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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 our co-founder, Lauren, knows only too well.

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

Not content with having saved Lauren's life through her stem cell donation, her older sister Sarah stepped in again and got to work researching and developing her own innovative skincare formulas designed to soothe, repair and, crucially, rebalance Lauren's skin's upset microbiome.

Having truly transformed Lauren's own post-cancer skin, these very same formulations are now our best-selling skincare line. Our whole collection is Dermatologically Approved for Sensitive Skin. And with Lauren's own skin still reactive and sensitive, she's religious about thoroughly testing everything on herself first to ensure every single one of our natural 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?

We're 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 fragrance, alcohol and sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) – all of which can further dry out and irritate the skin. Parabens, emulsifiers, essential oils and synthetic fragrance 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 range hasn't just helped Lauren's skin. We receive thousands of emails and reviews from other cancer patients who are delighted with the way our skincare has helped soothe and restore their skin, while taking the confusion out of post-cancer skincare shopping.

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

By Sarah Hero Facial Oil

Natural skincare

Our superstar soothing skin routine? Kick off the TLC time with our Balancer Cream Cleanser, morning and night, that removes daily impurities and makeup, leaving your skin feeling clean, clearer and deeply moisturised.

Follow with a spritz of the prebiotic Reviver Hydrating Mist for scientifically-proven hydration and long-lasting hydration. Clinically-proven to hydrate, lock in moisture and strengthen the skin barrier, massage the Maven Daily Moisturiser into the face and neck. This lightweight moisturiser harnesses the power of prebiotic Inulin and pro-vitamin B5, vitamin C & E and luxurious plant oils, delivering deep hydration for calmer, stronger and more radiant skin. Finally, massage a few drops of our restorative fragrance-free Hero Facial Oil into your skin. Combining Evening Primrose, Apricot, Argan with soothing vitamin E and other luxurious natural plant oils, to deliver an instant glow, revitalise and nourish skin, leaving it looking and feeling radiant, no matter how sensitive or stressed your skin is feeling.

Suffering from an acne-like rash? Don't be tempted to blitz it with strong blemish-busting products, such as 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 struggling with breakouts, reach for the Ally Recovery Facial Oil that  works alongside and supports your skin’s natural renewal process, helps to reinforce your skin barrier and balances out skin that may have gone into overdrive.

"I’m a massive fan of By Sarah! Their products are so clever and special! I love that they’re simple 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

Boosted Skincare

Knowing the unbelievable skin benefits Vitamin C can deliver, we've been determined to bring you a blend that lets sensitive skin in on the action, too. And we didn't stop there. We spent many months working hard behind-the-scenes to bring you an alternative to retinol. A plant-powered oil – suitable for even the most sensitive of skins – that offers retinol-like properties without the irritation. Both our Vitamin C+E Booster and Bakuchiol Booster are Dermatologically Approved for sensitive skin, and slot seamlessly into your morning and evening skincare routine as the final "boosted" step. The result? A visible skin transformation without redness, irritation or sensitivity – for day and night.

By Sarah skincare booster


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

    Please note: you should always seek medical assistance if you experience any new rashes, peeling or redness following cancer treatment.


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