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.
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 ingredients 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.
"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 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
Our superstar soothing skin routine? Kick off the TLC time with our By Sarah London Balancer Oil-to-milk Cleanser, 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 a spritz of the prebiotic Reviver Hydrating Mist for scientifically-proven hydration and long-lasting moisture, and massage a few drops of our restorative unfragranced By Sarah London Hero Facial Oil into your face and neck. Abundant in a variety of omegas, minerals and vitamins A, B, C and E, it helps strengthen your skin's natural barrier function and lends an instant 'ahh' feeling when your skin's feeling particularly tight and uncomfortable.
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 Ally 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 Lip and Hand 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 Reviver Hydrating 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
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 Daily Radiance Booster and Bakuchiol Daily Recovery Booster have been designed with the most sensitive skin in mind, 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.
Body & Hair
For deep lasting nourishment from top to toe, turn to our award-winning 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 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 cleanser 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.
"The Body Oil has been a life saver following mastectomy, gentle and nourishing on scar. Will continue to be a daily treat during chemo treatment. Thank you!" - Grace, customer review
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll be happy to help.
You might also like to read these articles:
- My podcast interview with Deliciously Ella
- How to treat dry lips during chemotherapy
- Best make up to use during chemotherapy
- How to treat acne during chemotherapy
Please note: you should always seed medical assistance if you experience any new rashes, peeling or redness following cancer treatment.
Written by: Lauren, Co-Founder, By Sarah London.
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