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Cancer treatment can cause multiple skin changes. Dryness, redness, and itching are among the most common complaints. Some over-the-counter lotions and creams may help prevent or relieve these side effects.

This article discusses how chemotherapy can affect the skin and how to choose skin lotions. It also explores skin lotions in further detail, skin care tips for people undergoing chemotherapy, and frequently asked questions.

A quick look at the 8 best lotions for chemo skin:

To discover more evidence-based information and resources for cancer, visit our dedicated hub.

Dry skin can develop when the layers of skin lack oil and water. This can occur when people are dehydrated or their skin is exposed to heat or cold.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), skin dryness can also be a side effect of cancer treatments, such as:

  • Chemotherapy: People who undergo chemotherapy may have dry, itchy, red, or darker skin that may peel more easily. They may also have a higher chance of developing sunburn, and their cancer treatment may cause a minor rash.
  • Radiation therapy: Dryness and itchiness can develop when doctors treat the skin with radiation therapy. Radiation may also cause wet, painful sores and skin that looks sunburned.
  • Immunotherapy: The rash that appears after immunotherapy can be severe, causing dryness and blistering.
  • Stem cell transplants: These can cause graft-versus-host disease, a condition in which the donor’s stem cells attack the healthy cells present in the recipient’s body. As a result, this can thicken the skin and lead to rash and blisters.

According to an older study, other common skin conditions that appear during chemotherapy include:

People undergoing chemotherapy may also develop thickened, dry, scaly skin with painful cracks on the hands and feet.

It is important to note that side effects depend on the type of chemotherapy. A person should speak to their doctor about what to expect with the chemotherapy they are receiving.

Learn more about the skin changes that develop after chemotherapy here.

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Price: MNT chooses products available for a wide range of budgets.
  • Ingredients: MNT chooses products that clearly list all ingredients.
  • Skin concerns: Where appropriate, MNT selects products that target a specific skin concern, such as dryness, oiliness, or aging.
  • Safety: MNT chooses products that contain ingredients safe for topical use.
  • Reputable: MNT selects products from businesses that adhere to industry best practices.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Best overall lotion: Recovery Skin Relief Radiation Ultimate Soothing Cream

Key features:

  • Price: $14.95 for 3.4 ounces (oz.)
  • Skin type: Sensitive skin
  • Main ingredients:
    • Purified water
    • mineral oil
    • glycerin
    • lanolin
    • salicylic acid
  • Fragrance-free? Yes
  • Vegan? No

This product may rehydrate dry, cracked, or itchy skin due to radiation or chemotherapy. The company claims this cream produces immediate results.

Ingredients include:

This formulation is free from the following:

  • steroids
  • parabens
  • dyes and colorants
  • fragrance

The company recommends that people apply the product before bed or whenever their skin feels irritated.

Who it’s best for

This product is specially formulated to meet the unique skin care needs of people undergoing radiation or chemotherapy.

Pros/cons

  • Pro: The product contains pharmaceutical-grade moisturizers, which absorb into the deeper layers of the skin.
  • Con: The product is not available in a larger size, which would be helpful for those with larger areas of skin irritation.

Best for wet skin: Lindi Skin Body Lotion

Key features:

  • Price: around $29.50 on Amazon for an 8 oz bottle
  • Skin type: Sensitive skin
  • Main ingredients:
  • Fragrance-free? No
  • Vegan? Not tested on animals

This body lotion is suitable for people with dry and sensitive skin.

It may help to alleviate skin dryness and flakiness associated with radiation or chemotherapy. People can also use this product to help reduce facial rash and itching.

The company states that people can apply this lotion daily, preferably to wet skin. Applying moisturizer while the skin is still wet may help the skin retain moisture, which can be very helpful for people undergoing chemotherapy.

Who it’s best for

This lotion is specifically designed to help people with dry, flaky, itchy skin due to chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The product is dermatologically tested and free from common allergens, making it a good choice for people with sensitive skin.

Pros/cons

Pros:

  • contains a blend of antioxidants and moisturizing ingredients to help nourish and protect the skin
  • dermatologically tested and free from irritants, such as parabens and phthalates

Cons:

  • contains some forms of alcohol, which some people may want to avoid
  • contains a small amount of fragrance, which some users did not like

Best for hands and feet: Bag Balm Moisturizing Hand Lotion

Key features:

  • Price: $7.99 for a 3 oz. tube
  • Skin type: Severely dry, chafed skin
  • Main ingredients:
  • Fragrance-free? Yes
  • Vegan? No

Bag Balm’s moisturizing hand lotion contains shea butter, jojoba, and cocoa seed butter. Customers report it is effective on their hands, feet, and elbows.

The product is free from the following potential skin irritants:

  • parabens
  • sulfates
  • phthalates
  • fragrances

Who it’s best for

This product targets people with extremely dry, chapped, calloused skin. It is popular among outdoor enthusiasts, gardeners, and runners, and could be helpful for people undergoing chemotherapy.

Pros/cons

Pros:

  • absorbs easily into the skin
  • free from common skin irritants, such as parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and added fragrances
  • comes in a tube, making it convenient for people who are on the go

Cons:

  • contains a natural fragrance that some users find unpleasant
  • has a consistency that some users consider ‘greasy’

Best hypoallergenic: Oncoderm Chemotherapy Cream

Key features:

  • Price: around $38.50 on Amazon for a 5 oz bottle
  • Skin type: Sensitive
  • Main ingredients:
  • Fragrance-free? Yes
  • Vegan? No

A team of oncologists and dermatologists helped to design Oncoderm’s Chemotherapy Cream for people undergoing radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatment.

The formulation can provide hydration to severely cracked and dry skin. It is also hypoallergenic, meaning it is free from potential skin irritants, including:

  • petrolatum
  • phthalates
  • fragrance

Who it’s best for

This product is best for people experiencing dry, cracked skin on their hands and feet due to cancer treatment.

Pros/cons

Pros:

  • hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic formula
  • free from parabens, fragrances, and dyes
  • formulated explicitly for people living with cancer

Con: More expensive than other lotions for people undergoing chemotherapy.

Best budget lotion: Gold Bond Restoring Skin Therapy Lotion

Key features:

  • Price: $9.99 on Amazon for 13 oz. bottle
    Skin type: Sensitive, dry skin
  • Main ingredients:
  • Fragrance-free? No
  • Vegan? Not tested on animals

At $9.99 for 13 oz. bottle, this product costs less than other lotions for people undergoing chemotherapy.

Gold Bond’s skin therapy lotion contains aloe vera to help soothe and hydrate the skin, along with vitamins A, C, and E to help prevent moisture loss and slow skin aging.

The company claims that this lotion helps to moisturize the skin for up to 24 hours.

Who it’s best for

This product could be helpful for people seeking an affordable daily moisturizing lotion for chemotherapy skin.

Pros/cons

Pros:

  • contains seven moisturizers and three vitamins
  • it is lower cost than other products

Cons:

  • not fragrance-free
  • contains methylparaben, an endocrine disruptor
  • causes serious eye irritation, according to the product label

Best vegan: OncoEase Oncology Relief Cream

Key features:

This product contains essential oils of lavender, chamomile, thyme, and ginger. It also contains organic aloe vera, jojoba oil, and vitamin E to strengthen the skin and help prevent signs of aging.

OncoEase claims that this lotion offers the following eight health benefits:

  • pain relief
  • itch relief
  • anti-inflammatory action
  • skin repair
  • moisturization
  • anti-aging
  • muscle relaxation
  • nausea relief

Who it’s best for

This product is best for people undergoing chemotherapy and experiencing multiple treatment side effects that affect their skin. It is also suitable for vegans.

Pros/cons

Pros:

  • may appeal to people seeking natural skin care products
  • does not contain parabens, petroleum, silicone, synthetics dyes, or fragrances
  • suitable for vegans

Cons:

  • insufficient scientific data supporting the efficacy of some of its active ingredients
  • more expensive than some other brands

Best bulk buy: Lubriderm Advanced Therapy Lotion

Key features:

  • Price: around $15.28 on Amazon for two 16 oz. bottles
  • Skin type: Extra dry skin
  • Main ingredients:
    • Vitamins E
    • Pro-Vitamin B5
  • Fragrance-free? Yes
  • Vegan? No

Lubiderm’s Advanced Therapy Lotion is available in a pack of two 16 oz. bottles. As such, this may be an economical option for people requiring a lot of lotion.

The lotion contains vitamins E and B5 to help strengthen the skin’s moisturizing barrier. The formulation is nongreasy, and free from parabens and fragrance.

Lubriderm claims that the product absorbs into the skin within seconds and hydrates for up to 24 hours.

Who it’s best for

This pack of two lotions could be a good option for people who have developed extensive areas of dry skin due to chemotherapy.

Pros/cons

Pros:

  • reportedly moisturizes skin for 24 hours
  • an affordable option, particularly for people requiring extra lotion

Con: Several customers report receiving only one bottle of lotion instead of two.

Best for face, body, and hands: CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion

Key features:

  • Price: around $14.99 on Amazon for 12 oz.
    Skin type: Dry, oily, sensitive, and normal
  • Main ingredients:
    • hyaluronic acid
    • three essential ceramides
  • Fragrance-free? Yes
  • Vegan? No

CeraVe’s daily moisturizing lotion contains hyaluronic acid to provide hydration and retain the skin’s moisture. The product is suitable for use on the face, body, and hands.

According to CeraVe, the lotion is smooth, lightweight, and non-greasy. CeraVe also claims that the product is suitable for people with the following skin types:

  • sensitive
  • dry
  • oily

Who it’s best for

This product is best for people with areas of dry skin on the face and body.

Pros/cons

Pros:

  • contains hyaluronic acid and ceramides to help moisturize the skin
  • features MVE technology, which slowly releases ingredients into different layers of the skin for effective moisturization
  • allergy-tested and noncomedogenic
  • product has the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance

Cons:

  • reports that the product has an unusual fishy smell
  • reports of infrequent flushing episodes after using the product
  • reports that the product was not effective for some people

The following table compares the chemotherapy skin lotions in this article on key features:

PriceProduct sizeSkin typeFragrance-free?Form
Recovery Skin Relief$14.953.4 oz.SensitiveYesCream
Lindi Skin$29.508 oz.SensitiveNoLotion
Bag Balm$7.993 oz.Very dryYesLotion
Oncoderm$355 oz.SensitiveYesCream
Gold Bond$9.9913 oz.Sensitive, dryNoLotion
OncoEase$21.954 oz.NormalNoCream
Lubriderm$15.282 x 16 oz.Very dryYesLotion
CeraVe$14.9912 oz.Dry, oily, sensitive, normalYesLotion

There are some factors that a person going through chemotherapy should consider when choosing a skin lotion. These include:

  • Ingredients: According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), people should choose fragrance-free products, as those containing fragrances can irritate the skin or cause a reaction. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recommends people also avoid products containing preservatives.
  • Moisturizing effect: Lotions containing hyaluronic acid may be beneficial. In a 2014 study, products with this ingredient increased skin hydration by up to 96%. The ASCO recommends avoiding anti-acne products containing retinoids or alcohol, as they may dry out the skin.
  • Use: A person should check that the lotion works on the desired skin area. Some products are suitable for the whole body, whereas others are for specific body parts.
  • Price: Lotions come at different prices, and a person should buy one that is compatible with their budget. Some companies sell products in bundles to help customers save money.

Creams may be more suitable than lotions. A person should consider speaking to their doctor before choosing a product. The product list in the next section contains both lotions and creams.

A person should also speak with their doctor if any concerning rash or skin change occurs while on chemotherapy. Treating a skin condition early may help prevent it from getting worse.

The American Cancer Society recommends the following:

  • moisturizing the skin with alcohol-free creams twice per day
  • using mineral or baby oil
  • shaving with an electric razor
  • applying sunscreen and wearing sun-protective clothing, according to the AAD

According to the AAD, people should also try:

  • not washing the skin with hot water
  • not scrubbing the skin
  • not using aftershaves and after-bath splashes with alcohol
  • limiting time outside when temperatures are low

A person should contact their doctor if their skin is painful, red, rough, or showing signs of infection, such as tenderness or pus.

Below are some of the most common questions and answers about chemotherapy and skin.

Why is my skin so dry after chemo?

According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, cancer treatment prevents the skin from renewing itself, which can lead to dryness.

What helps dry skin from chemo?

The National Cancer Institute states that individuals receiving cancer treatment should not use products that contain alcohol or fragrance, as these can cause dryness and irritation. People may consider adding colloidal oatmeal to their baths to ease the itching.

In addition, doctors may recommend using creams or ointments for severely dry skin. People may also use moisturizers to help prevent the skin from becoming dry.

Breastcancer.org recommends using a humidifier and wearing breathable fabrics, such as cotton and silk.

Does your skin go back to normal after chemo?

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center states that skin changes related to cancer treatment generally are not permanent. The skin should return to its previous state after a person stops the treatment.

It recommends that individuals start using a moisturizer before beginning their treatment. They should also let their doctor know if they have had eczema, psoriasis, or skin cancer.

Is CeraVe good for chemo patients?

CeraVe products can be beneficial for people undergoing chemotherapy.

The company states that its skin care products provide moisture and penetrate the skin’s surface. They are fragrance-free, so they do not irritate the skin, and most of them do not clog pores or cause acne.

Chemotherapy can cause the skin to become dry, red, and itchy. Other types of cancer treatment may also cause skin problems. There are various lotions that a person can use to manage these side effects and increase the skin’s hydration.

However, these products should not contain fragrances, as they may irritate the skin. Doctors may also recommend applying sunscreen, staying indoors when it is cold, and avoiding scrubbing the skin.

A person may also wish to speak with their doctor for advice on which skin lotions to use during chemotherapy.