Best Skincare Products For Radiation Dermatitis Symptoms

October 22, 2021
Best Skincare Products For Radiation Dermatitis Symptoms

Originally published on Happy 2nd Birthday 

As surreal as they may seem, the changes you experience in skin color, texture, and feel during radiation therapy are pretty standard. In fact, as many as 90 percent of cancer patients who undergo radiation will experience radiation dermatitis. The symptoms can range from mild irritation to itchy redness—and even sometimes result in painful sores. Lifestyle factors can impact the duration and intensity of the radiation dermatitis symptoms a cancer patient faces. In this article, we’ll go over skincare products that protect your skin at this stage in your cancer journey.

Because of the changes to your skin, it is incredibly important to make sure you’re using skincare products that are safe to use before, during, and after your radiation treatment. Bubble baths, exfoliators, scented lotions, perfumes, and even some antiperspirants should be swapped for gentler, physician-approved products, at least for a little while. 

 If you find yourself missing your old routines, know there’s still some room for safe pampering even during radiation, as long as the products you’re using are doctor-approved and made from natural ingredients. 

At Happy 2nd Birthday, many of our products are specifically crafted for those undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. But we believe in sharing the love and promoting other brands that also do a great job in this arena—we want everyone undergoing  cancer treatments to find safe products that work for them. For those who are wondering what radiation-safe ingredients to look for, here’s a handy guide to choosing the best skincare products for radiation therapy.  

Best soaps for patients undergoing radiation therapy 

During radiation therapy, skin can become red, dry, itchy, and even painful. Doctors agree that skin affected by radiation needs to be cleaned every day with a fragrance-free, mild soap in order to reduce the risk of infection, even though cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy might find showers increasingly painful.

When choosing an effective-yet-gentle cleanser for skin during radiation, you’ll want to opt for a formula with a low, or acidic, pH level. The pH indicates how acidic or basic a formula is, and many brands list the pH (which should be somewhere between 0-6) right on the label. But even if those numbers aren’t listed, you can probably tell which is based on the consistency of the product. Products with a low pH formulas tend to be gel, milky, or creamy, while foaming formulas generally have a higher pH. While it might feel luxurious to treat skin sensitive from radiation to a sudsy lather, it’s probably best to skip the bubbles until after treatment.  

Some great brands that make safe products include Basis and Cetaphil, which are fairly easy to find at most grocery or drug stores, but there are ways to pamper sensitive areas with radiation skincare products that aren’t typical drug store fare, according to Dr. Adam Friedman, dermatologist and professor of medicine at The George Washington University, as long as patients do their homework, consult with their doctors, and use products as directed.

Happy 2nd Birthday’s calming creamy cleanser is another safe radiation skincare product, formulated especially for cancer patients, and deeply hydrating and soothing thanks to mango seed butter and kukui oil.

“It’s important to use whatever product someone selects on damp skin and with greater frequency,” says Dr. Friedman.

Best moisturizers for radiation patients

When it comes to effectively moisturizing during the radiation process, skin dryness pretty much comes with the territory. When choosing a moisturizer to soothe inflamed skin, Dr. Friedman says there are three key ingredients to look for:

  • Emollient (e.g. glycol/glyceryl stearate, soy sterols) to lubricate and soften skin
  • Occlusive (e.g. petrolatum, dimethicone, mineral oil) to ‘seal’ and prevent evaporation of water. Silicone derivatives like dimethicone or cyclomethicone are recommended.
  • Humectant (e.g. glycerol, lactic acid, urea, hyaluronic acid) to attract and hold water  

At different stages of the radiation process, skin needs different levels of moisture, according to In the first stages of treatment, when skin is normal or perhaps slightly pink, moisturizing with fragrance-free formulas like Eucerin, Aquaphor, Biafine, or Radiacare following treatment can help soothe irritation.

Happy 2nd Birthday’s oil-free daily moisturizer is also a safe radiation skincare product with added benefits from the soothing properties of jojoba and smoothing properties of apple extract. 

As the radiation process continues, skin may begin to itch and burn. Aloe vera, coconut oil, vitamin e oil,  or over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can help. And as skin becomes more irritated as part of the radiation process and over-the-counter solutions are no longer effective, consult your doctor about stronger radiation skincare products like prescription steroid creams, which can reduce symptoms. 

Best sunblocks for protecting skin post-radiation therapy 

One incredibly important part of keeping skin safe and healthy before, during, and after radiation therapy is keeping skin safe from the sun. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, anyone who has had radiation treatments has a higher risk of developing skin cancer in that area. Because skin cancer can show up any time—even years later—this makes sun protection essential for life. 

Of course, the best way to keep skin safe from sun damage is to avoid the sun entirely, especially during the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and also by covering up with hats, sunglasses, long sleeves, and pants. However, simply staying indoors covered from head to toe is not exactly a long-term solution. 

Most experts recommended covering unhealed scars, sores, or rashes completely to avoid sun damage. But for those whose symptoms are mild, choosing a fragrance-free sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher, letting it dry for 30 minutes before sun exposure, and reapplying every half hour or so can mean enjoying worry-free fun in the sun. But because skin is ultra-sensitive during radiation, doctors may have more specific sunscreen recommendations, so as with any other product, it’s important to ask, bring the product you’re considering using, and create a plan with your doctor.

Radiation Therapy Is No Spa Day 

Radiation therapy is certainly no spa day (in fact, patients often can’t even have those until treatment ends, because there’s no end to the ways in which radiation is unfair). But while a day at a literal spa may not be in the cards, a skincare plan approved by a doctor full of soothing, moisture-rich radiation skincare products can help give patients a little peace of mind during an incredibly stressful time. 

Learn More About Radiation Dermatitis With OneVillage

Regardless of where you are in your cancer journey, OneVillage is here to help. OneVillage is dedicated to providing the support, information, goods, and services that cancer patients need. Whether you’re wondering how to alter your skin care routine to deal with radiation dermatitis symptoms, or how to find a community of people like you, OneVillage is here.  In addition to highly personalized recommendations and checklists to help you navigate your new normal, through our WishList feature we also allow supporters to contribute to a fund for  your medical trips and other expenses. If you have any further questions about what OneVillage offers and site features, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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