How to Take Care of Skin Before & After Radiation Therapy?

Written by - Reviewed by Consumer Health Digest Team

Published: Jan 4, 2015 | Last Updated: Dec 25, 2018

After Radiation Therapy

During radiation therapy, many individuals deal with increased redness on their skin. Shortly afterward, this redness will disappear. Although the initial inflammation is gone, new changes in the skin will develop in the following one or two weeks. Afterward, these effects will stay for up to a month following the last treatment. To reduce skin irritation and inflammation, radiation patients should make sure to use some of the following skin care tips.

Skin Care Tips Following Radiation

Radiation can end up drying out the skin. Due to this, individuals should make sure to use a moisturizer. To prevent conflicting medication or problems, they should always listen to the directions of a nurse and never apply a moisturizer within two hours of their treatment. In general, moisturizers are more effective if they are applied after a bath. When the skin is wet, the moisturizer can lock in the moisture for the skin. To keep the skin moisturized, individuals should continue to use moisturizer once or twice a day for at least a month after their last radiation treatment.

Skin Care Tips Following Radiation

Although most people shower daily, patients should always make sure that they do not exceed one shower a day. The soaps and water used in a shower can wash away the natural oils on the skin’s surface. If individuals shower too often, it can cause dried out or flaky skin.

Deodorant and Shaving

Following a treatment, individuals should never shave the treated area. It can cause increased amounts of redness and pain. Men who need to shave their beards should use an electric shaver only if they have to. Likewise, individuals should avoid using deodorant soaps. These soaps sap moisture from the skin and can cause dryness. Perfumed or fragrant soaps should also be avoided.

Protecting the Skin from Temperature Changes

After a radiation treatment, the skin becomes increasingly sensitive to hot or cold temperatures. If the treated area is directly exposed to the sun, it can cause pain or sunburns. Whenever someone plans on going outside for more than ten minutes at any time of the year, they should make sure to apply and reapply sunscreen. Most doctors recommend a sunscreen that is free from PABA and contains at least SPG 30. Even when treatment ends, the treated skin area will still need to be protected from sun exposure. During the summer, individuals should make sure to use soft, loose-fitting clothing over the treated area to prevent it from being harmed by the sunlight. Extra layers in the winter can help deal with cold sensitivity. Since extremes of temperature need to be avoided, individuals should stay away from saunas, ice packs, heating pads, hot tubs and hot water bottles.

Daily Care

Daily Care

Each day, the individual should check the skin that is located at the treatment site. If there are any sudden changes, they should immediately report it to their doctor or medical practitioner. To check the skin each day, individuals should use diet and water as part of their daily care program. Drinking eight glasses of water each day can help to hydrate the skin and improve recovery. A balanced diet can help provide the skin with the right balance of nutrients. Like always, individuals should follow the recommendations of their doctor. If they need a different diet or reduced water intake because of another medical condition, they should always follow the recommendations of their doctor.

Things to Avoid

The treated site will be extra sensitive following treatments and for a month after radiation. Due to this, individuals should make sure to pat their skin dry instead of rubbing it. Bandages, patches and tape should be avoided completed because they can irritate the treated skin area. Likewise, the house should not be kept too warm in winter and hot summer sun should be avoided because the heat can dry out the skin.

Additional Tips

When showering, individuals should always use warm water. Hot water during a shower or a bath can cause the skin to become dry. During the shower, individuals should also make sure that they use a mild soap. Often, children or infant soaps are inexpensive and are made with mild ingredients.

Even with the best skin care techniques, individuals may experience other side effects. They should always report blisters or swollen areas to their doctor. Other symptoms like pain, itching or tenderness should be discussed with a trained medical practitioner. Sometimes, doctors can prescribe ointments or creams that will deal with symptoms like itching or pain.

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