Cancer Skincare Tips with Look Good Feel Better
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month which, as you may know, is a cause very close to our hearts. In the UK, where our HQ is, we've been officially partnered with Look Good Feel Better for the last 2 years, a charity that helps boost the physical and emotional well-being of people living with cancer.
Since we know that cancer and cancer treatment can create some quite severe problems in the skin, we reached out to Look Good Feel Better to ask for some tips for our readers who may be facing cancer (treatment). They put us in touch with the lovely Paula, a proud supporter and volunteer at Look Good Feel Better. She is a makeup artist and has been volunteering since age 18! In Paula's own words, 'I love how transformative, expressive and inclusive beauty is and ultimately, how a touch of lipstick can change someone’s day for the better.' Throughout her years of volunteering, she has collected lots of helpful beauty tips, which she has generously agreed to share with us today!
Cancer treatment and your body
When beginning cancer treatment, no matter what kind, you will most likely start to experience some changes in your skin, hair and nails. Some people find this happens quickly, and others don’t - you’re going to hear phrases like this a lot - because it all depends on how your OWN body reacts.
Changes to the skin
Similar to hair loss, changes in our skin appearance can have a huge impact on someone’s confidence, mental positivity and general wellbeing, because put simply, it’s part of what you and everyone else sees first!
There are some common initial changes to look out for in the skin:
- Additional dryness or flaking of the skin, that may cause a tight or itchy feeling.
- Intense redness or flushing in the skin causing a hot or irritated feeling.
- Additional skin sensitivity and irritation, perhaps to products that were previously ok.
- Increased photosensitivity (more prone to sunburn)
If you have any queries or concerns about these effects at any point during treatment, please speak to your doctor for medical advice.
Dealing with skin changes
First things first - I always advise to listen to YOUR own skin. Our bodies are super smart and what has worked for your skin in the past may not be suitable now, which is why it’s important to pay attention to what your skin is trying to tell you. For example - if your skin is suddenly feeling irritated and very dry and tight after using your normal serums and moisturisers... it's time to change things up! That doesn’t mean add more products in - quite the opposite! It’s best to strip your routine back to basics, to avoid any unwanted irritation and keep your skin as happy as possible.
In a nutshell, having happy skin means that your skin barrier - the outermost layer - is functioning at its best, keeping all the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. When our barrier is functioning properly, our skin looks even, smooth and hydrated. When your skin is experiencing redness, irritation or sensitivity, it's pretty certain that your barrier is having some trouble… it’s in need of some SOS, due to the effects that your treatment is creating.
When dealing with compromised skin during your treatment, this is essentially what matters - barrier function! Your barrier is maintained by moisturising and nourishing ingredients like fatty acids, cholesterol, lipids and ceramides.
As a general rule of thumb when looking for suitable products, its a good idea to avoid:
- anything highly fragranced
- denatured alcohol (alcohol denat) or ethanol
- physical exfoliators or face scrubs
- highly active skincare ingredients like retinoids, vitamin C and exfoliating acids
A simple daily routine
Cleanse: It’s always important to cleanse the skin in the morning and evening - especially if you are wearing makeup - as a build up of product, dirt, sweat and natural oils accumulates during the day/night.
Avoid using soap and try to use a gentle, non-foaming facial cleanser, perhaps a cleansing oil, balm or cream, which is much more respectful to the skin barrier and will not leave you feeling dry or stripped. Try not to use hot water either, use lukewarm instead.
Always remove makeup first, and then cleanse the skin underneath. This is called a double cleanse! If you find your skin is just too sensitive to wash with water, then try using a cotton pad with a cleansing milk or cold cream instead.
Tone: Hydrating toners do just that - hydrate and prepare skin for moisture. Choose one that’s fragrance and alcohol free!
Did you know that a damp skin accepts and locks in moisturiser faster and deeper than if you applied it onto dry skin? Why? Because of lovely ingredients called humectants, like glycerin and hyaluronic acid.
Their job is to help the skin hold onto water - so when skin is damp, they can do their job perfectly! You might find that this is a breakthrough in keeping your skin hydrated and happier for longer during the day - try applying your moisturiser on damp skin, straight after your toner.
Moisturise: This is the most important part in controlling sensitivity and redness. Replacing lost oils and water in the skin barrier encourages comfort - your moisturiser is like applying a cosy blanket to your skin!
If your skin is extra dry, look for rich creams that contain soothing and repairing, skin - identical ingredients like shea butter, squalane, urea, colloidal oatmeal, aloe, ceramides, cholesterol etc.
At night, to really lock in that moisture and let all those great ingredients do their job - you can make like Marilyn Monroe and use an old Hollywood trick of applying a very thin layer of Vaseline or any petrolatum based cream on top of your moisturiser. This creates an additional barrier on top of your skin and stops something called “trans epidermal water loss” or in simple terms - it helps your skin to keep water in. Try it and I bet you’ll wake up with happier skin!
Protect with sunscreen daily: It’s so important to use SPF, EVERY SINGLE DAY! Using sunscreen is the number one way to protect your skin against future damage. As much as we all love a bit of sunshine - it’s UV rays are bad news for our skin. Even more so during your treatment.
Choose an SPF 50+, because no one ever uses the correct amount to actually get the number on the bottle! Two finger lengths is what’s needed to provide full protection to the face and ears. That’s also why relying on sunscreen in your makeup isn’t a good idea… can you imagine wearing 2 finger lengths of foundation on your face? I think that would be a disaster! To ensure your getting adequate protection, use a facial SPF after your moisturiser, but before any makeup.
Following a simple routine like the one above, will help to treat the health of your skin and support its function no matter what treatment you are going through.
As you come to the end of your treatment, you may find that you can incorporate some more of your favourite products again, as your skin becomes more tolerant, however, you might find that you’ve discovered some new favourite products and that your skin is behaving well with a simple, less is more approach. In that case - don’t change a thing! Happy skin is healthy skin!
Redness in the skin & Rosalique
If you are experiencing a lot of redness and flushing in your skin, by focusing on repairing the skin barrier, you will find that redness will be reduced overall.
The less it is touched, the better!
You can even keep skincare in the fridge, so that there’s a nice cooling effect when you apply it.
You can also use a neutralising cream like Rosalique’s 3 in 1 Anti-Redness Miracle Formula SPF50, which uses unique micro-encapsulated technology, combining green and beige pigments to colour-correct and conceal. It also contains active ingredients, such as panthenol and α-Bisabol, which work to reduce redness and inflammation. Its 5*-rated broad-spectrum SPF50 is also the perfect strong sun protection for skin made more sun-sensitive by cancer treatments.
I hope some of these tips have helped you on your treatment journey and if anyone has any tips they’ve found, and would like to share, then please do!