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Effects of Chemotherapy

Caring for your hair, skin, and nails.

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Chemotherapy can cause not only hair loss but you may experience changes in your skin and nails.


After your first Chemotherapy treatment, around day 14 to day 21, you may experience sensitivity to your scalp, tingling sensation or even a slight irritating sensation, this may be a sign that your hair follicle is getting ready to shed that hair.  Please be advised that once the hair sheds those sensations of the scalp usually disappear if they persist please inform your doctor or nurse.

  • If you experience hair loss, it’s important to keep your scalp cleansed with a moisturizing shampoo. Like the rest of your body, it’s important to keep the scalp hydrated. BABY SHAMPOO IS NOT RECOMMENDED as it is higher in PH than most moisturizing shampoos.
  • If hair loss has occurred there is no longer a need to use conditioner after cleansing as the conditioner’s purpose is hydrating and smoothing the cuticle of the hair. After hair loss, you should continue to hydrate the scalp and you can do so using one of the following options: vitamin E cream, coconut oil, or jojoba oil are good for your scalps hydration. Try to look for organic products as they are natural and pure.


You may experience major changes in your skin as it can become dry, itchy, rashes or acne.

Things you can do to help minimize the changes with your skin

  • Avoid long, hot showers or baths and use gentle, fragrance-free soaps as fragrance can be an irritant for your skin and senses.
  • After bathing, dry yourself by patting dry with a soft towel and avoid vigorously rubbing.
  • If you have the need to shave be very gentle.
  • Use a good moisturizer or cream for hydration. Vitamin E is essential for the skin.
  • Chemotherapy can cause the skin to become susceptible to sunburn. Protect your skin with an SPF no less than 30. Choose a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB that contains Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, or Avobenzone.
  • Skin care products that contain Retinol A and Alpha Hydroxy can actually cause irritants for the skin so try to avoid these ingredients.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep your body well hydrated. Hydration from water is good for your skin.


Some patients will experience changes to their nails and one of the most common changes in your nails can be darkening in the skin around your nail beds. Others can be the following:

  • Beau’s lines which are horizontal depressions on the nail
  • Nails can darken from certain types of chemotherapies
  • Leukonychia which are white discolorations of the nails
  • Separation or lifting of the nail from the nail bed on both the hands and the feet. Be advised to keep nails short.  
  • Avoid using a nail clipper as the pressure of clipping can cause damage to the nail or be painful if the nail is lifting. Try using a fine grain nail file and gently remove length of the nail.
  • Avoid acrylic and gel nails even the gel polish as anything cured under a UV light can cause bacteria to grow along with the risk of infection.
  • Use a natural nail polish that is free of  DBP, Camphor, Toulene, Formaldehyde, and Formaldehyde resin.
  • If you suspect an infection of your nail please contact your doctor.