Hearing the news that you have cancer is probably the scariest experience in a lifetime. I was already a medically trained esthetician for several years before I heard those words myself. It was terrifying, but instead of focusing on that fear, I decided to ask God how I could use this experience to help others. He revealed several ways to me, and becoming an oncology trained esthetician was one of them! I’d like to help you navigate a small part of your journey, both as an oncology trained esthetician and as someone who has experienced that journey.
The things I am glad I did before starting treatment are:
◦ Permanent brows and eyeliner (I had them done long before I received the news, so they had plenty of time to fully heal before treatment began)
◦ Got a chemical peel by an experienced and trained esthetician to prepare my skin by stimulating the collagen and elastin to thicken the epidermis and combat the aging process that inevitably will happen through the treatment.
◦ Focused on good nutrition and cut out harmful toxins from my household cleaning products.
◦ Had an excellent skincare routine prior to treatment that included morning and evening routines (see my previous blog on Home Skin Care routines).
DURING CANCER TREATMENTS:
During chemotherapy, your skin is being attacked as one of numerous rapid cell turnover areas. This means that your skin is being exfoliated from the inside out, so you do not want to exfoliate during chemo. Instead, you want to use hydrating cleansers and products without chemicals or fragrance. I will be adding a section to my website that includes chemicals (carcinogens) to stay away from in your products. Stick to a cleanser, moisturizer, hyaluronic serum, sunscreen, eye cream, and an overnight cream. Tip-what you use at night is 30% more effective, so don’t skip your nighttime routine. I like the O Skin Love cleanser or Sanitas Sensitive cleanser, Protection+ Moisturizing Sunscreen, Pure Hyaluronic serum, and either Ormedic, Vital C, or Max overnight cream.
If you have any specific skin issues, consult with your esthetician or reach out to me. Some things we can treat immediately, and some things may need to wait until after chemo is finished for safety reasons.
You can get facials during treatment, but try to find an oncology trained esthetician. They should not microneedle (or break the skin in any way), exfoliate, use any electrical modalities, do laser treatments, microdermabrasion, wax, and no advanced treatments.
Be sure to communicate how you are feeling during any treatment! Is the pressure too much or too little? Is a scent bothersome? An oncology trained esthetician will already know not to have scents and will ask specific questions that relate to your treatments. This is your special time! It is ALL about YOU, so don’t be shy about speaking up. We want to love on you.
Nutrition: Take a collagen supplement. This will help your skin, your muscles, your bones, your organs, and eventually your hair. Drink a lot of water with electrolytes and eat fruits and vegetables. Try to reduce your sugar consumption. Watermelon and cucumbers are great for dark circles!!!
If your skin feels dry or even before it does, I encourage you to put a towel on the floor of your shower (to prevent slipping) and after you cleanse and rinse, apply coconut oil everywhere from the neck down and do not dry off. Wrap in a towel or robe and sit for about 20 minutes, then rinse off and blot dry. If you can, do this every day for two weeks. You will be amazed by the difference in how your skin feels!
The best skin solution for radiation is applying calendula oil to the area that is to be treated. Keep the oil on the area until about 4 hours before treatment. At that time cleanse and dry the area. Reapply the oil immediately after radiation treatment. This should help prevent or at least reduce dramatically the burning, blistering, scarring, and discoloration of the area being treated. If you already have burns, Topical C from Sanitas was designed to heal 3rd degree burns.
Once the scars have closed (usually 6 weeks), you can start feathering on Tamanu Oil until it is all the way absorbed into the skin. This will help reduce the scar visibility. Once the scar is a year old, you can get microneedling done to reduce the scarring even more! Be sure your provider is certified and is using an FDA approved device. Do not use a needling roller. These tear the skin and can cause more damage.
Be sure to tell all providers (massage therapists, nail techs, estheticians, hair stylists, etc) that you are or have undergone cancer treatments. This is important for many reasons, but especially because of risk of infection and lymphedema. If you have had any lymph nodes removed, that quadrant should not be massaged, as it can cause lymphedema!!!
Praise the Lord! You have made it through all your treatments, and you’re on the road to recovery! There are still residual side effects, but the hard part is behind you. Part of getting back to normal is taking care of yourself like you used to. Take it slow when it comes to skincare. Keep using hydrating skincare for sensitive skin for at least 3-6 months. You can add in some mildly active ingredients like vitamin C, stem cells, & peptides but leave the retinol/vitamin A, acids, & peels alone until 6 months after chemo is done. My go to lines for after chemo are Iluma (especially if you have discoloration or uneven tone), Vital C, and Max. At 6 months, I add in the Ageless line 3 days a week. Continue taking your Collagen/Biotin shots!
If you feel like treatments have made you look older, take a deep breath and don’t worry! You can make your skin age backwards!!! I did it before diagnosis and am doing it again now, so can you! It just takes commitment, and you’ve already proven you have that.
Let’s talk about HAIR!!!
We all want our hair back! Well, at least the hair on our head. Lol. I’m going to talk about some ways to get that happening, but I want to warn about a couple of things. I’m encouraging you to take collagen and biotin, which is good for so many parts of your body. However, it will make hair everywhere grow back faster, so that means shaving again. None of us missed that, I’m sure! At least I haven’t seen or heard anyone asking when their leg hair was gonna start growing again. And then there’s the facial hair! It seemed like one morning I looked in the mirror, and I saw something resembling a teddy bear staring back at me! Seriously, the vellus hair (baby fine white) on my face just showed up out of nowhere, and it seemed thicker than it ever was before! DO NOT WAX IT!!! Your skin is still to thin, and you risk your skin being lifted and being left raw, risking pain and infection. I suggest getting it dermaplaned, instead. Again, seek out someone who has been certified in dermaplaning. This is a process that is similar to shaving with a scalpel to remove the hair and gently exfoliates and then adds nutritive ingredients to build the epidermis. The only time you would not do this is if you have PCOS. Don’t worry, as long as you don’t have PCOS, the hair will not come back thicker or darker or anything like that.
Now, to encourage your hair on top of your head to grow back! There are several things you can do after you’re all done with chemo!!!
◦ Take collagen/biotin supplements
◦ Use red light therapy (this also aids in anti-aging, so do 20 minutes on your head and then 20 minutes over your face and neck)- I offer this free to any client with any other service and anytime to oncology clients with or without a service, so ask your esthetician!
◦ Use blue light therapy to address acne or other bacteria
◦ Use high frequency (you can buy a mobile device on Amazon for around $30-40 with a comb attachment or see an esthetician with their professional machine)
◦ Mix peppermint oil with a carrier oil like almond and apply to the scalp
◦ Use Rogaine or Nutrafol
◦ Massage your scalp (better yet, have someone else do it!)
◦ You can use lash growth serum for your lashes and your eyebrows.
I hope you find this information helpful! I admire all of you. You can do this, because you are stronger than you know. You are meant to inspire others, so keep the faith and keep battling, because we are more than survivors…we are WARRIORS!!! We are CONQUERORS!!!