- Question from Fawn: Is there anything I can do for my dry face?
- Answers - Mary Gail Mercurio The chemotherapy can also affect your skin's natural moisture because your oil glands don't secrete as much oil, so you need to be prepared for using moisturizers more frequently. It is important during the day to use a product that will also provide protection from the sun. The product must block the sun's UVA and UVB rays, so merely stating an SPF is not sufficient. That only reflects the UVB blocking effect. The product must explicitly state that it also blocks UVA and if you look in your drug store, you will see that most moisturizers now have this claim.
- Ronda Gates, M.S., R.Ph. As your skin changes, your cosmetics need to change. The color of your foundation and your highlights because you don't wear cosmetics to be someone else. You wear them to be yourself even as you are now, and if you continue to use the colors that you used before your treatment, you may look artificial. So again, here is an opportunity to go to a store and give yourself the treat of a cosmetic makeover.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. During treatment for breast cancer, you may be more sensitive to the fragrances that are put into cosmetics and skin care products. You might want to use fragrance-free products in order to avoid this.
- Ronda Gates, M.S., R.Ph. Consider also that the brand that you have trusted for years may not be the right brand for you to use during this period of time.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. I encourage my patients to use a moisturizing soap like Dove and to avoid stronger soaps like Ivory or Dial or Irish Spring.
- Mary Gail Mercurio Because all of the skin is impacted by the decreased moisturization it is important to actively moisturize not just the face. You have to think about the entire body. I agree with the prior recommendations but I would also consider liquid formulations of soap, so you get your cleansing and moisturization in one. There are even some products that contain petrolatum, so you get your moisturization and you seal it in.
- Ronda Gates, M.S., R.Ph. Regardless of where you are in your life there are still four steps to healthy skin care. Cleansing, exfoliation, moisturizing and protection (against the sun and the elements.)
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. When you are receiving radiation therapy, it is important to take extra precaution to protect the skin from the sun within the radiation treatment field. When you receive breast radiation, for example, the part of your breast near your cleavage may be in the treatment field and also be exposed to the sun when you are wearing a bathing suit or a tank top. I recommend a sun protection factor of at least 30 to protect your skin.
- Mary Gail Mercurio Another important point about sun protection is to use common sense about protective clothing. It's not always possible to cover every square inch of your skin with a lotion so I encourage my patients, whether they are receiving chemotherapy or not, to wear wide-brimmed hats and clothes that cover as much of their skin as possible.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. Isn't it true that a hat should have a brim of about five inches in order to give good protection of your face?
- Mary Gail Mercurio Absolutely.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. And also that clothing only protects you if it is tightly woven or tightly knit. Loosely woven gauze clothing is not considered protection.
- Mary Gail Mercurio One can appreciate how much protection their clothing will afford by holding it up to the light and seeing how much light shines through. Just hold a shirt up and you will see that the light goes through a white shirt. It is the color and the weave. Darker colors seem to not allow as much light to penetrate.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. I have to protect my skin from the sun and I have used Solumbra clothing. It blocks the sun and it is also very cool.
- Mary Gail Mercurio They also make clothing for your children. As a dermatologist, I feel obliged to bring up the importance of mentioning protecting children from the sun as well.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. If you are receiving 5FU chemotherapy, you will notice that you tan much more easily in the sun. Make sure you take extra steps to protect yourself from the sun if you are receiving this drug.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called No Hair, New Hair, Skin Care featured Mary Gail Mercurio, M.D., Ronda Gates, M.S., R.Ph., and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions on the physical side effects of breast cancer treatment, and what you can do about them.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in August 2001.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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