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Chemotherapy And Radiation: How Can I Maintain Healthy Skin During Treatment?

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Isabel Calleros explains how you can help maintain healthy skin during chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Isabel Calleros:
Ladies, let’s talk about your skin during your treatment whether it be chemotherapy or radiation.

Maintaining the integrity of the skin is vitally important – both psychologically, emotionally and just for general appearance.

You are going through a lot at the same time, so you still want to have that womanly appearance about you.

Clients that are going through the different treatments I have usually recommended home care facials.

If you’ve never done it, it’s fun. It’s something that you can do with your daughter.

It’s something you can do with a girlfriend, your support system. It’s easy – five easy little steps that you can do, okay?

The integrity of the skin is going to be compromised. That happens. It’s going to happen. Don’t be surprised when it does happen.

What’s going to happen mostly is that you are going to feel the dryness of the skin. You are going to start to see the skin flake. You’ll may be start to see little wrinkles that you didn’t have before.

You are going to start to see little dark spots if you are doing stronger radiation. You are going to start to see pigmentation on the skin.

Maybe you are going to see little spots around the eyes on the bottom of the eye area around the mouth. Generally, this happens when you are a little bit older and maybe you might be on hormonal therapy at the same time.

So let’s talk about how do we maintain the health of the skin; how do we maintain the integrity of the skin because those are two different things.

The health of the skin is general and overall. How the skin looks to people; how the skin, does it glow?

The integrity of the skin is the strength of the skin, the weakness of the skin, the breakdown of the skin. So each one is different and each one needs to be treated.

So let’s start with your basic home care. You should be using a cleanser, not with a Buf-Puf, not with a wash cloth, I want you to go out and I want you to purchase at any drug store, any grocery store, 100 percent cotton sponge pads.

They are disposable. You can find them in squares, you can find them in rounds but use them 100 percent cotton because any synthetic fibers will irritate the skin; they’ll scratch the skin.

And remember, your skin is already dry and your skin is already sensitive, okay? So that’s the first thing you need to purchase. The second thing is you need a cleanser that is of a creamy base, means a milk cleanser. Some people call it a milk cleanser; some call it a creamy cleanser.

You can go and purchase Pond’s Cold Cream for that matter and you can use any type of cold cream.

The cold creams have less harsh ingredients than some of your higher-end skin cleansers, okay?

So what you are going to do, step one is take your cotton pads, wet them with tepid water. We do not use hot water on the face during these treatments. Hot water will dehydrate your skin, okay?

So you are going to use your cotton pledgets or your cotton rounds; you are going to dip them in the water and you are going to add your product to the cotton.

You are going to use the cotton and you are just going to manipulate it around the face and it’s going to feel so nice and soft.

Do this as many times as it takes to take off your makeup, okay? When you are done with that you are going to rinse the skin.

Again, use the cotton, wet them and just use them as little pads to get all that product off, especially women that wear foundation.

You may have to do it two or three times. Stay away from products that contain alcohol.

Some of your cleansers may contain alcohol. Some of your cleansers may contain glycolic acid.

Some of your cleansers will contain products that maybe a little harsh for your skin and you are going to immediately feel the tingling in your skin.

So again, milky cleaners, cream cleansers or even a cold cream, the old-fashioned cold creams work the best, all right?

So after you’ve cleansed the skin you want to exfoliate the skin. Again, we are going to go back to nature here.

I want you to take a half-a-cup of oatmeal – raw oatmeal and I want you to take a half-a-cup of plain, white yogurt. Mix them together and make your little scrub.

Take the product, let the oatmeal break down a little bit in the yogurt. Take the product with your hand and just begin to manipulate it always upwards, okay? Don’t ever drag your skin down; gravity will take care of that for us, it will eventually happen and we don’t need to help that.

So take it and work it upwards, especially in areas where you feel more excessive dryness. That may be, again, around the mouth, maybe the forehead area.

Once you manipulate that on there really well let it set for a minute or two. The yogurt itself has antibacterial qualities, okay?

We use yogurt for a lot of different things. It has the antibacterial qualities. It’s a plus for the skin so let it sit on there for a minute or two.

Once that happens rinse it off really well and just feel your skin. You are going to feel the natural softness come out in your skin, okay?

Once we complete that my favorite part of all, is my little home massage, very simply to do, feels great. This is where you can get your husband involved.

This is where you can get your support person involved with you. You are going to use a 100 percent virgin olive oil, very little, you don’t need a lot of it and you are beginning a little manipulation on the skin.

This is where your skin is going to drink up the moisture, drink up the oil that’s lost during these cancer treatments, okay?

So the first thing that you are going to do is just put a little bit on your fingers, rub it in and remember heat breaks up so we want to break up the molecules of that.

And just lightly glide it on to the skin first, and what we are going to do is we are going to start, we always work from the bottom up.

When we work on the face we are going to start at the chin and you are just going to use circular motions and do everything three times.

I don’t know what it is about the Chinese but they do everything in odd numbers. Three times is great, plus it feels better, okay?

So just go ahead and do your circular motions. Work that jaw line three times – one, two, three and then just kind of bring it up on the neck.

We forget about our neck all the time. So work that neck area, bring it up. Let the moisture get back into the skin.

If at any point you feel like you need a little more, just stop, put a little bit more, break it up and then continue on.

Now most of the times the area on the labial folds here is going to get extra dry for whatever reason. So you want to just work it in into the area, go up to the temple in front of the ear.

When you are working the eyes it’s very important to remember on the bottom we always go in and on the top of the eye we always come out.

So you can easily, and I am going to take off my glasses for you, so you can easily just do your circular motions.

I always do this about 15 times and you’d be surprised how nice it feels that you are not going to want to stop, okay?

And then you have worked your way up to your forehead, once again just circular motions hit up on the temple.

Once you have completed that I do what I call my pressure points and what this does is more of a nerve-ending for a stress-free treatment.

So what I want you to do is just take again, you don’t need a lot of oil, so don’t add any more to it but I do this with all my patients that I try to teach them how to do home care.

So you are just going to take your two fingers and you are just going to press on the eyebrow, hold it, press on the eyebrow, hold it, press on the eyebrow, hold it.

Go to your temples; close your eyes, take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth – three times. I’ll fall asleep if I do it for you three times.

And then go to the front of the ear here, three circles, and when you are done with that the last thing you are going to do is just a little slap to wake up, bring the skin up, wake up those muscles, let those little smile lines leave but the smile stays, okay?

And then you just finish off with a brush – a brush and shake off all the negative energy that you have accumulated through the stress of chemotherapy and radiation. You are refreshed and you are revitalized.

At this point go ahead and apply a moisturizer. You can apply a mask, a simple little mask will do, whatever you want to do at this point but your skin is exfoliated and refreshed.

Do this at least twice a week, okay? When you are going through your treatment this will keep your skin with strong integrity and it will maintain the health of the skin.

About Isabel Calleros:
Isabel Calleros has dedicated over 30 years to education in aesthetics and permanent makeup for both cosmetic and breast repigmentation for breast cancer recovery. As a voice for the breast cancer survivor, Mrs. Calleros wants to provide each and every woman the opportunity to know and understand their choices as they regain their femininity, womanhood and self beauty.

Isabel is a facilitator for the Look Good…Feel Better program through the American Cancer Society. She has volunteered her time at the Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson, Arizona, through the Women’s Cancer Support Group, along with participating on in the 2009 Breast Cancer Wellness Cruise for breast cancer survivors.

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