Caring for Your Skin During Radiation

How To Spot Changes to the Skin

Radiation treatment can affect your skin at the treated area. Learning how to identify skin changes and knowing what to do about them can help keep your skin healthy.

You may notice changes to the skin a few weeks after treatment starts. These issues may last throughout treatment or even after treatment ends.

Common skin changes include:

  • Dryness
  • Flaking
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Tanning

You may also see changes in areas where the skin folds—such as below the buttocks, behind the ears or under the breasts. The skin may become:

  • Infected
  • Sore
  • Wet

How To Care for Your Skin

Take the following steps to help protect your skin and make you feel more comfortable during treatment.

  • Be gentle with your skin in the treatment area. Don’t rub, scrub or scratch it.
  • Use mild cleansers or moisturizers on the treatment area.
    • Make sure the label says pH neutral.
    • Talk to your health care team about your products and ask for recommendations.
  • Avoid products that can bother your skin, such as anything with alcohol, fragrance or other harsh ingredients.
  • Feel free to use deodorant or antiperspirant, unless told otherwise.
  • Be gentle while bathing.
    • Use lukewarm—not hot—water.
    • Use a mild, fragrance-free soap. Ask your health care team for recommendations.
    • Use a soft towel to pat dry—not rub—your skin.
  • Ask your health care team if you can swim during treatment.
  • Ask your health care team about shaving.
    • Use an electric razor only.
    • Don’t use before-shave or after-shave lotion.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.
    • Opt for loose fitting, cotton clothing.
    • Avoid clothing that rubs on the treated area
    • Avoid underwire bras when undergoing breast treatment.
  • Avoid extreme hot and cold.
    • Don’t use hot water, hot water bottles, hot compresses (such as hot washcloths), heating pads, or hot or cold packs.
    • Avoid hot tubs, saunas, steam baths and heat lamps.
  • Protect your skin from the sun and wind.
    • Wear a wide-brim hat and clothing with SPF when outside.
    • Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher
    • Talk to your health care team about sunscreen.
  • Report skin changes to your health care team.

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.