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How can I take care of my skin during breast cancer treatment?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Many women who suffer from this disease have doubts as to what skin care products are safe for use during and post treatments. It is important to stay informed and always consult with your doctor and dermatologist when choosing the right skin care products for your unique needs.

Treating breast cancer with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy can leave your skin feeling dry, flaky or irritated.  This is due to decreased cell turnover and the skin is unable to hold moisture. Following the proper skincare routine during and after treatment can make these side effects very manageable.

During chemotherapy, the skin becomes dry. Barrier repair moisturizers work by mimicking the skin’s natural lamellar structure, using the proper 1:1:1 ratio of ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol to restore moisture levels. This strengthens and restores the function of your skin’s natural barrier, allowing it to keep moisture sealed inside while locking irritants and bacteria out.

Here are some products to help protect the skin barrier.

Replenix Resurfix Skin Barrier Healing Ointment Skin Protectant helps to provide a moist environment that helps to prevent chapped or cracked skin. Petrolatum helps control trans epidermal water loss (TEWL) from damaged skin, provides an occlusive protective layer and promotes normal skin barrier recovery.

EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex is clinically proven to moisturize that stratum corneum and improve dry, compromised skin after a single application within 24 hours. It contains a selected blend of ceramides and other essential lipids helps to strengthen the barrier and restore its natural hydration system.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer has the reparative qualities of a barrier cream. In addition to using glycerin to attract water to the skin’s surface, ceramides, a type of lipid, heal and repair the moisture barrier. Niacinamide helps with healing while soothing red or irritated skin.

Sunscreen is especially important because certain chemotherapy drugs can not only make the skin more sun sensitive but also make the skin create more pigment. Choose a mineral-based sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. These ingredients are not absorbed into the skin, but rather create a physical barrier between the sun’s UV rays and your skin. Chemical sunscreens that contain oxybenzone or homosalate should be avoided, as they are known endocrine-disruptors.

SuzanObagiMD Physical Defense Broad Spectrum Mineral Sunscreen SPF 40 is an antioxidant-rich mineral based sunscreen formulated without chemical sunscreen agents, parabens, synthetic fragrances and dyes. It is a lightweight, sheer, residue-free finish. It also contains Aloe Vera to help sooth inflammation and redness.

EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 is a lightly tinted chemical-free mineral sunscreen formulated for extra sensitive and post-procedure skin. EltaMD UV Physical is fragrance-free, oil-free, paraben-free, sensitivity-free and noncomedogenic.

If you are having radiation, studies show that cleansing the area with a gentle cleanser is fine.

VMV Hypoallergenics Moisture Rich Creammmy Cleansing Milk for Dry Skin is a very gentle, moisturizing cleanser rich with soothing antioxidants.

Avene Thermal Spring Water has a unique, rich, and constant composition. Its low mineral content makes Avene Thermal Spring Water extremely softening. Over 150 clinical studies have demonstrated the soothing, softening and calming benefits.

There are many skincare products that can help to reduce the effects of chemotherapy and radiation on the skin. If you are unsure if a particular product is okay to use, bring it into your doctor’s office so that he or she can look at the ingredients.