Hand cream on repeat. Chapped lips for days. Welcome to the world of winter skin woes. As if the unpredictable changes in temperature and wind chill weren’t bad enough, for those undergoing radiation or chemo treatments, or those suffering from extremely dry skin, dry skin can be more than just a seasonal pest.
Dry skin is a common experience for women undergoing chemotherapy, confirms Dr. Julia Carroll, a Toronto-based dermatologist at Compass Dermatology. “It is partially due to the medications received during treatment and it can also be exacerbated by the dry environment found in many hospitals.” While symptoms can range from slight pink, flaky skin to full-blown eczema (think red, scaly, soreness that’s prone to infection), here are some tips for calmer, smoother skin.
Practice smart hydration.
The best way to combat dry skin? To prevent it from occurring in the first place. Easier said than done, we know. Getting into the habits of treating your skin with some extra TLC in the colder months can actually help. Try using a humidifier in your bedroom at night and amp up your moisturizing time to several times a day. Those hot showers? As good as they feel, they can make dry skin worse so make the switch to lukewarm water and keep them to a five-minute minimum, recommends Dr. Carroll.
Choose skincare products wisely.
“One of my favourite types of ingredients categories is ceramides,” says Dr. Carroll. They are found naturally in the skin and support the skin’s barrier. Think of your skin barrier as the velvet ropes to better behaving skin. Ceramides act as the big bouncers who stand in front of those velvet ropes and help keep the dry skin away. “Moisturizers with ceramides help make your own skin barrier better, which makes you less susceptible to dry skin, eczema and infection,” she says. For those undergoing treatments, err on the side of gentler formulas. Skip the harsh exfoliators, heavily fragranced formulas and know that natural is not always better. “In my clinical opinion, “natural” products are not better,” says Dr. Carroll. “In general, I find that products with too many botanicals and other plant-based ingredients to be extremely irritating to patients and even more concerning, I have even seen many cases of allergic reactions.” A good rule of thumb: ask your doctor to help you find the best skincare routine for you.
Makeup can exacerbate the issue.
“It’s very hard to fake it when you have dry, flaky skin and it’s normal that you’d want to cover it with make-up, but a lot of makeup is powder based and will actually cling and draw attention to dry patches and flakes,” says makeup artist Sheri Stroh. She recommends treating yourself to moisturizing formulas like emollient foundations and BB/CC creams. Cream blushes are a great option for a natural, lit-from-within-glow. “The objective is to look healthy which will hopefully make you FEEL healthy as well,” she says. You can also look into facial massage from a holistic spa (now may not be the time for any type of fancy or intensive facial, so it’s important to check with your oncologist and the spa to get their opinion on what you can and cannot do).
TIP: Stash lip balms all over your house and in your purse so they’re always handy and available for application. Applying them before bed can help you wake up with smoother skin come morning.