My top 6 Skincare Ingredients to Avoid During Cancer Treatment

Cancer treatment can not tell the the difference between your body’s healthy cells and cancer cells, so unfortunately they can target both, resulting in skincare problems. This happens because the drugs used attack fast growing cells, like cancer cells, but hair follicles and skin cells, also grow rapidly.

Cancer treatments that can cause skin problems include:

If you have experienced any skin changes you may have noticed that your usual skincare products are not working or may be making things worse. This is because some ingredients can cause side effects to sensitive skin, especially with products with hundreds of ingredients, which may not be natural. 

Stay away from these ingredients:


  • Many skincare products contain fragrance to mask less-pleasant scents that some ingredients have. Some fragrances are mixtures of both natural and chemical ingredients and if a product is heavily scented, it could contain harsh chemicals that aren’t clearly disclosed.
  • Fragrance-free usually means that no additional scents were added to the product, while unscented means that an ingredient was added to mask the smell of the product. But even if an added fragrance is natural, it can anger sensitive skin. 


  • Certain essential oils, like those in bergamot, are transformed into chemicals and enzymes when exposed to sunlight, which can induce a photo-allergic response. 
  • Photosensitivity is when the skin becomes more sensitive and more prone to burns from any type of light. 
  • Certain chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy treatments can cause photosensitivity. Other medications that can cause photosensitivity are certain antibiotics, some medications to control nausea and vomiting, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Many toners and creams have alcohol, which delivers a quick-dry finish, but might also sap your skin’s moisture levels, leading to irritation and itchy, uncomfortable skin


  • There are two types of sunscreen: mineral and chemical. Mineral (Physical) sunscreens have two active ingredients, which work by physically blocking UV rays.
  • Chemical sunscreens contain a variety of chemicals, which absorb UV light and release it as heat after a chemical reaction takes place. Chemical sunscreens have many more active ingredients than mineral versions, which makes the likelihood of irritating sensitive skin higher.


  • These ingredients can irritate the skin and cause dryness. Opt for sulphate-free formulas, especially when choosing a cleanser, and choose one that contains high amounts of moisturising ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid instead.


  • Exfoliating products remove skin build-up of dead cells and that process doesn’t happen when you’re going through a cancer treatment. So skip the scrubs, AHAs, and glycolic acid.

Discover more help with our other blogs - Skincare during Cancer Treatment