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Part I: Cancer and Skin Changes—Dehydration

By: Patricia Ringos Beach and Katie Morgan-Lousky
Posted: February 28, 2012, from the March 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
This mural, featuring tiles created by Ahava Spa and Wellness Center's "special guests," hangs in the facility's reception area.

This mural, featuring tiles created by Ahava Spa and Wellness Center's "special guests," hangs in the facility's reception area.

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Based on the information learned through your initial assessment and analysis, it is important to prepare the treatment room with gentle touches. These include taking special care that the linens, scents and music are peaceful. Aromatherapy, using sweet orange or grapefruit to decrease nausea and lift the client’s mood, is often used. Try placing one drop of sweet orange or grapefruit essential oil in enough water for about 10 towels to absorb to create warm towels for the face. Also, aromatherapy can be incorporated by placing 1/2 drop across the headrest of the treatment bed, allowing clients to smell the scent, but avoiding applying it directly on their skin. In both recommendations, the scents should be very diluted, and sweet orange and grapefruit are ideal because they are light and decrease nausea. It is important that the client avoid direct contact with overwhelming scents. See Aromatherapy Tips for Clients With Cancer for more about using aromatherapy with cancer patients.

Because the skin is the largest organ in the body, it has an almost-endless absorption capability. To capitalize on this, Ahava uses an organic product line with vitamins and antioxidants to supplement the skin’s nutrition. The enzymes and exfoliants used are mild. Massage helps to stimulate blood flow and remove toxins. Remember, the type of massage used on clients with cancer should be light to moderate relaxation massage; no deep tissue and no stones should be used. All of the massage therapists working at Ahava are cancer-certified, and it is very important that all skin care professionals who come in contact with cancer clientele have been trained to work with this fragile client type. Straight antioxidants, such as teas, are incorporated in order to help revitalize the skin.

3. Treatment. Following was Sue’s facial treatment recommendation, using the organic product line with vitamins and antioxidants as mentioned previously.

  • Cleanse with steam to loosen dry, dead skin.
  • Exfoliate using a mild enzyme.
  • Remove exfoliant with alternating warm towels and teas to help return strength and elasticity to the skin.
  • Massage to stimulate blood flow to help the healing process. Again, massage should be light to moderate relaxation massage. Take care with painful areas. For example, if the client has a port in the chest area, avoid it because it is often tender.
  • For ultra-hydration, apply a thin layer of vitamin C serum before applying infused paraffin.
  • After the removal of the paraffin, apply finishing serums and moisturizers to support skin renewal.

4. Evaluation. Sue’s results far exceeded expectations. That grayish cast was replaced with a glow of nourished skin that helped remind her of what life could be again. At the completion of Sue’s treatment, the mind-body-spirit connection was clearly evident and restored. Not only were there visible changes on her skin, but she was also reminded of her own importance. She was encouraged to be gentle with herself, and let her mind and spirit work with her body to heal. See Touch and the Client With Cancer for more information about using the proper touch with these clients.

Tender love and care

Dehydration is a significant problem for those being treated for cancer and for many after cancer treatment concludes. Medical treatments can be hard on the skin, and moisture is lost because of their side effects. Skin care services must include a recommendation to gently replenish the lost fluids.

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