Beauty Clinic: Advice for a cancer patient's skin


Q. My friend is going through cancer treatment at the moment and her skin is very dry and fragile. Can you recommend products? A. This is a virtually inevitable side effect as chemotherapy reduces the amount of oils your glands produce, affecting skin from top to toe. As well as becoming flaky dry, patients’ skin is prone to problems like itching, soreness and eczema. Patients undergoing radiation also experience skin reactions, akin to gradual sunburn (more on

Odylique CleanserFirstly we suggest using a very gentle cleanser on your face. As many areas of the country have hard water, which is likely to make the problem worse, choosing a lotion or balm may help. These can be removed by patting and stroking off with a soft muslin cloth dipped in warm (never hot) water.

We suggest using products with as few synthetic chemicals (including fragrances) as possible, because they may irritate skin. Gentle natural ranges such as Odylique, formulated by herbalist Margaret Weeds, may suit your sister. They offer an organic Cleansing Balm for very dry skin/£19 (trial size £9.50), and also Creamy Coconut Cleanser/£18, which suits our sensitive-skinned Beauty Bible testers.

Bodywise, please suggest that she only uses a gentle sulphate-free wash on the areas that really need cleansing, and bathes or showers in warm not steamy hot water. Odylique Lavender Hand/Bodywash/£9.50 for 200 ml, contains aloe and olive oil, is pH-balanced, is free of all sulphates and artificial preservatives, plus the lavender scent is soothing.

There is also an Aloe Vera Bodywash/£9 for 200 ml, which also contains skin-soothing calendula. Apply a rich body moisturiser, such as Repair Lotion/£12 for 60 ml, straight after. (Margaret created this originally for her own and her family’s eczema-prone skin.)

TBotanical Shampoohe backs of hands can get very dry but rarely harbour germs and grime. So it makes sense to use cleanser on palms, fingers and nails. Then, as with the body, apply a nourishing hand cream immediately. We like multi-tasking Calendula Balm/£14 for 50 g, for hands (or any sore dry areas), and Lemon Butter Hand Smoothie/£12 for 60 ml, is smoothing and soothing: ‘like putting on a pair of invisible protective gloves’, according to one fan.

NB the scalp is likely to suffer the same effects so we suggest using a soothing product such as Botanical Therapeutic Shampoo (also a Body Wash)/£21 for 500 ml from Victoria Health.