Managing Dry Skin After Chemotherapy or Radiation

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on November 12, 2021

Dry skin is a common side effect of cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It may be seen in patients taking treatment for breast cancer or some types of blood cancer. Cancer treatment can cause dry, red, rough, flaky, and itchy skin in the part of the body being treated. 

Chemotherapy and radiation can be hard on skin and may cause reactions. These treatments may not allow your skin to get enough moisture and nutrition, resulting in dryness and roughness. 

If you have dry skin after chemotherapy or radiation, you can reverse the signs and heal your skin by hydrating or moisturizing it. 

How to Manage Dry Skin

Experts suggest the following steps to manage dry skin at home after chemotherapy or radiation treatment. 

1. Stay hydrated

Dehydration can cause dry skin. So, drink plenty of liquids each day to stay hydrated. Ask your doctor how much fluid intake is safe for you.

2. Moisturize your skin

Use moisturizing creams or lotions to prevent dry and itchy skin. Moisturize your skin at least twice a day. Also, apply the cream or lotion within 15 minutes after a shower. 

If you have very dry or cracked skin, consult your doctor. They may recommend using moisturizers with salicylic acid, urea, or lactic acid to hydrate and soften your skin.

3. Protect your skin 

Too much heat or cold can also worsen dry skin. Protect your skin from weather changes and use sunscreen to prevent sunburn. If you’re receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy, avoid using ice packs or heating pads on the part of your body being treated. Also, avoid shaving if your skin is sore, or use an electric razor instead of a safety razor.

4. Use recommended or mild products suitable for sensitive skin

Make sure that your soaps and skincare products are mild, perfume-free, and allergen-free. Use mild, gentle soaps. Also, use mild detergents to wash your clothes. Check with your doctor and ask them to recommend specific soaps and skincare products that are safe for you. 

5. Take care while bathing 

Avoid using hot water for bathing and shower with warm water instead. Also, avoid scrubbing your skin hard as it can damage dry skin. Pat yourself dry with a towel instead of rubbing your body with it to prevent skin irritation. Apply mineral, coconut, or baby oil to wet skin or add it into your bath water to help you moisturize.

Other Considerations

If your skin is very dry, cracked, or painful, consult your doctor. Extreme dryness may cause severe itching, bleeding, or swelling. If left untreated, it can cause infection and pus formation in the broken skin. 

Your doctor may prescribe a cream/lotion along with antibiotics or refer you to a dermatologist for better skincare.

Show Sources


American Cancer Society: “Dry Skin.”

Cancer.Net: “Skin Conditions.”

National Cancer Institute: “Skin and Nail Changes during Cancer Treatment.”

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