Advising Your Clients On Oncology Skincare

posted in: HABIC, Industry News
By Mariga Sheedy

With cancer diagnoses predicted to reach one in every two people, it is becoming common in the salon to get questions from clients about any changes needed to their treatment routine. Here is Mariga’s advice on skincare recommendations that you can make for clients going through chemotherapy:

A big concern for people first diagnosed with cancer is whether their personal care products are still suitable for use while they are having treatment.

Perfumed products may sensitise your skin now, even if they never have before, and your doctor will often advise you to use unscented products only. This is excellent advice and I believe that perfume should never appear in a skincare product.It simply does not belong on the skin. Ever.

The reason that this advice is particularly given to chemo recipients is because the skin will dry out over the course of the treatment and scented products will cause irritation. Don’t forget, this advice is not just for artificial perfume, plant sourced scents such as essential oils will have the same effect on the skin so avoid aromatherapy products too.

Should you ditch your anti-ageing facial skincare routine?

Another consideration when choosing skincare products that are safe and suitable to use during treatment is how they work on/in the skin. Anti-ageing or anti-wrinkle products have many active ingredients that stimulate collagen production, cellular renewal and repair mechanisms in the skin.

While this is generally a good thing, during cancer treatment your skin is already under pressure from chemotherapy drugs and the best approach is to give it as little extra as possible to do and let your natural healing systems focus on battling the effects of chemo.

We don’t want to ask an already overloaded system to start processing active anti-ageing ingredients too, there simply won’t be enough energy in the skin cells to do it all.

Using gentle, non-stimulating formulations designed to support and protect skin function is what is needed right now.

What to avoid for now:
  • Anything with acids such as glycolic, lactic, salicylic – These will mostly be found in exfoliators
  •  and cleansers. Some face or body lotions may have them too.
  • Vitamn A/Retinol – While usually a great addition to a skincare routine, many vitamin A derivatives increase cellular turnover and you don’t want that right now.
  • Epidermal Growth Factors (EGF) – Again, usually recommended in anti-ageing, too stimulating during cancer treatment.
  • Anything with perfume or essential oils.
  • Anything with sulphates, a foaming agent usually found in cleansers that can dry out the skin – Use a non-foaming cleansing oil instead.
What to look for:
  • Blended facial oils made with a combination of natural oils that will give a variety of essential fatty acids and ceramides. Look for Vitamin E, roseship seed, argan and olive fruit oils for example.
  • Rich face creams containing hyaluronic acid and natural plant oils (not essential oils, think sesame seed oil, avocado seed oil, pomegranate seed oil). Protecting evaporation of water from the skin is the number one concern here.
  • Body lotions based on oat milk (avena sativa) or calendula extract.
  • Always use an SPF30 during the day.

There are several oncology skincare training courses available online and in person that will help you to have the confidence and understanding to treat any client. Check out Becky Kuehn on as a good place to start your research.

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