off:
- Get plenty of sleep – This is when our body repairs and regenerates. It is a requirement for beautiful skin. Practice good sleep hygiene, and try to go to bed each night at the same time in a darkened, quiet room — with no TV, computer, or cell phone. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
- Learn to “still” your mind – The cancer journey may bring on what I call the “chaos of cancer” in our minds. We constantly think about things, making it difficult to be still. It helps to practice stillness every day at least 10 minutes. This will help you meet challenges you encounter and prepare for sleep.
- Try meditation, yoga, prayer — or whatever works for you. Do it first thing in the morning; start with your intentions for the day. Then repeat it again at night prior to sleep and end each day thinking of what you are grateful for.
- Eat good skin foods, and skip the sugar – Eat plenty of complex carbohydrates like: beans, brown rice, nuts, vegetables and whole-grain foods. Add antioxidant-rich berries and good fats like: avocados, olive oil and salmon. Sugar causes collagen (skin’s plump, youthful factor) and elastin (skin’s tight factor) to break down and then cross link to make a “pillowing” or wrinkled effect on our skin. Life and aging do enough of that — let’s not help it along.
- Keep your skin clean, but do not over cleanse – Our skin comes with the perfect protection called acid mantle. Its job is to protect, lubricate and keep us safe from outside factors. Although, it’s important to cleanse our skin, we need to make sure not to overdo it, thus stripping our skin of its natural defense.
- Hydrate your skin – Hydrate your skin inside and out to have beautiful skin. Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of filtered, room temperature water a day, and choose a moisturizer that works well for you.
- Protect your skin – Many anti-cancer treatments are phototoxic, meaning you will be more sensitive to the sun and UV rays. It is imperative that you protect your skin and use a sunscreen with an appropriate SPF number — rain or shine.
- Last but not least – be happy! Happy feelings cause our body to release hormones that enhance our body’s ability to repair and renew. And, nothing looks better on skin than happiness!
Becky Kuehn is a 39-year cancer survivor. She works with cancer patients in two local hospitals in Washington and teaches spa professionals across the United States. She is a Master Esthetician, Cosmetologist, Hope Coach and Holistic Cancer Educator (through Beat Cancer.org) and the owner and founder of Oncology Spa Solutions®. Becky’s passion and goal are to increase awareness and enhance the circle of care for those on the cancer journey.