How Cancer Treatment affects the skin

Sarah Brown is the founder of Pai Skincare. Entrepreneur, mum and sensitive-skinned soul.

While Breast Cancer awareness month is a great time to raise money for various charities – for many women going through treatment, advice and practical information is most helpful.

In today’s post, I want to talk about the ways that different cancer treatments affect the skin and how best to manage them.

Your skin changes and responds with every stage of treatment. Not everyone’s skin will do this the same way, but there are some changes that many women have in common – and these are the ones I’ll focus on.

Just to reiterate, I am not a doctor, and you should always consult your breast cancer nurse or oncologist first if you are ever in doubt. 


Depending on your type of cancer, you may have to undergo a surgical procedure at some point during your treatment – whether it be a lumpectomy or mastectomy.

After surgery, skin is obviously very sore and tender. While it can be tempting to ease the discomfort, resist the urge to apply anything at all to your scar until it is fully sealed.

Once it has, encouraging the skin to heal and improving the appearance of any scarring are most women’s primary concerns.

When it comes to scarring, combining skin hydration with skin regeneration is key – here’s how:

Top Tips

  1. Hydrate from the inside and out by regular moisturising with a high water content Cream, drinking plenty of water and taking a good omega supplement.
  2. Mix your Cream with a few drops of a regenerative oil to accelerate skin healing, Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil is excellent for scars and is 100% natural.


One of the main side effects of chemotherapy is extreme dryness.

Many women find that their skin becomes chronically dry and dehydrated – and can be very flakey, particularly on the face.

Top Tips

  1. Drink more water! Dehydration can be constant, and can immediately show on your skin. Don’t underestimate the power of water and hydration from the inside out.
  2. Keep a moisturiser free from ingredients you might want to avoid with you in your bag, at all times to apply throughout the day. Choose one with a high water content (with ‘aqua’ first on the ingredients list), or carry a hydrating facial mist to spritz over or underneath makeup.
  3. Avoid anything that foams. Detergents in foaming products tend to make skin even drier. Cream Cleansers might be better and opt for a Bath Oil rather than a Bubble Bath, to cut down on detergent exposure.
  4. Gentle exfoliation will help. Removing flakey skin cells at the surface will allow the healthy cells underneath to absorb products where they’re needed most. Use a very Gentle Exfoliator or a Muslin Cloth.
  5. Carry Hand Cream and Lip Balm with you, as these delicate areas can become particularly sensitive, cracked or sore.

Although less common, another side effect may be photosensitivity.

Top Tips

  1. Wear a natural SPF if you’re out in strong sunlight (sunblock rather than sunscreen).
  2. Mineral makeup contains natural SPF so is a good alternative for daily protection.


Radiation treatment can have the most direct effect on the skin, causing it to become very tender. Temporary redness and hyperpigmentation can also occur in the area affected.

During radiation, your doctor will strongly advise you to use certain products (aqueous cream), and for good reason – as they can’t be aware of the ingredients in any number of alternative products you might be tempted to use.

After some time has passed and the skin has begun to heal, you may want to take the following on board.

Top Tips

  1. Encouraging the skin to regenerate is key. A concentrated oil like Rosehip is perfect for this as it contains Omegas 3, 6, 7 & 9 – the building blocks of healthy skin.
  2. Treat this thinner, distressed skin just as you would a scar – mixing oil with a Hydrating Cream for maximum nourishment.


As drugs continue after treatment, so can their effects on their skin.

The most common ongoing complaints are of hot flushes and redness, which are often likened to menopausal symptoms.

Top Tips

  1. Temperature is key, so while it may sound obvious try, to avoid overheating the house or sitting out in the sun.
  2. Wear light cotton garments next to the skin and layer clothes so they can be easily removed.
  3. Look for products that contain anti-inflammatories as these will help instantly cool and calm the skin. Chamomile and Aloe creams are particularly great, or you might like to use a facial spritz instead.
  4. Over time, using regenerative products like Rosehip will help strengthen the skin and make flushes less likely.

Some women, on the other hand, find their complexions are incredible after they’ve recovered, often because they’re paying better attention to their skin and diet.


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