With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Nail, Hair and Skin Changes

Cancer treatments can cause skin reactions and nail reactions. Some cancer treatments can cause hair loss or alopecia. Some of these changes that happen during treatment can be temporary or permanent. This can impact your self esteem, but fortunately there are many things you can now do to help you feel more confident.

Most skin reactions go after a few weeks after the treatments has stopped. Some patients can experience cracking and peeling of their skin, swollen red itchy skin, nail inflammation, and hypersensitivity.

Here are five top tips you can do to help with your skin:

  • Avoid extreme heat or cold, use lukewarm water and mild soap/body wash when you shower or bath.
  • Avoid using perfumes.
  • Do not rub your skin be gentle and pat it down after a shower or bath.
  • Wear sunscreen to protect your skin at all times.
  • Speak to your doctor before you use a new skin product to avoid it causing further irritation.

Here are five top tips you can do to help with your nails:

  • If your nails become brittle wear gloves when washing dishes or gardening to protect them.
  • Avoid using acetone based nail polish remover.
  • Ask your manicurist to push back your cuticles, but do not cut them.
  • Avoid wearing wraps or acrylic nails because they trap bacteria causing infection.
  • If you go for a professional manicure bring your own implements to reduce your risk of infection.

Managing side effects such as hair loss is an important part of cancer care and treatment. Talking about your feelings related to losing hair with a family member or a friend may provide comfort to you. You should also talk with your health care team about managing or coping with hair loss from cancer treatment. Thankfully, nowadays there are a wide range of wigs and hair accessories for people experiencing hair loss due to cancer and other treatments.

Tips for hair and scalp care during treatment:

  • Use mild shampoo and conditioner.
  • Use low heat hairdryers.
  • Do not colour your hair with permanent colour.
  • Style your hair.
  • Try limit the amount you wash.
  • Use a soft brush.
  • If you have lost your hair and your scalp is dry us a good moisturiser for sensitive skin.

Tips for choosing and wearing your wig:

  • Have your wig fitted before you lose all your hair so the person fitting you with the wig can see the texture, colour, style and density of your hair. This will help they find a wig that suits you best.
  • Breaking up the wig hair can help make it look more natural or textured.
  • Style your wig into your own shape can make it feel more personal and unique to you.
  • Always put the front rim of the wig on your original hairline or further back so that it looks more natural and doesn’t                                                                                                                                       look like its growing out of your forehead.

Care for your regrowing hair:

  • Do not colour your hair for the first 6 months as this could damage the hair and make it harder for it to grow. Colour that has no peroxide or ammonia can be used because these colours wash out.
  • Wearing a wig will not stop the growth of your hair.
  • Try a volumising shampoo and conditioner.
  • If it regrows fine and downy it is advisable to have the tips trimmed off.


Nail, haircare and skincare tips were taken from the book Look Good Feel Good written by award winning make up artist Rhona Cullinan and The Irish Academy of Beauty. Look Good Feel Goodis a useful resource  for people going though cancer treatment as it is full of tips and advice on skin, nail and hair care. Two of the women featured in the book are cancer survivors who get confidence boosting makeovers.

Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the Marie Keating Foundation.   You can order your copy here.