- Cancer Information
- Cancer treatment
- Managing chemotherapy side effects
- Skin and nail changes
Skin and nail changes
Some chemotherapy drugs may cause your skin to peel, darken or become dry and itchy. During treatment and for several months afterwards, your skin is likely to be more sensitive to the sun.
You may find your nails also change and become darker than usual, or develop ridges or white lines across them. Your nails may also become brittle and dry or lift off the nail bed. These changes usually grow out.
Taking care of your skin
- Use an oatmeal body wash or sorbolene cream instead of soap. Gently pat your skin dry with a towel rather than rubbing it.
- Use a moisturising lotion or cream containing the ingredient urea to help with the dryness.
- Wear loose, non-restricting clothing. Choose cotton fabric instead of rough wool or synthetic fibres.
- Use mild detergent to wash your clothing if you have sensitive skin.
- Don’t shave or wax until your skin is healed.
- Protect your skin from the sun when UV levels are 3 or above. Wear high-protection sunscreen (SPF 50+), a broad-brimmed hat, protective clothing and sunglasses, and try to stay in the shade. This advice applies to everyone, but is especially important for people having chemotherapy.
- Avoid chlorinated swimming pools as the water can make skin changes worse.
- If your skin becomes red or sore in the area where the intravenous device went in, let your doctor or nurse know immediately.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Clinical A/Prof Rosemary Harrup, Director, Cancer and Blood Services, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Katie Benton, Advanced Dietitian, Cancer Care, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Queensland Health, QLD; Gillian Blanchard, Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Stacey Burton, Consumer; Dr Fiona Day, Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Senior Lecturer, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Andrew Greig, Consumer; Steve Higgs, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Prof Desmond Yip, Clinical Director, Department of Medical Oncology, The Canberra Hospital, ACT.
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