Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Managing the Visible Side Effects of Breast Cancer Treatments

Visible side effects of breast cancer treatments: Skin and nail changes continued...

What to expect with nail changes

Nail beds may become darkened or discolored. Nails may crack, split, or become rigid. Sometimes nails even lift off the nail bed. If this happens, the risk of infection increases. Tell your health care provider if this occurs.

Tips for handling skin and nail changes

For skin:

  • Check first with your oncology team before using any skin products. This includes lotions, powders, perfumes, creams, deodorants, body oils, or home remedies. Additives in some products can worsen skin reactions. A cosmetologist may also provide some helpful guidelines.
  • Avoid detergents with dyes and perfumes.
  • Keep your skin clean and dry. Use a mild soap and pat your skin dry after bathing.
  • Use a rich moisturizer as recommended by your health care provider several times a day to help with dry skin.
  • Use sunscreen when in the sun.
  • Wear loose-fitting, natural fabrics such as cotton and silk.

For nails:

  • Cut nails short to minimize splitting.
  • Avoid artificial nails, which may increase the risk of infection. It is OK to use nail polish, but remove it with a non acetone-based remover, which is less drying.
  • Use a cuticle remover cream or gel, massaging it into your nails.
  • Don't bite or tear at your nails or cuticles.
  • Wear gloves when you garden or do housework.
  • Avoid professional manicures or bring your own sanitized instruments.
  • Limit the time you have your hands in water to lower the risk of fungal infections.

 Skin and nail changes usually go away when treatment ends.

The Look Good. . . Feel Better program for female cancer patients

The American Cancer Society has teamed up with the Personal Care Products Council and the National Cosmetology Association (NCA) to create Look good...Feel Better. This program teaches female cancer patients beauty techniques that can help restore appearance and self-image following cancer treatment.

For more information, call 1-800-395-LOOK or visit


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 26, 2014

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow