Skin, Hair, and Nail Care
Your skin will be drier than usual. When choosing a lotion or cream, avoid those with lanolin, alcohol, and fragrance. Lotion products that relieve dry skin include Aquaphor, Lubriderm, Eucerin, Purpose Dry Skin Lotion, and Neutrogena Body Lotion.
Your skin will be sensitive to sun exposure and burn easily following chemotherapy. Avoid prolonged exposure to bright sunlight for at least six months. When you are in the sun, wear sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) rating of at least 30 on all exposed skin surfaces, including your lips. You should also wear long sleeves and a hat with a brim. Do not use topical creams such as Solarcaine or Americaine for pain relief. Topical anesthetics that end in “caine” may cause further skin irritation. Severe sunburn should be evaluated by your health care provider.
After radiation and some chemotherapy it is common for the skin to appear tanned or darker. Some people may even experience peeling in the skin fold areas of the neck, axilla, groin, and waistline. If you had an allogeneic transplant, graft-versus-host disease skin changes vary depending on the time of eruption. You should notify the BMT team of any changes, especially any new rashes or changes in your skin.
If you will be outside and at risk for insect bites, use a non-aerosol insect repellant. If you get an insect bite, calamine lotion may relieve the itching. Keep the area clean and dry. If the bite seems excessively red, swollen, or has pus, notify the transplant team.
Wear protective footwear to prevent injuries. You should wear well-fitted shoes to avoid blisters. Do not cut toenails excessively short or cut the cuticle surrounding the nail.
Losing your hair may be very distressing to you. You may decide to wear a head cover or wig until your hair grows back. Your hair may be a different color or texture. Use a gentle shampoo and moisturizing conditioner. Graft-versus-host disease may affect your scalp or hair. Your physician will discuss this with you. Avoid medicated or dandruff shampoos. There are a variety of commercially available head covers. The American Cancer Society and other organizations assist those unable to afford them. Talk with your nurse if you are interested in learning more about these programs.
You may notice changes in the appearance and texture of your nails. Your nails may have lines or ridges that indicate where treatment stopped nail growth. Avoid cutting the cuticle when trimming your nails. For people who wear nail polish, a remover that contains oil is recommended to prevent over-drying.