Keeping your skin fresh during chemotherapy

Chemotherapy’s potential affects on the skin

As each person’s individual medical profile and diagnosis is different, so is her reaction to treatment. Side effects may be severe, mild, or absent.

Chemotherapy may cause an increased sensitivity to the sun, as well as redness, rashes, itching, peeling, dryness, or acne.

Sometimes, chemotherapy causes the skin along the veins to darken, especially in people who have very dark skin. Cosmetics may be used to cover the darkened area. After treatment ends, the darkened areas often fade in a few months.

Other skin symptoms may indicate an allergic reaction. Consult your physician or cancer care team immediately if you develop sudden or severe itching, rash or hives, wheezing, or any other symptom such as  laboured breathing.

How can I manage the side effects of treatment?

1. Dry skin is characterised by mild scaling, roughness, feeling of tightness, and possibly itching.  Creams and lotions are effective ways of restoring moisture following dry skin reactions.  Ointments are designed to be a barrier and stay on the surface of the skin for protection against harsh elements.

2. Acne – keep your face clean and dry.

3. Sunlight sensitivity – avoid direct sunlight even if you have dark skin and protect yourself from the sun. Use a sunscreen lotion with a skin protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Zinc oxide, sold over the counter, can block the sun’s rays completely.

4. Hyper pigmentation is a darkening of the skin. This can occur as an overall darkening of the skin, or it can be localised. This may be connected to phototoxic reaction where the areas exposed to light may have a golden-brown or slate-grey colour change.

5. Chemo drugs may produce a characteristic ‘flag sign’ on the hair – horizontal hyper pigmented bands alternating with normal hair colour.

Make-up for dark skins:

1. Use light foundation

Avoid using heavy-texture foundations, as black skin tends be oily. Instead, ask for a foundation that is lightweight in texture with a high pigment concentration. This basically means that a little of the foundation covers well. This will avoid a heavy look to the skin.

2. Match your foundation

When choosing a foundation, always pick a colour that matches the majority of your face. If you want to adjust any discoloration on your face, use a lighter or darker concealer as a colour adjuster for the areas of your face which appear different. Remember to match your shade in natural daylight.

3.Get clever with concealer

If you need to correct any discolouration, use an orangey/red-based concealer first to neutralise the darkness, then set this lightly with powder. Next, use a concealer that matches your skin and blend this over the area you have colour corrected.

4. Don’t use silver eyeshadows

Eye shadow colours with silvery undertones can tend to be a bit harsh on black skin so use colours that are warmer and have more golden tones for a more flattering look.

5.Groom your brows

When grooming brows, use a pencil or powder in a dark brown. Often black skins tend to opt for black pencils to match their hair colour.

On the brows, this can look too hard as the hairs create natural shadow and make the black pencil appear deeper.

6. Lip liner

Use lip liner to play with your natural mouth shape. If you want to make your lips fuller, use a lip liner to draw just outside your natural line. Likewise, if you want to make your lips appear less full, line them just inside the natural lip line with a darker lip pencil in a neutral tone.

7. Lipstick

Avoid colourstay lipsticks as they dry out the lips.


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