Whether you’re someone who knows his way around grooming, someone who’s never laid hands on a moisturiser before or somewhere in between - caring for your skin during treatment can make a world of difference to how you look and how you feel.
The three basic steps are: Cleanse with a Facial Cleanser, Moisturize with Lotion and Protect with Sunscreen Read on for more details, and a few additional steps you may want to try.
CLEANSER: A facial cleanser will remove dirt and dry flaky skin and help stimulate circulation. Look for products that say “gentle” or for “sensitive skin”. Ideally, use a facial cleanser twice a day – morning and night. For the rest of your body, you can use a gentle body wash.
EXFOLIATOR: To get a deeper clean, try using a gentle exfoliator once or twice a week, before or right after cleansing. This will help to remove dead skin cells, prevent black heads, reduce ingrown hairs and leave the skin looking smoother, clearer and brighter. Again – look for a gentle option during treatment and try testing on a small area first.
MOISTURISER: Moisturiser is hands down the most straightforward and effective way to keep your skin in top shape – apply after washing and patting dry your face. While most men generally have oilier skin than women, treatment can have an effect on this so staying hydrated (both inside and out!) is fundamental.
SUNSCREEN: This is an absolute must-have. One of the most prevalent side- effects of treatment is sun sensitivity, so wearing a daily sun protection with a minimum of SPF30 is essential.
Hand Cream: Hydration is, again, a key element in maintaining your skin during this time. Keep a hand cream by your sink.
BODY CREAM/LOTION: Having a body moisturiser will more than earn its place in your daily care while undergoing treatment. Dryness, irritation and possible skin cracking are all things you want to avoid so laying on the lotion is more than worth the effort. Apply after you shower or bathe, and throughout the day as needed.
LIP BALM: Your lips, just like any other part of your body, may experience dryness during treatment. Keep things simple with a hypoallergenic lip balm with an SPF to keep you moisturised and prevent burning during the day.
TINTED MOISTURISER/CONCEALER: There are some great tinted products out there that are very light-weight and natural. These products help minimized any redness, uneven skin tone and/or dark circles under the eyes. Always look for fragrance free hypo- allergenic products when picking up your grooming essentials as treatment can make even the most robust of skin a little more sensitive.
The sun can have harmful effects on skin at any time of the year. However, radiation and chemotherapy treatments, as well as some medications, can increase your susceptibility to sunburn and skin damage. As a general rule, no sun exposure is a good idea when you’re receiving radiation treatment if the site of the treatment is exposed skin. Your doctor may not want you to put sunscreen or any cream on while you’re receiving radiation treatment as the skin is prone to injury at that time.
Always check with your radiation oncologist.
• Apply sun protection daily and liberally – a dollop about the size of a golf ball – to all exposed skin, such as the lips, ears, scalp, sides and back of neck.
• Get in the habit of applying sun protection every morning, about 20 to 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply often – about every two hours.
• Remember that you’re still exposed to UVA/UVB rays even in shady areas. If you’re indoors, windows do not protect against UVA rays.
• Stay inside during the intense-sun hours of 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Don’t forget to wear a hat – preferably one with a wide brim of about three inches.
• Don’t forget your eyes – they need protection too. Wear sunglasses with UVA/UVB protection.
As with all the physical side effects you may experience, the likelihood of losing your facial hair is down to your treatment and, of course, your body’s reaction to that treatment.
During treatment your skin will be more susceptible to cuts, bruising and infections, therefore it is important you take a look at your shaving regimen. Some people prefer to try an electric shaver during treatment and others stick with a wet shave – it’s really your choice but ask your medical team’s advice.
An ideal practice:
The loss of hair and brows can be just as distressing for men as it is for women, especially for men who have always had a full head of hair. Although it is currently a style statement for some men to have shaved heads, this may not be your personal preference. Hair loss or thinning may or may not happen depending on your specific cancer treatment. Remember, hair loss is almost always temporary.
Managing Hair Loss:
• Always comb hair gently and use a mild shampoo (but not a baby shampoo).
• As hair starts to thin, consider cutting it short or even having it neatly trimmed by a professional stylist. This can help if your hair becomes thin or patchy.
• Don’t shave your head to the scalp as this may cause irritation and potentially cuts or nicks that could lead to infection. It’s recommended to cut hair no shorter than 1/8 of an inch.
• When you’ve lost your hair, your scalp may become drier. Gently massage your scalp with your facial moisturizer to make it feel more comfortable and increase circulation to your stressed hair follicles. Caring for your scalp will greatly reduce sensitivity and itchiness.
• There are many hat and cap styles today for sports, sun, cold, rain, wind or style to help you find something you like to cover and protect your head.
• Try a wig - those designed for men may require some styling and can be cut to give a natural look. Speak to a professional wig specialist who will be able to advise.
An easy way to disguise any loss of hair is with the simple use of an eyebrow pencil. A simple few strokes should do the trick.
Here’s a clever way to recreate your eyebrows:
Hold a pencil vertically along the outside of your nostril and inner corner of your eye. Make a dot above your eye at this line, right on the brow bone. This is the inner edge of your brow.
Hold the pencil vertically across your iris (the coloured part of your eye) and again make a dot above the eye, just above or on the brow bone. This is where your natural arch occurs.
Hold your pencil at an angle beginning at the outside edge of your nostril, lined up with the outside edge of the eye. This is where your brow should end. Draw another dot.
Connect these dots with a series of gentle, arching, feathery strokes to mimic the look of hair. Concentrate on fullness closer to the inner edge, thinning as you go outwards.
Another option to consider, particularly suited to men who wear glasses, is to opt for a thicker framed pair that’ll give the illusion of a fuller brow.
Depending on the type and duration of your treatment, your hair will start to reappear at a rate of about ½ of an inch a month. Once your hair grows back, it may be different than before your treatment due to the absence or alteration of pigments. As the pigment cells return to normal, hair should go back to its original colour and texture.