It is important to look after your skin during or after radiotherapy because radiation can damage the skin cells, which may cause skin irritation, dryness, redness, and sometimes blistering or peeling of the skin. Other than radiotherapy side effects such as hair loss, fatigue and nausea, it can also cause long-term changes in the skin, such as pigmentation changes and an increased risk of skin cancer.

Proper skin care can help manage these symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. Following a skin care routine can help promote healing and restore the skin’s natural barrier function.

1. Keep your skin clean and moisturised before and during radiotherapy.

2. Avoid using harsh soaps or skincare products that contain alcohol, fragrance, or other irritants.

3. Wear loose, comfortable clothing and avoid tight or restrictive clothing that can irritate the skin.

4. Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated.

5. Protect your skin from sunlight by wearing clothing that covers your treated area or using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

6. Avoid shaving the treated area and use an electric razor instead of a razor blade.

7. Avoid hot water and extreme temperatures, such as saunas or hot tubs, which can irritate your skin.

8. Use gentle, non-irritating skincare products that are designed for sensitive skin.

9. Avoid scratching or rubbing your skin, as this can cause further irritation or damage.

10. Consult your healthcare provider or dermatologist if you experience any unexpected changes in your skin during or after radiotherapy.

During radiotherapy, several types of skin reactions can occur. The severity and duration of these reactions can vary depending on the dose and frequency of the radiation treatment, as well as the individual patient’s skin type and overall health. Some common skin reactions during radiotherapy may include:

1. Erythema: Redness or inflammation of the skin, typically occurring a few days after starting radiation treatment.

2. Dryness and itching: Radiation therapy can deplete the skin’s natural oils, leading to dryness, flakiness, and itching.

3. Hyperpigmentation: Darkening of the skin in the treated area, which may persist even after treatment is complete.

4. Moist desquamation: A more severe skin reaction, characterised by the formation of blisters or sores, with associated pain and discomfort.

5. Ulceration: In rare cases, radiation therapy can lead to the development of open wounds or ulcers on the skin.

It is important for patients undergoing radiotherapy to report any skin changes or discomfort to their healthcare provider, who can recommend management strategies.

We have a complete guide on skin care before, during and after radiotherapy that answers questions like:

How to prepare for radiation therapy.

Top skincare techniques and products.

Answers to all your questions on radiotherapy, the treatment process and what to ask your GP.

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