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Skincare and Cancer Treatment

Can you continue with your skincare and beauty routines during treatment for cancer?

This is a question we hear more often these days. Some of you might be surprised that the question is even raised. “After all” you might think, “why would someone being treated for a serious disease concentrate on appearance and comfort?”

We’re happy to be able to address both questions.  Yes, you can continue a skincare and beauty regimen. And, to that second question; there is nothing trivial about ‘wellness.’

Thankfully, many more people are being treated successfully for a great number of cancers. You’re hearing more phrases, like ‘living with cancer, life after cancer, and survivorship.’  Many patients, going through treatment and afterward, are working, socializing, and navigating full lives, with a few alterations.

Dr. Vincent Lepore-Board Certified Plastic Surgeon

Doctors and other members of a patient’s Care Team, want patients to get better, and to feel better during and after treatment. Healing takes more than medicine.

Today’s treatments include encouragement for any patient to continue, or begin doing things that help them feel better, or help them maintain some ‘normalcy’ in their treatment cycles. And that includes comfort, feeling good, and maintaining cosmetic, exercise, and other routines that contribute to wellness.

To add some details about this kind of self-care  we’re using the knowledge of our Aesthetician Heather, to give some advice on beauty and skincare, no matter what your situation. (*Heather speaks with the authority of many years as a skincare expert and teacher, as well as makeup artist and cosmetic tattooist.)

Heather-Aesthetician at Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Associates

WHAT KINDS OF COSMETIC THINGS ARE OK, FOR A CANCER PATIENT?

First, find out about any medical restrictions from your doctor. (There may not be as many as you would think.)  Then, in general, you’ll want to change your approach a little- to anything that is going to be;

  • More gentle and soothing
  • Calming to you skin
  • Hydrating

During this time, you should probably stay away from exfoliating: don’t use any harsh scrubs, or deeper chemical peels.

Skin often changes during chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It is likely to become more dry, less supple, and will have a tendency to become thinner and more prone to irritation..

It’s important to protect the outer layers of your skin, which act as a barrier. You want to keep your skin intact, as much as possible.

HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOUR SKIN?

  • Look for products that contain Lipids (fats). (*There are many high-quality moisturizers, cleansers, toners, etc. available. Thicker formulas, and ointments may be more effective for you. Heather recommends the Epionce line of products for their botanical ingredients and effectiveness.)
  • Hyaluronic Acid is a natural substance found in skin, that helps lock in moisture. It’s included in many topical creams and serums.
  • Look for those ‘calming’ ingredients’– they do more than smell good- they have the effect of reducing inflammation on the skin. Lavender, Cucumber, Shea Butter, and Cocoa Butter can help protect your skin while it’s compromised, and then aid in healing.
  •  Very Important- Especially during this treatment time**  Continue, and increase your use of sunscreens! Your skin will be even more susceptible to damage from the sun, and you need to apply sun-blocking products daily, even on cloudy days.

CAN YOU WEAR MAKEUP?

  • Once again, if you’re feeling up to it, keep wearing (moisturizing, gentle) types of makeup. Light, moist and protective are the words to remember. (*A foundation that Heather recommends, is a product called Oxygenetix – a lightweight, non-pore clogging formulation, which provides coverage in many shades)

WHAT ABOUT THINNING EYEBROWS, AND HAIR?

  • Hair loss is one of the most noticeable side-effects of some types of cancer treatment. For total hair loss, wigs, and scarves provide options. (if you lose your hair, and decide to ‘go natural’ – remember to apply sunscreen to your scalp too!)
  • For thinning hair, in men and women, micropigmentation- a method of adding permanent color to the scalp, can be performed, when and if your doctor approves.
  • Eyebrows- Microblading can give you a very natural look, by carefully adding a semi-permanent pigment. If injections or light pricks of the skin are not allowed medically, you can still achieve a natural eyebrow appearance, through careful makeup application.
  • Makeup- A good makeup artist will show you how to create a brow, using powder, or soft pencil.

CARE TIPS

  • Keep your daily cleansers and toners refrigerated. A cool, gentle application feels good, and helps control inflammation.

Your “Treatments” don’t always need to be associated with stress, or discomfort- some can just be about beauty and comfort. Patients undergoing treatment for cancer, feel great benefits from what’s known as “Caring Touch.”  It can be a gentle massage, a light, cooling facial or mask, getting your makeup done, or learning a new beauty or relaxation technique.

Don’t be shy about asking. Throughout the challenging time of your treatment, everyone in your circle will want to help you feel good. We hope it begins with you.  Best wishes.

[Dr. Vincent Lepore is a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon in San Jose. He has extensive experience in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery of the breast, body, and face. We also offer a wide range of injectable, and aesthetic medspa services. Please call with your questions, or schedule a free cosmetic consultation, 408-356-4241.]

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