Changes to the skin are very common in oncology patients. Treatments and medications, as well as emotional and mental stressors, may have side effects and reactions. As a result, people may experience skin reactions. Cancer patients may encounter photosensitivity, acne, hives, dry or dehydrated skin, itching, rash, or changes to the fingernails and toenails. Skin issues may be especially problematic during the dry winter season. I’ve compiled some do’s & don’t’s and tips & tricks to help you winterize your skin.
Let’s start with a quick physiology lesson of the skin’s lipid barrier, also known as "the skin’s security guard." The lipid barrier is a protective layer that resides directly on top of the stratum corneum, keeping bad things out and protecting the good things inside. This barrier serves as a defense mechanism and maintains adequate hydration for the skin.
Signs of a damaged lipid barrier may include redness, inflammation, dryness, or flaking skin.
When the skin starts to feel dry or rough, it’s mainly because of a loss of lipids in the skin. What does your body do when it gets cold? It conserves heat by reducing the blood flow to the surface, because the surface is where it is cold. So, this means you have less blood flow going through your skin. This is part of why your skin dries out. In this dry state, the skin is not turning over as rapidly or being fed as adequately as it should be, so less lipid manufacturing happening, which creates a less intact barrier. The water on the inside of your skin is what aestheticians consider precious water due to its scarcity. Traditionally, oil-based moisturizers are recommended in the winter and creamy moisturizers for summer months. As patients, we may experience this excessive dryness chronically.
Tip: Use a combination of oil and a cream.
Tip: Use topical oils as a base with your favorite’s creams, hydrators, or moisturizers
Trick: Apply oil to needed areas. Let it sit on the skin for several minutes to allow it to soak in. Layer a gel hydrator (aloe vera gel or your favorite gel mask) on top of the oil and wear it overnight.
Organic Cold Pressed Emu Oil: This may be used as a standalone moisturizer or as a base combined with a cream. For this oil, less is more.
Tip: Use Emu Oil in your nighttime skincare routine. Skin easily absorbs emu oil. Emu oil may help lock in skin moisture, making the skin less prone to cracking or drying out.
Organic Aloe Vera Oil: This may be used for both day and nighttime routines.
Emollient – Aloe vera oil is a brilliant moisturizer for the skin.
Anti-inflammatory – It reduces inflammation and other related signs.
Anti–bacterial – It has the ability to kill certain bacteria.
Anti-viral – It has the ability to kill certain viruses.
Anti-fungal – It has the ability to kill certain fungus.
Antioxidant – The oil protects the skin from free radical damage.
Cicatrizing – Aloe vera oil speeds wound recovery.
Anti-irritant – reduces skin irritation.
Organic Arnica Oil: This oil is recommended when experiencing achenes, pain, or stiffness.
Tip: Soak a linen cloth in the Arnica oil, wrap it around a cold compress, then place where experiencing any stiffness or aches.
Supplements can also be a key factor in helping protect and repair the skin's barrier.
Tip: Vitamin B3 is a very effective skin restoring ingredient. Its many benefits include fortifying the skin's surface and preparing the scalp to support new hair growth. It also helps repair UV damaged cells. This can be very beneficial in restoring the skin’s barrier. As we know, many medications cause photosensitivity, causing hyperpigmentation (brown spots) or hypopigmentation (white spots) topically.
Tip: Vitamin B3, (or niacinamide), applied topically to the skin as a cream has been shown to reduce visible signs of damage by the sun, reduce blotchiness, and decrease moisture loss.
Tip: B3 taken orally or applied topically is suitable for those with sensitive skin. Other benefits are an increase in ceramides, which renew and restore the skin after moisture loss and dehydration.
Tip: Vitamin D3 calms inflammation, protects the skin, and improves cell turnover. Deficiencies in vitamin D can negatively impact the skin and weaken the skin barrier, increasing dryness. Vitamin D receptors are in most cells in the body. Vitamin D is one of the leading rejuvenation hormones in the body.
Tip: Essential fatty acids help keep the lipid barrier functioning properly. Essential fatty acid supplements/omega fatty acids help to ensure cell membrane integrity and produces healthy skin.
Trick: Doubling up on your vitamin D3 intake and adding vitamin B3 is what I like to call the “hydration power duo.”
Techniques for maintaining hydration.
Do: Always wear sunscreen and reapply during the day!
Tip: When applying your sunscreen, tap into skin. Do not rub it in.
Do: Get an adequate amount of sleep! During our sleep cycle is when the body is at its most restorative.
Trick: The YouTube Channel, “Power Thoughts Meditation Club” offers meditative sleep sounds with frequencies that resonate over 500Hz.
Our first impulse, when we experienced dry flaky skin is to use a scrub or products containing an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or Beta hydroxy acid (BHA). These ingredients can be dehydrating, especially on existing dry or dehydrated skin.
Don't excessively rub skin: Over exfoliating and aggressively rubbing the skin can strip the skins natural lipid barrier. This includes using harsh buffing pads, abrasive scrubbers, or loofahs.
Do: Use a cream or oil-based cleanser for face and body.
Tip: Use a microfiber towel as a washcloth or drying towel.
Tip: Use a gentle organic sponge (sponge on both sides) commonly used for dishwashing to apply an oil base to your skin while it is still damp, followed by your preferred day or night cream.
Do: Get the circulation going: Exercise can increase circulation and blood flow to the top layer of your skin which increases the lipid barrier’s ability to hold in moisture.
Tip: Use lukewarm water when showering or cleansing the face.
Tricks: Using a water filter on your shower heads helps remove chlorine and other sediments that can be dehydrating and damaging to the skin and hair.
Trick: Consider purchasing a cool mist humidifier for your bedroom nightstand to use when you’re sleeping.
Disclaimer: This post represents the opinion of the guest writer and does not represent the opinion of LACNETS. This article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Consult with your physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options. This information is not a substitute for advice from a healthcare professional. You are advised to seek appropriate licensed medical/professional help. Statements made about specific products in this blog are not to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
Written by Beth Wilbanks DeBlase, LE, LM