- 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.
Some people find their nails also change and become darker than usual, or develop ridges or white lines across them. Your nails may also become brittle and dry. These changes usually grow out.
Tips for looking after your skin and nails
- Use a moisturising soap or sorbolene cream as a soap replacement. After showering, 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.
- Wash your clothing in mild detergent for people with sensitive skin.
- Stop shaving or waxing 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 when having chemotherapy.
- If your skin becomes red or sore in the area where the intravenous device went in, let your doctor or nurse know immediately.
- Avoid chlorinated swimming pools as the water can make skin changes worse.
Dr Prunella Blinman, Medical Oncologist, Concord Cancer Centre, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, and Clinical Senior Lecturer, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Gillian Blanchard, Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Julie Bolton, Consumer; Keely Gordon-King, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; John Jameson, Consumer; Dr Zarnie Lwin, Medical Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and Senior Lecturer, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Felicia Roncolato, Medical Oncology Staff Specialist, Macarthur Cancer Therapy Centre, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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