Skin Care Tips for Oncology Patients

Skin Care Tips for Oncology Patients

Many cosmetics and skin care products are not suitable for oncology patients during or after their cancer therapies. Skin is an excellent barrier to most substances found in personal care products, but if the skin has poorly forming cells as a result of cancer treatments, then that barrier is much less effective. Chemotherapy and noncancerous medications may deplete the skin of essential nutrients and cause it to become dry and fragile. Although everyone responds differently to products applied to the skin, it’s important to remember that, for oncology patients, the skin barrier is not functioning properly, and due to drug intake and chemotherapy, the body is already overloaded with toxicity. Using products that are free of toxic chemicals and fragrances will help improve skin quality and increase the rate of healing.

Here are some ingredients you want to look for and avoid:


Fragrance: Used to mask odor of raw materials and make product more appealing. Concerns are allergies and immunotoxicity. Fragrance is also the No. 1 cause of contact dermatitis.

Formaldehyde: Used as a fungicide and disinfectant. Classified as a known human carcinogen.

Oxybenzone: Sunscreen agent. Endocrine (hormonal) disruption, organ system toxicity, reproductive toxicity. Always use a physical sunscreen with the main ingredients being zinc and titanium dioxide.

Parabens: Preservative. Disrupts hormone function and linked to increased risk of breast cancer.

Talcum powder: Oil/moisture absorbent. Possible carcinogen linked to asbestos. Replace with cornstarch or corn flour.


Safe oils for hydrating and healing the skin are:

Jojoba oil: Mimics human sebum and is also anti-inflammatory.

Tamanu oil: Promotes the formation of new tissue, reduces radiation dermatitis.

Calendula oil: Reduces pain and swelling, antibacterial, aids in promoting new tissue and is a wound disinfectant.

Grape seed oil: Hydrating. Contains strong antioxidants.

When applying oils to fragile skin, be gentle, and press lightly to avoid too much friction. These oils can be found at natural food markets or online.

Erika Walljasper is a licensed esthetician trained in oncology esthetics. After graduating from the Academy of Aesthetic Arts in 2006, she worked for three years at a resort spa, where she learned the art of relaxation, whole-body wellness and self-care. She then moved to a busy dermatologist office for more than five years, an experience that provided extended training and practice in almost every area of esthetics, ranging from facials, peels and laser treatments to makeup, skin care and knowledge of injectables. This environment also exposed her to a wide range of medical skin issues, which has been invaluable in her ability to better serve her clients. Erika loves helping others achieve their healthiest, most radiant skin possible. Because she believes that education is important in maintaining good results, she’s intentional about informing clients about what’s best for their skin’s health and appearance. Erika uses a variety of treatments and products to protect skin from environmental hazards and combat fine lines, wrinkles, acne and dull, uneven skin tone.