So much gets thrown out of balance through chemotherapy – including our skin. After such an experience, it needs a very special type of care. Dr. med. Christine Schrammek-Drusio, dermatologist and trainer for aestheticians, explains what matters.
Every year, in Germany alone, 230,000 people are diagnosed with cancer. They often perceive the optical effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy – such as hair loss and severe skin irritation – as another disease in itself. Dermatologist Dr. med. Christine Schrammek-Drusio provides aestheticians with special training for treatment after cancer therapy. The goal is to provide women with cosmetic support and advice so that they can feel better in their skin again and maybe even be able to forget their illness for a few moments during treatment.
How does the skin change during chemotherapy?
The therapy aims to destroy rapidly growing and frequently dividing cells. However, the chemo medication additionally damages other healthy cells that also divide quickly. These include skin cells, for example. Chemotherapy suppresses the regenerative capacity of the skin and damages the protective acid mantle along with many other negative effects. Therefore, the natural defence functions of the body are lowered.
What are the typical symptoms?
Since the skin’s moisture can no longer be stored so well, this leads to dryness, tension and tingling sensations. Moreover, flaking or itching, redness and pigmentation spots may appear. The skin is sensitive to sunlight and more susceptible to infections that are caused by fungus or herpes viruses. Additionally, the skin may suddenly react to ingredients in cosmetic products that it easily tolerated before the chemo.
Are the reactions the same with radiation treatment?
Redness, swelling, itching and flaking may appear as well. However, these reactions do not occur all over the body but only in the areas that were irradiated. This is known as something called radiation dermatitis. In rare cases, open sores may appear which then have to be treated by a dermatologist.
Should you to switch to other products during or after cancer treatment?
Not necessarily. Basically, it is important to use products that are non-irritating and lipid-replenishing. Special skin care products for sensitive or hyperallergenic skin are particularly suitable since they generally don’t use alcohol, parabens, fragrances and preservatives, which can irritate the skin. The cleansing process should be gentle and free of alcohol and soap. Scrubs and stimulating ingredients such as vitamin C or retinol should not be used during the first three to six months after chemotherapy. Consistently applying sunscreen is also very important.
How does a facial after chemo differ from a classic facial?
The psychological aspect plays a crucial role. The visit to the aesthetician should be balm for the skin and soul. After undergoing cancer treatment, it’s not only important to receive the proper care for skin and hair. Our goal is to support women to help them rediscover their femininity and thus their self-esteem.
And what exactly makes your treatments different?
The first thing to do after the end of therapy is to rebuild the damaged skin barrier. Afterwards, regeneration, which has suffered through the suppression of growth signals, will then be re-stimulated. Because the skin is highly irritated, peels, steaming devices and hot water are, among other things, left out. Mucous membranes are very dry since they suffer during chemo as well and it is therefore recommended to integrate the lips into the facial regime.
Will it ever be possible to use anti-aging products again?
Creams containing vitamin C or retinol, for example, can be used again after about six months. Products with isoflavones, however, should under no circumstances be used since they contain phytoestrogens which have a hormone-mimicking effect and lead to cell growth because of the previous illness.
How often do you recommend cancer patients to visit the aesthetician?
Once a month or if needed also more often. However, facials are not covered by health insurance.
What it is important to keep in mind regarding the skin care rituals at home?
A detailed plan should be discussed with the treating doctor. Generally, I say “less is more” during the first six months after chemotherapy or radiotherapy: both regarding the ingredients as well as the products. Rinse your face in the morning and evening with warm water and/or a mild, soap-free cleansing lotion to remove dirt and sebum. Then gently rub in the skin care cream. It’s better to leave out extra skin care products such as serums, ampoules or masks. After this period, all usual creams and care rituals can generally be used again, apart from the exceptions mentioned.
Article supplied by Dr med Christine Schrammek Kosmetik Company.
For Dr med Christine Schrammek products please contact K-Cosmetics 09 272 4656 or visit: k-cosmetics.com
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