If you’re having radiation therapy for cancer, you may be worried about your skin’s recovery.
Radiation treatments can be tough on the skin. They can cause redness, inflammation, and burning.
Fortunately, we are very knowledgeable about this side effect. Not only has our CEO, Pam Friedman, personally experienced cancer, but our products are specifically created to help people with medically treated skin.
How does radiation affect skin repair?
Doctors use high-energy radiation to shrink or kill cancer cells. Radiation is often part of a treatment plan for many types of cancer, including lung, breast, prostate, and lymphoma. It is usually given from a machine outside the body through a beam of radiation or X-rays.
When radiation passes through the skin, healthy cells in the treated area can be damaged. Although the skin has a good ability to repair itself, multiple rounds of radiation therapy given over weeks or months can challenge that repair cycle. The skin may not have time to heal, leading to a variety of symptoms.
Possible skin changes due to radiation
Not everyone will experience skin-related side effects from radiation therapy, but many will. The most common reaction, known as radiation dermatitis, includes the following symptoms:
- Red rash (erythema)
- Increased sensitivity to sunlight
- Flaky or peeling skin
- Blisters and wet, flaky skin (in more severe cases)
- Darkened areas of skin
These effects range from mild to severe, with severity depending on how many doses of radiation you receive and how often you receive them. The reaction resembles a sunburn, with changes occurring gradually over the course of treatment.
Fortunately, most of these effects should go away within a few weeks of completing your treatment. In some cases, the irradiated area may be slightly darker, thinner, or drier than before.
Because these types of side effects can create a disruption in treatment – and because they can cause lasting changes in the skin – it’s important that you manage them as best you can.
7 tips to improve skin recovery during and after radiation
It is important that you both protect and treat your skin during and after radiation therapy for the best results. We recommend the following steps.
1. Prevent further skin damage — avoid the sun.
The sun is enemy number one when it comes to radiation. Your skin is soft and sensitive and will be more vulnerable to sun damage. If you expose the treated area to the sun during this time, you risk making the damage worse and creating lasting dark spots and even scarring.
Avoid the sun and use clothing to cover the treatment area.
2. Use only the mildest detergent.
Just as your irradiated skin will be more susceptible to sun damage, so will it be more sensitive to chemicals and detergents. During your treatment and for several weeks afterward, use only cleansers that are gentlest on your skin.
Rinse with warm water and make sure your cleanser is a mild, creamy cleanser that’s free of fragrance or sulfates. Do not rub or rub your skin, but carefully lather, rinse, then pat dry.
3. Apply a skin-restoring toner.
Many toners contain alcohol and dry out the skin after cleansing. This is definitely not what you want during radiation therapy (or any other time, actually!).
We recommend using the Rescue & Relief Spray. It attacks radiation damage from multiple sides. First, it’s soothing. Next, it has anti-inflammatory ingredients that help calm redness and inflammation. Finally, it will moisturize the skin, helping to maintain that outer barrier.
You can use this spray any time your skin needs it. It can be especially helpful when your skin is soft to the touch and you don’t really want to put on lotion or cream. Just spray into the soothing formula and let it work.
4. Choose the best lotion for radiation treatment.
When choosing a moisturizer, be extra careful. Your skin is suffering. It is inflamed, red, and damaged. It is trying to recover. The last thing it needs is to protect itself from harsh chemicals, preservatives or fragrances.
We recommend our Moisturizing Body Repair and Soothing Moisturizer. These two products are specially created for medically treated skin. We guarantee that they are 100% free of any irritants or harmful ingredients.
Then we included natural ingredients like reishi and turmeric to help tackle inflammation and redness.
Next, we added beta-glucan to help soothe the itch. Finally, we add natural oils to penetrate deep into the skin and encourage hydration and healing.
5. Help restore skin with a revitalizing balm.
Once you start having a rash, radiation burn, or flaky and flaky skin, you won’t just need a lotion to deal with it.
This is when you add a healing balm to your daily regimen. This is your complementary treatment to help your skin manage stress and better recover when the radiation is over.
We recommend our award-winning Restorative Lotion. Like our other products, it is specially designed for medically treated skin. It also contains Ganoderma lucidum and turmeric for productive and anti-inflammatory effects. But then we went one step further.
This nourishing oil is created to instantly soften severely dry and chapped skin. Apply it to the burned area to soothe the skin, then leave it on for long-lasting moisture and protection. It contains carnauba and beeswax to protect the moisture barrier, helping to reduce dryness and flaking of the skin. It also has a powerful combination of antioxidants and fat-soluble vitamins that help encourage skin renewal.
You will probably have to clean your skin before each radiation treatment, because your skin needs to be clean and dry. However, applying it regularly for the rest of the time can help minimize damage and possibly help you avoid blisters.
6. Apply a cool compress after each treatment for quick skin recovery.
In the same way you treat a common burn with cold compresses, you can do the same with radiation burns. After each treatment, apply a cool compress to the treatment area. This will help reduce swelling and redness that can cause.
Make sure anything you put on your skin is clean and free of bacteria (to reduce the risk of infection). Also, do not use extreme cold. The icing is over. Instead, try applying cold water or wrapping frozen vegetables over a damp cloth.
Soothing hydrogel sheets and packs are also available from home health and medical providers. They are sterile and hydrating and easy to use.
7. To inspire faster skin recovery, eat well and stay hydrated.
While providing moisture to your skin from within, you need to make sure you are doing so from within. Dry, burning, parched skin needs moisture from deep within the cells. Make sure you are getting enough water and water-rich fruits and vegetables in your diet.
A healthy and balanced diet is also important for skin health. The skin is the body’s largest organ, and its health depends on the nutrients it gets from your diet. Work with your dietitian if you need to make sure you have a proper eating plan. Then, make sure to always carry a bottle of water with you and sip throughout the day.
How do you encourage skin recovery during radiation therapy?
Featured image of Dmitriy Ganin from Pexels.