Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Skincare Tips For Cancer Patients From Dr. Ava Shamban January 26, 2017

Staying together in tough disease

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything about oncology esthetics.  I was certified in oncology esthetics by Oncology Training International over 4 years ago.  Since moving back to Israel in August, 2012 I have been advancing this esthetics field here in Israel where it is virtually unknown.  This past summer I started a Facebook page in Hebrew about oncology esthetics in order to better serve the Israeli population since there are few resources in Hebrew on this subject.

My last post about oncology esthetics was about how estheticians can help cancer patients.  In an even earlier post I shared skincare tips for cancer patients.   In this post I am privileged to share skincare tips for cancer patients that Dr. Ava Shamban shared with me.  Dr. Shamban is a Beverly Hills dermatologist and the creator of the skincare line SkinxFive.  She’s also the author of one of my favorite books about skincare called Heal Your Skin which includes a chapter all about caring for your skin during cancer treatment. You can read my review of her book here.

I’m sharing Dr. Shamban’s advice here along with some added comments of my own.  My comments are in italics.

The Skin Side Effects of Cancer Treatment:

How cancer treatment affects your skin (hair and nails) will depend on your individual physiology and the drugs you’re receiving. Side effects can occur right away or within several days, weeks, or even months of treatment. Always remember your mantra: take heart! There are ways to cope with even the most severe skin complaints.

Acneiform Rash (Follicular Eruption)

When you are treated with chemotherapy drugs that target the EGFRs you can develop a skin reaction known as acneiform (or acne-like) rash. It can look and feel like severe teenage acne, but it can erupt everywhere.

This skin reaction can look so similar to acne that you might be inclined to want to treat it with strong anti-acne ingredients, but this would be a mistake because your skin can be very sensitive at this time.  If you are confused about how to treat this skin condition be sure to talk to your oncologist or an esthetician trained in oncology esthetics about safe solutions to heal your skin.

 What to do: Acneiform can be tender, burning, and itching. If the rash is mild, you can try an over-the-counter low-strength salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide preparation followed by a moisturizer that contains ceramides. If the rash doesn’t respond within a short period, ask your doctor about using a topical or an oral prescription antibiotic to relieve the symptoms and lessen the severity of the rash.

Ceramides are an oily wax that is found in the outer layers of our skin.   They are naturally found in our skin and play an important role in helping our skin retain moisture by being part of the “glue” that keeps skin cells together.  When ceramides are depleted our skin has trouble staying moist and can be prone to not only dryness but sensitivity as well.   You can find ceramides in Curel products and in CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion.

Dryness

Extreme dryness is the most frequent skin complaint among patients in cancer treatment. Dehydration, extreme weather conditions, perfumed products, and allergies can contribute to dryness.

What to do: The best way to treat your dry skin is to use moisturizers regularly; Ceramides are a particularly valuable ingredient; they replace a skin lipid that chemotherapy specifically diminishes. Take a short shower or bath, then pat your dry skin with a soft towel and apply a moisturizer immediately. Use only mild, non-perfumed, non-deodorant soaps such as Dove, Basis, Aveeno, or Neutrogena. Wear cotton clothes next to the skin rather than wool, synthetic fibers, or rough clothing. Always wash clothing in a mild detergent and avoid any products that contain perfume, such as bubble baths, soaps, and lotions.

Caution: if you are receiving radiation treatments, do not apply anything to the skin in the treatment area without clearing it with your medical team first. Many common ointments and moisturizers, while nonirritating, may interfere with the ability of the radiation to penetrate the skin and do its work.

Nail Changes

Changes to your nails will depend on the treatment you receive. They are usually temporary, although the nails may take longer to repair themselves than the hair and other skin nails. Nail toxicity can occur weeks or months after you’ve begun a targeted treatment, and it often persists for weeks or months after stopping the drug.

What to do: Nail changes often disappear when the damaged nail is replaced by the growth of a new nail. Good nail care during your treatment can help you to avoid or diminish the severity of side effects.

  • Moisturize the nails and cuticles daily with a nonirritating balm, such as petroleum jelly. You can also use lip balm to soften the cuticles.
  • Do not trim or push back your cuticles. The seal they provide around the nail plate prevents infection.
  • If your nails begin to separate or show signs of breakage, try to keep them in place as long as possible. Even when loosened or shortened, they provide protection for the nail bed.
  • Inflammation can be treated in a variety of ways by your oncology team, such as by the use of topical antibiotic, an antifungal, or a cortisone cream. Wrapping the treated area with a bandage or clear plastic wrap (such as Saran Wrap) will help the ointment to penetrate the area. Some also find it helpful to apply a liquid bandage to the area at the first sign of any cracking skin.

Tips for dealing with hair loss

Keep in mind that you will need to take special care of your scalp. The skin on your head, neck, and forehead will suffer from the same dryness, propensity to irritation, and increased vulnerability to sun damage as the rest of your skin during cancer treatment. In fact, it may be quite tender. Here are some tips for dealing with hair loss:

  • My patients recommend using with hazel or a gentle baby shampoo to cleanse the scalp. Massaging the scalp gently with the fingertips can be soothing.
  • Don’t wear a wig or any other hair covering for too long a period in hot weather. Sweat can build up on your scalp and become very irritating.
  • There are many different options for wigs: real hair, synthetics, different hair colors. The most important aspect is the fabric of the skullcap.
  • Choose soft, natural, and breathable fabrics like cotton jersey for anything you wear on your head.

Rejuvenating Skin During Cancer Treatment:

  • Do not do extractions, exfoliation, or other procedures that might damage fragile skin.
  • Use only the mildest products that are free of irritants and potential allergens.
  • If your oncologist permits professional facials, have them performed in your dermatologist’s office by a licensed aesthetician working under strict sanitary conditions.

 

Always tell your dermatologist or aesthetician that you are undergoing cancer treatment before scheduling facials or other cosmetic treatments.

In addition to Dr. Shamban’s excellent tips, I want to share a few blogs and articles I came across recently.  The blogs and articles all deal with how to look your best while undergoing cancer treatment.  I am a very strong believer in the mind-body connection. When you like, or love, the way you look, it lifts your spirit.  Since cancer treatment can cause many negative appearance side effects I find these blogs and articles helpful in giving assistance and hope to those who need it during a difficult time in their life.

So in no particular order I want to recommend the following blogs and article:

  • Beauty Despite Cancer – this UK site sells products that cancer patients need and has a great blog with real life stories that will inspire you.
  • Someone With – an American website similar to the site mentioned above.  They sell clothes, beauty, and health products for cancer patients.
  • Leo with Cancer – a very personal blog by Dena who has breast cancer.  Lots of beauty tips along with her raw and honest thoughts about her cancer treatment and its side effects.
  • Beauty Products for Breast Cancer Patients has great tips for looking your best during cancer treatment from the perspective of someone who has been there.
  • My Cancer Chic came out of Anna’s need to look her best even while undergoing cancer treatment.  She not only shares her feelings about her cancer journey but beauty and hair tips as well.
  • In this moving article Deanna talks about how drastically her appearance changed while undergoing cancer treatment, especially after she lost her eyebrows.  That experience lead her to help develop a replacement brow.

I have a Pinterest board just for oncology esthetics.  Feel free to follow it.

And many thanks again to Dr. Shamban for sharing her skincare tips for cancer patients with me and my readers!

 

 

Different Ways Estheticians Can Help Cancer Patients July 23, 2012

ALSO –  SPA SERVICES FOR CANCER PATIENTS

I recently completed a three day intensive course about oncology esthetics through the organization Touch for Cancer; this organization is headed by Morag Currin who wrote the book Oncology Esthetics.  The class was run by a wonderful instructor named Becky who was knowledgable and helpful.  We were 13 estheticians with varying backgrounds, but everyone of us shared the desire to help people affected by cancer.  The class included an overview of all aspects of cancer and its treatment and then we, of course, learned and spoke extensively about how as estheticians we could treat cancer patients safely and effectively.  On the last day of class we had the opportunity to work with women who were in different stages of treatment and recovery from cancer.  It was, in all, an amazing experience.

The course was held at Faye’s Light which is a nonprofit spa for cancer patients.  Faye’s Light is wonderful – they have created a warm, comforting, caring, and calming atmosphere for cancer patients to receive spa services for free.  It was great to see that cancer patients had a place where they could come to relax and recharge during their treatment.

It turns out that there are many places like Faye’s Light all across the US where cancer patients can receive spa services during treatment.  In the latest issue of Day Spa Magazine I found out about Angie’s Spa which provides free spa services at few different hospitals.  A simple Google search lead me to other spas and in-home or in-hospital services for cancer patients all over the country.  (There is also an organization in the Los Angeles area called Beauty Bus Foundation that brings spa and hair services to men, women, and children who are home bound because of illness.  They also provide services to the caregivers.  How thoughtful to think of the caregivers as well.)

I’ve mentioned in my blog before how I volunteer for The American Cancer Society’s program Look Good…Feel Better which provides free skincare and make-up products to cancer patients along with a complimentary session during which a licensed esthetician or cosmetologist explains how to care for your skin during cancer treatment.  We also apply the make-up during the session, and generally try to create a caring and stress-free environment for the patients so that they can focus on something fun instead of their cancer for a short period of time.  If you are an esthetician who is looking for a way to volunteer your time I strongly encourage you to contact your local American Cancer Society office and inquire about how you can help with Look Good … Feel Better.

Why Spa Services During Cancer Treatment?

It is amazing how the simple act of touch can have a positive and healing effect on the human body.  When you are feeling physically and mentally depleted from fighting cancer taking the time to have a gentle spa service can have both positive spiritual and physical effects on the body.

Chemotherapy and radiation can cause numerous unpleasant and difficult side effects in the skin.  Skin can become very dry and sensitive due to chemotherapy.  Nails can become brittle, discolored, and even flake off.  Radiation can burn the skin and cause rashes.  (These are just a few of the skin side effects that cancer treatment can cause)  So if you can visit an esthetician who has been trained to treat patients undergoing cancer treatment you can receive help in coping with any skin conditions that may arise while receiving treatment for cancer.  During the same session you can also get advice about how to care for your skin at home while it is compromised from treatments.  There are many gentle and effective skincare products on the market that cancer patients can safely use during cancer treatment in order to help, not hurt, their skin.  The key is to receive advice from an esthetician who has the right training to help you.  Above all, if you are feeling well enough to receive a spa service while undergoing cancer treatment taking that time to allow someone else to care and pamper you will help you relax and hopefully feel better for a while.

I encourage my fellow estheticians who have an interest in helping cancer patients to pursue further education in this field.  This line of esthetics isn’t for everyone, but for those who feel that they are drawn to it will be greatly rewarded if they can pursue it.

If you know someone undergoing cancer treatment look into available spa services for them.  Make sure the people giving the services are trained in oncology esthetics or massage.  A lot of spa services for cancer patients are available free of charge or at reduced rates.

 

 

Image from thecancermademedoit.com

 

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month May 14, 2012

If there is one consistent subject that I write about repeatedly in this blog it is sun protection.  There is a very good reason for that – non- melanoma skin cancer has reached epidemic rates in the US.  May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month so I wanted to share some important information about the subject with my readers.

According to The Skin Cancer Foundation:

Skin cancer is a lifestyle disease, affecting young women, older men and everyone in between. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime; 13 million Americans are living with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer, and nearly 800,000 Americans are living with a history of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

But there is good news: because skin cancer is chiefly lifestyle disease, it is also highly preventable.

“About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 65 percent of melanoma cases are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun,” says Perry Robins, MD, President of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “Everyone, regardless of skin color, should make staying safe in the sun a priority and incorporate sun protection measures into their daily life.”

In my opinion the scariest phenomena occurring right now is the rapid rise in the cases of melanoma among young women who use tanning beds.  Let me be very clear – tanning beds are not safe!  I wish the FDA would ban them entirely.  If someone tells you that tanning beds aren’t harmful they are lying to you – period.

Since skin cancer is almost entirely preventable the key to protecting yourself (and your loved ones) is in your hands.  Remember to:

  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen – 365 days a year.
  • Don’t skimp on sunscreen – apply plenty of sunscreen to all exposed skin and reapply every 2 to 3 hours when outdoors.
  • Seek shade and wear protective clothing when outside.
  • Don’t burn!
  • Never, ever use tanning beds!!
  • Do self exam to check your moles and to see if you have developed any suspicious lesions.
  • See a dermatologist for a professional mole check yearly.
Sources and Further Reading:

Image from skinsheen.com

 

Caring for Your Skin During Cancer Treatment October 17, 2011

 

 

I’ve had the privilege to volunteer for The American Cancer Society’s great program Look Good …  Feel Better for over a year now.  When I run a session of the program the first thing that I talk about is caring for your skin while undergoing cancer treatment.  I wanted to share some of those tips in this post though please keep in mind that the information contained in this post is not meant to negate or replace the information you are receiving from your oncologist.  If you have any questions about the information contained in this post please ask your doctor.  Furthermore, the information that I am presenting here is general in nature so your specific needs may be different.

The September issue of the spa professional publication Les Nouvelles Esthetiques & Spa contains quite a few articles that address the care of cancer patients.  The article Chemotherapy and the Skin by Jennifer Linder, MD is a great resource for both the cancer patient and the skincare professional.  It starts off with some important information:

As we know, chemotherapy is necessary to eradicate various types of cancers, but it undeniably wreaks havoc on the skin.  As the largest organ of elimination, the skin of those undergoing chemotherapy has an overwhelming task.  In addition to simply trying to process the drugs that are introduced into the body during these necessary treatments, the skin also is reacting to the unavoidable increase in emotional stress that a cancer diagnosis will likely cause.  …

Common side effects 

Chemotherapeutic drugs’ most common effects on the skin are severe dryness, sensitivity, allergic reactions, flushing, hyperpigmentation, photosensitivity, and folliculitis (an acne-like skin rash of the follicles).  Additionally, these patients are more susceptible to developing infections due to the suppression of their immune systems.  For these reasons, a gentle approach to treatment and home care product use is critical.

Be sure to baby your skin during cancer treatment:

  • Look for skincare products labeled “for sensitive skin”, “gentle”, and “soothing”
  • Fragrance can irritate sensitized skin so make sure your skincare products are fragrance free
  • Use warm water when you wash your face and body and don’t stay too long in the shower.  Long, hot showers, no matter how good they feel, dry out the skin
  • Gently pat your face and body dry after showering and washing your face.  Rubbing your skin will just irritate it.
  • Moisturize with products that contain both humectant and occlusive ingredients.  Humectant ingredients draw moisture to our skin and occlusive ingredients prevent moisture from evaporating from our skin
  • Use body and face moisturizer immediately after you shower when your skin is still damp.  Damp skin absorbs skincare products better
  • Consider switching to dye and fragrance free laundry detergents

Sun protection is key during cancer treatment since chemotherapy can cause photosensitivity:

  • Always use a sunscreen of spf 30 daily even if you are only leaving the house for a short period of time
  • Since chemical sunscreen ingredients can irritate sensitive skin look for a sunscreen with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as its active ingredients (Vanicream is a good choice)
  • Wear protective clothing, a hat, and sunglasses when you are outside or in the car
  • Try to avoid sun exposure between the peak hours of 10 am to 4 pm

More resources and further reading:

 

Look Good Feel Better: Help for Cancer Patients May 10, 2010

This week I attended a training session for volunteers for the Look Good Feel Better program for the American Cancer Society.

The Look Good Feel Better program aims teach cancer patients beauty techniques so that they can still feel good about their appearance while undergoing cancer treatment.  Cancer treatments can cause dry and sensitive skin and nails and of course, hair loss.  Look Good Feel Better volunteers are licensed estheticians, make-up artists, hair stylists, and nail techs who undergo a special training before leading sessions so that they can address the myriad of problems cancer patients face with their appearance.

Look Good Feel Better is completely free!  Participants receive a free kit filled with skincare and make-up products donated from a wide variety of companies (like Lubriderm, Mary Kay, Chanel, Estee Lauder – just to name a few).  A session lasts approximately two hours and includes detailed instructions on skincare during cancer treatments, a thorough hands-on make-up sessions using the products provided, an overview of wig and headcovering options, and a nail care discussion.  Not only do cancer patients learn something new that aims at making them feel good during their treatment, but they also get to meet other cancer patients so that a feeling of companionship and community is created during the sessions.

If you are interested in volunteering for Look Good Feel Better fill out this online form.  Please note that it may take some time before you are contacted by your local American Cancer Society office.  It took months for me to hear back from my local office before my training session.

If you or someone you know would benefit from a Look Good Feel Better session click here.

If you can’t make it to a session in person the Look Good Feel Better website has lots of tips available.  The sessions are mainly meant for women, but men and teens are welcome as well.  Occasionally the American Cancer Society sponsors sessions just for teens.

 

 
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