How to care for skin during and after cancer: the best sensitive skincare and ingredients

When you're undergoing life-saving chemotherapy treatment for cancer, its impact on your skin is quite possibly the last thing on your mind. But once you come out the other side? A sore, sensitive and itchy complexion is just one of the lasting side effects patients often have to deal with – as I know only too well.

By Sarah London

Treatment for aggressive leukaemia, when I was 23, left my own skin fragile and shedding like a snake's. I broke out in red, dry and extremely painful rashes which continued for years. Everything I used, in a bid to calm it, seemed to aggravate it further and I was left feeling completely lost as to how to fix it. Even so-called 'natural' products often contained hidden preservatives or essential oils that my sensitive 'newborn' skin just couldn't handle.

Not content with having saved my life through her stem cell donation, my older sister Sarah stepped in again and got to work researching and creating her own innovative plant-based blends designed to soothe, repair and, crucially, rebalance my skin's upset microbiome.

By Sarah London facial oil

"I have very sensitive skin following treatment for leukaemia so am nervously trying new things. The cleansing oil & cloth have been brilliant. So refreshing and gentle. A huge thank you!" - Gayle L., customer review

Having truly transformed my own post-cancer skin, these very same formulations now make up our best-selling line of oils, mists and balms. But with my own complexion still super-reactive and sensitive, I'm religious about thoroughly testing everything on myself first to ensure every single one of our plant-based products remains gentle and skin-kind while still working to boost it.

So, what products and ingredients can you use on post-cancer skin? What should you avoid? And what is the best way to truly quell that tight itchy discomfort following yet another round of treatment?

I'm answering all your questions here...

How does cancer treatment affect skin?

Treatment for cancer can impact skin and nails in many different ways with the effects often more severe following stem cell transplants, targeted therapy or immunotherapy. Common skin changes can include redness, itchy skin, dry flaky skin, stinging, rashes or acne-like bumps, thinning, sun sensitivity and changes in skin colour.

What skincare ingredients and products should I avoid during chemotherapy?

There are a number of things you can do to help ease and prevent dry skin during and after cancer treatment. Steer clear of products containing preservatives, fragrance, alcohol and sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) – all of which can further dry out and irritate the skin. Parabens, emulsifiers, essential oils and synthetic ingredients can also make it more sensitive. It's a good idea to avoid long hot showers and baths, and pat – rather than rub – your skin dry with a soft towel.

What skincare products are good for skin after cancer treatment?

The By Sarah London collection hasn't just helped my own skin. We receive so many kind messages and feedback from other cancer patients who are really thrilled with the way its helped soothe soreness while taking the confusion out of post-cancer skincare shopping.

"Awesome products! I only use the oils and cleansers from By Sarah London and nothing else. It helps my skin to recover from side effects of chemo and other medicine." - Lena, customer review

By Sarah London

Face

Our superstar soothing skin routine? Kick off the TLC time with our By Sarah London Raspberry Seed Cleansing Oil, morning and night, that will rid your skin of grime without stripping away the good stuff – leaving it comfortable and plumped yet clean.

Follow with our hero product – By Sarah London Organic Facial Oil – that's jam-packed with goodies like sweet almond oil, pumpkin seed oil and evening primrose to positively drench the skin with hydration while offering an instant 'ahh' feeling.

Suffering from an acne-like rash? Don't be tempted to blitz it with strong blemish-busting products containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide – these can really irritate fragile post-cancer skin and, often, the rash is a result of irritation rather than spots.

If you are suffering breakouts, though, our Hemp Infused Blemish Recovery Oil will be your BFF. It uses our special upcycled hemp seed oil, that boasts 52 per cent more antioxidants, to calm the bumps and dial down redness.

Chapped lips can also be a consequence of chemo. Our Organic Skin Balm uses a turbo medley of virgin coconut oil, apricot oil and beeswax to sort flaking and dryness.

And for reviving discomfort throughout the day? Our Desert Rose Hydration Mist really does work wonders. It cushions skin with the incredible Desert Rose Moisture Complex – a botanical shown to improve moisture levels by up to 71 per cent in 24 hours – but that's not all.

The clever prebiotic formula actively helps to rebalance the skin's microbiome – something that really takes a beating during chemotherapy.

"I’m a massive fan of By Sarah London! Their products are so clever and special! I love that they’re simple, organic and cruelty free and I love the story behind the brand! I have fairly sensitive, combination, breakout-prone skin and their products really help balance my skin and make my skin feel comfortable!" - Rachael E., customer review

Body & Hair

For deep lasting nourishment from top to toe, turn to our award-winning Organic Body Oil. Softening and comforting even the most sensitive of skins, it's packed with luxurious organic plant oils, like Jojoba, Sweet Almond and Evening Primrose, yet free from fragrance and essential oils.

For delicate hair that is regrowing after cancer, envelope each new strand with our award-winning Organic Hair Oil elixir which uses the finest certified-organic ingredients to leave locks smooth, shiny and beautifully swishable. We've developed an expertly-selected blend of Organic Argan Oil, Sea Buckthorn Oil and Vitamin E – without a sulphate, silicone or irritating essential oil in sight.

"I heard Lauren’s story on the deliciously Ella podcast and was fascinated and amazed how the sisters had created such a a wonderful company through such dark times. Am so enjoying my By Sarah purchase. Have used the raspberry and facial oil every day and my skin feels amazing. Can’t recommend them enough, I’ll definitely be purchasing more of their products in the future. Thank you ladies" - Abigail S., customer review

It goes without saying that the entire By Sarah London line-up is free from emulsifiers, synthetic ingredients, essential oils, fragrance, alcohol, SLS and preservatives – all things I consistently battled to avoid during my own recovery from leukaemia. In fact, you can see exactly what's inside each of our cold-pressed blends via the clear ingredients list on the front label. No more confusion. No more irritation. Just gentle plant-powered cosseting blends that'll bring your skin back from the brink, just when you need it the most.

By Sarah London facial oil

"Beautiful product. Feels like a little bit of luxury twice a day and my skin absolutely loves it." - Anna S., customer review

Still have questions? Feel free to drop us an email at hello@bysarahlondon.com and I'll be happy to help. 

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Written by: Lauren, Co-Founder, By Sarah London.

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