Do's & Don’ts of Skin and Hair Care During Chemo

There are many chal­lenges can­cer patients face through­out their treat­ment includ­ing appear­ance relat­ed side effects. These sim­ple do’s and don’ts can help you deal with any hair, skin, or nail changes you might experience.

Still want more ways to look and feel your best dur­ing treatment? 


  • Be gen­tle with your skin: Use prod­ucts made for sen­si­tive skin or spe­cial­ty prod­ucts made for indi­vid­u­als going through can­cer treat­ment. Also try to wear non-irri­tat­ing fab­rics and drink plen­ty of flu­ids to keep your skin hydrated.
  • Mois­tur­ize: Take luke­warm show­ers to help keep your skin moist. In addi­tion, use mois­tur­iz­er after your show­er while your skin is still damp. Use a non­come­do­genic” mois­tur­iz­er (a mois­tur­iz­er that won’t clog your pores) at least twice a day.
  • Shield from the sun: Some can­cer treat­ments may make your skin more sun sen­si­tive. When you are out­side, make sure to wear a broad-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt and long pants to help pro­tect your skin from the sun.
  • Treat any skin rash: Dur­ing treat­ment, you can devel­op an acne-like rash on your skin. Your doc­tor can pre­scribe med­ica­tion that can help alle­vi­ate the rash. Ask your doc­tor about med­ica­tion if the rash is painful or itchy.
  • Wash mild­ly: Use mild soaps and sham­poos, as your scalp may be sen­si­tive. Pat gen­tly with a dry tow­el and use a wide toothed comb to comb your hair.


  • Use hot water: Hot water can dry out your skin, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for your skin to stay look­ing healthy.
  • Scratch or scrub: This will cause your skin to become irri­tat­ed. Pat-dry your skin after showers.
  • Use hot or cold packs: Unless your doc­tor says it’s okay, avoid using hot or cold packs on your skin.
  • Bite your nails or use fake nails or wraps: Your nails will be more brit­tle dur­ing treat­ment; avoid using any fake prod­ucts to insure that your nails stay in the best con­di­tion possible.
  • Use perms, dyes, and expo­sure: Your scalp may become red, itchy, flaky, or dry. Avoid using col­or­ing on your hair or get­ting a perm. Remem­ber that your scalp is more sen­si­tive, so be care­ful with expo­sure to the sun or cold.
  • Use curl­ing irons or heat­ed dry­ers: If you choose to use a wig dur­ing treat­ment, remem­ber that they are very flam­ma­ble. Keep away from ovens, stoves, irons, and dryers.

If you find these tips help­ful, and are strug­gling with your appear­ance dur­ing can­cer care, one of our nurse nav­i­ga­tors or social work­ers can help con­nect you with local resources that can help.