One Smile is an initiative from Avène Dermatological Laboratories to better support oncology patients through the use of dermo-cosmetic treatments
This program is the very essence of the philosophy of Avène Dermatological Laboratories which has always placed great importance on improving patients' quality of life.
By Mario Lacouture
The treatment of cancer is constantly making progress. A cancer diagnosis is now synonymous with increasingly effective treatment, whether it be traditional surgery, radiosurgery, endoscopic surgery, radiotherapy, conventional chemotherapy, targeted therapy or while these treatments are effective and enable longer and longer remission periods in good conditions, they also have their drawbacks: side effects. Knowing more about and controlling these side effects is vital, on one hand to reduce unpleasant consequences, and on the other hand to continue to benefit from the full effectiveness of cancer treatments, those that affect the skin, hair and nails are all the more trying in that they are visible. This web site has been designed to inform you of the side effects of cancer treatments on the skin, to help you be aware of them, prepare for them and to discuss them with your doctors and, whenever possible, to minimize the consequences.
The most common effects on skin, hair and nails
Véronique and Christine
explain the effects they experienced during their cancer treatment
- Severe drug reactions
Severe drug reactions is an adverse effect on the skin that is rare but can be serious. All drugs can cause severe drug reactions. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs in the same way as cancer drugs.
Hence, when these reactions occurs in a patient who is taking several drugs, it is not always easy to determine which one is the cause.
However, this is important, as in general the treatment inducing there must be stopped rapidly.
Severe drug reactions
Highly severe drug reactions
- Itching without a rash.
- Uticaria (red patches that resemble a rash caused by contact with nettles).
- Red rash all over the body.
- Sudden hypersensitivity to the sun.
- Intense redness, fever.
- Detachment of the skin (blisters and bullae).
- Tingling in the eyes, mouth ulcers.
- Redness and pustules.
- Your hair
- Hair loss, which doctors call alopecia, is a typical consequence of certain forms of chemotherapy. It can also appear with certain targeted therapies.
However, the alopecia is generally partial.
Alopecia due to chemotherapy begins rapidly and brutally. All or almost all of the hair falls out, but the scalp remains perfectly healthy. Eyelashes,eyebrows and body hair are also affected. In the months following the end of chemotherapy, regrowth occurs; it is generally complete. New hair may be identical to the old hair, but sometimes it can be different, being more or less curly, lighter or darker.
- Some tips
- Have your hair cut before treatment to gain control over your new look.
- Wigs or prettily tied scarves are a good way to keep your natural style.
- Medical treatment can accelerate regrowth.
- Your nails
- The color, thickness, texture and growth of your nails can be significantly modified. The edge of the nail can become quite painful due to inflammation. It is necessary to take care of your nails.
- Some Tips
- Cut your nails short, but not too short, and without going right into the edges.
- Do not have manicure treatments, do not wear false nails.
- Wear gloves when doing household chores.
- Use gentle toiletries.
- Use a moisturizer regularly on nails and around the nails.
- Specialized medical treatment may be necessary.
- Your skin becomes dry
- The skin is often simply dry, with small scales that flake off like dandruff, and rough to the touch. Dryness can be accompanied by itching, tautness
and skin discomfort, as the drier the skin the more sensitive it becomes.
The dryness, or xerosis, can be more pronounced, with cracked or chapped skin on the fingers or heels, or with a crackled appearance, for example on the legs.
- Some tips
- Avoid harsh toiletries and favor the use of emollients (moisturizing creams).
- On the face
Dab your cream on your cheeks, forehead and neck, spread it out using the tips of your fingers, gliding from the center along the contours of the face, not forgetting your neck and neckline.
- On the body
Apply your emollient once or twice a day, spread it between your two hands and apply to your body in light touches.Rub it into your skin with the full surface of your hands to facilitate application.
- Around the eyes
Apply a soothing product to the contour of your eyes every day. Lightly tap it on using your fingertips, then drum until the product penetrates the skin and finish by gently spreading.
- On lips
Apply a cold cream stick two or three times a day, even beneath your lipstick. In the event of chapping, prefer the more supple texture of a lip balm to cold cream.
- Use a moisturizing mask 1 to 3 times a week.
Apply the mask in a thick layer and apply spring water compresses to your eyelids while waiting with the mask in place.
- Pimple-like eruptions
Several new targeted therapies often provoke a particular eruption in the form of pimples centered on hair follicles; the skin is red (erythematous). The terms papulopustular folliculitis or acneiform eruption are often used as the lesions resemble acne pimples (it is important to remember that it is not true acne) but without blackheads.
This eruption is highly visible and of course distressing. It appears from the first weeks of treatment.
The pimples have a characteristic location: on the face and especially the edge of the nose, scalp, the middle of the back, and the middle of the chest. They can sometimes become infected and be accompanied by itching or burning, even pain.
Your doctor can reduce the scale of eruptions with treatment established right from the start of the eruption and with additional dermo-cosmetic measures.
- Some tips
- Do not “squeeze” the pimples.
- Do not scrub, as this will cause additional skin irritation.
- Apply a moisturizing cream once or twice a day.
- Apply a copper-based cream once or twice a day to the lesions to prevent bacterial proliferation and improve healing.
- Protect your skin from the sun.
- Lesions on the hands and feet
Hand-foot syndrome can occur during conventional chemotherapy but also during targeted therapies.
It can appear as more or less intense redness (chemotherapy) or as a thickening of the skin (targeted therapy).
It is localized on both palms of the hands and both soles of the feet. It causes pain that can be very trying in daily life.
Other lesions are also likely to appear after several weeks of treatment: fissures, chapped skin or cracks that are also painful and distressing. They affect mostly finger flesh, the regions around the nails, interphalangeal joints and the heels.
- Some tips
- Avoid extended walks and sport.
- Wear wide shoes.
- Wear comfortable gloves when doing manual activities.
- Do not hesitate to apply an occlusive dressing.
- Your doctor can prescribe compounded preparations with a base of emollient, moisturizing and repairing active ingredients.
- Consultation with a podiatrist may be advisable.
- Numerous treatments increase sensitivity to the sun. This means that the risk of sunburn, and even severe burning, is increased even for relatively moderate exposure.
These “super sunburns” are difficult in themselves, and can leave lasting traces in the form of hyperpigmentation.
In a more general manner, simple exposure to light increases the risk of residual pigmentation.
- Some tips
- Use sunscreens with a high SPF (50+).
- Favor hypoallergenic, fragrance-free sunscreens that are resistant to water and perspiration.
- Apply to all exposed parts of the body, including the neck and back of the hands.
- Repeat application every 2 hours, remember to slip a tube in your bag.
- And of course, protect yourself from the sun on all occasions, when it is overcast, in winter and even through windows.
- In spite of all the progress made in the field of radiotherapy, the rays can provoke skin lesions.
When radiotherapy is associated with certain chemotherapies, the appearance of radiodermatitis is more common.
There are several stages, or grades, of radiodermatitis: from simple redness to irritation with ulcerations.
Irradiated skin remains more fragile and more sensitive to trauma and infections for months or years after the end of the radiotherapy.
Prolonged surveillance is necessary after the end of the radiotherapy in order to detect any complications, such as chronic radiodermatitis.
- Some tips
- Wear loose-fitting and comfortable clothing.
- Adapt your daily personal hygiene to the irradiated area.
- In severe cases, local treatment of burns and prevention of superinfection is required.
- Be sure to apply the emollients at an appropriate distance in time from treatment sessions.
Hygiene : face and body
Thermal Water - soothing gesture
Moisturisation : face and body
Other specific cares