Skincare through serious illness


Elemis Sensitive Cleansing Wash Duo - 221831For my whole career I have had many clients fight skincare problems through illness and recently I had a client ask what she could buy her friend who was about to enter an aggressive chemo course which I thought was a lovely thing for a friend to do, so I thought I would share my answer with all of you.

Firstly, it is only fair to say that your doctor and nurses can help you and you must follow their advice, however, when you are looking at your favourite beauty products and realising that your skin is getting often progressively drier, more sensitive and reactive during the treatment, you need to find a gentler answer for your beauty regime and this would be my advice.

Don’t despair, put a top on your favourite products and store them in a cool, dark cupboard – you may be able to use some of them in between your courses of treatment or after. Depending on the brand, they are safe for between 6-12 months once opened so put a sticky note on the bottom with the date you opened them and the date they will expire.

If your skin can’t tolerate them before they expire then share them out with your family and friends who are supporting you. Be prepared for your skin to act in a more ‘poorly manner’ which is sensitive, drier, slower to heal, slower cell turnover therefore duller and, just like your tummy, not wanting too many ingredients or complicated routines!

The key in managing your skin, scalp and hair is to single out 3 – 4 key products that are multifunctional so avoid harsh and complicated ingredient listing which may be too stimulating. For shampoo, conditioner and shower gel, try Liz Earle, Intelligent Nutrients, Elemis sensitive skin wash (pictured above, this is for face and body so that’s great) or Elemis milk bath. However, if you become over sensitive then check out the A’kin range, which is coming back to QVC.

If your skin is flaky or itchy and also not repairing itself then try the Australian Body Care Skinwash, plus the body lotion, hand cream and face cream (the men or boys also love this one) which may work because of the antiseptic properties of the tea tree.

When you are flaky and sensitive, apply oil to your skin on the face, body and scalp before showering to soften and loosen dry skin as you will probably not be able to tolerate scrubs or peels. As well as applying them after as a moisturiser and when your skin is extremely dry, use oil as an undercoat to a cream such as the Elemis Japanese Camellia oil for body and scalp and A’Kin rosehip oil for face.

If your skin is incredibly uncomfortably dry, use the ABC Skin Fold Cream or you could try the Selixir Peace Balm (coming soon to QVC) for extreme dryness and it can also be used on the face.

SBC Aloe Vera Gel - 211636SBC Aloe Vera and Propolis gel may also provide calming and cooling relief. Use Aloe Vera when the skin is itchy and Propolis when it’s not repairing itself well.

Existing products that you may already own that you may be able to keep using if your side effects are not too extreme would be your Liz Earle Superskin range and L’Occitane Shea butter range – especially the hand and foot creams as these areas get excessively dry.

I hope this information is helpful and remember, as the treatment progresses your skin may get dryer and more sensitive and it is important to moisturise all over as often as you can. You can even get your friends and family to apply your products in the hard-to-reach places, or if you are feeling tired.

Sunbathing, as I am sure you know, is out until your doctor says, so the Ultrasun SPF 50 is essential along with keeping the face and body covered with loose, natural fibre, dry clothing and a fabulous sun hat!

It is also even more important to patch test any new products as your skin may violently react to some ingredients. I would even test shower or shampoo products on a small part of your body and rinse thoroughly and don’t use again for 24 hours before venturing in the bath or shower with them!

Gale Hayman Lip Lift Duo with Collagen and Vitamin E - 212360Don’t forget, for glamour your bareMinerals original foundation, and indeed the make-up range, is our gentlest, and a bit of lippy always brightens you up!!!

Lips get incredibly dry during chemo too, so the ones I would recomend you try would be the Gale Hayman lip lift or Ultrasun lip balm!

I hope this provides you with some skin comfort and management through your own, or any of your friends or family’s, treatments.

Ali x



Visit the beauty department


  1. Kate Lowe July 11, 2013 at 9:40 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison
    I am 39 and have today had my final chemotherapy session for breast cancer. I am due to have surgery in the next couple of months.
    My skin especially around my eyes has really aged during the treatment. I have sensitive skin and use Liz Earle cleanse and polish which I love but I would really like a new beauty regime to help to get my skin looking good again. I wear contact lenses and my eyes can be quite sensitive so am unsure which eye cream to use. My eye lids and under the eye area have become dry and crepey. I usually use bare minerals liquid concealer but have found that it is now accentuating the fine lines.
    I would be grateful for some advice.
    Many thanks
    Kate Lowe

  2. Brenda Bremner April 25, 2014 at 5:50 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison, I am recovering and had the all clear from breast cancer Hormone receptive, I now am on cancer drugs for 5yrs.
    I am post mastectomy and revision surgery. I use Revitalash brow and eyelash conditioner, Clarins skin care including the blue orchid oil which I love. Also Mally cosmetics, not 100% with Mally. But keep trying. My skin is dry and I look tired can you steer me onto what products I can use? no hormones!
    I need some help. Ive also had two wonderful facial treatments with clarins.

  3. Jill Wheeler October 18, 2014 at 8:50 am -  Reply

    Hi Alison. I saw the philosophy launch last night,and your plea for ginger wine concentrate. I have sent 2 bottles to Chiswick for you! It’s made by Riddles. Enjoy!! Jill Wheeler.

  4. Janice King October 23, 2014 at 8:47 pm -  Reply

    I am in 3 year remission from head and neck cancer …my treatment was brutal and my skin was left in awful condition ,lots of lines around the mouth area and neck area ..I have always looked after my skin ,but after treatment was feeling s ill and thinking it was a waste f time I threw out everything including skincare and makeup …this year has been the year I have been trying to get some of my normal self back ..have been using elemis skin care treatments and I am so happy …the tired look as now gone from my face and the lines and now lots better especially on my neck area x

  5. Julie Pritchard October 23, 2014 at 9:02 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison,
    What a lovely page, thank you for your thoughtfulness.
    I thought I would share this with you.
    Last year I had a few basel cell spots on my face and had to use a topical chemo cream called ‘efudix’ for 6 weeks. It was like an acid bath! I looked like I had been in a fire and my skin was so very very painful. (Google efudix pictures)
    Anyway to cut a long story short, I found Liz Earles cleanse and polish (although not too much polishing) was really gentle on my face and then during the healing stage when the skin was actually shedding and really itchy her superskin concentrate was the most soothing and wonderfully helpful product to use several times a day.
    Hope this helps others facing any sort of harsh treatment.
    Kind Regards
    Julie x

  6. Maureen Taphouse October 24, 2014 at 9:24 am -  Reply

    May I say what an excellent article. Although it is 6 years since my breast cancer diagnose and all treatments have been completed I would love to have been able to have such advice on looking after my skin. I hope this article gets pinned somewhere as it is just the kind of help you need when you are feeling poorly.

  7. Michelle Foster October 24, 2014 at 4:12 pm -  Reply

    Your a wonder Alison !! Great blog xx

  8. lynn austrums November 6, 2014 at 11:16 am -  Reply

    Hi Alison,
    Love watching your shows for new products and great tips.
    You mentioned a Tom Ford lipstick you were wearing the other day.
    What shade was it?
    Thanks, X X.

  9. Julie Morris November 6, 2014 at 11:18 am -  Reply

    I have just come across your blog as I’m recovering from breast surgery. I am due to start chemo/radiotherapy shortly and this has helped me become proactive with my skin care rather that reactive so thank you.

  10. kim Hogg November 6, 2014 at 12:59 pm -  Reply

    How can I ever thank you, from day one of qvc I have been a dialysis patient who has had three transplants, your help and advice over the year’s has helped me tremendously with astonishing results, everyone has said iv good skin and look so well, the best result was after no eyebrows for years, WOW , absolutely fabulous, thank you, thank you, thank you

  11. anita November 6, 2014 at 2:07 pm -  Reply

    i also have a long term serious illness and the drugs i am on take a toll on my skin. Decloer oils and balms and prolagene gel are my favorites and the smell makes you feel better as well.

  12. Rose Eagles December 4, 2014 at 8:09 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison, I would like to buy a lovely body product for my sister who has had a mastectomy today.She has quite sensitive skin, but has used the almond range from loccitane which seemed fine for her. Please can you recommend some products. I know she won’t be able to apply any products just yet. Thanks Rose x

  13. Sharon Cooper December 28, 2014 at 10:55 am -  Reply

    Hi, Alison I am looking for a bit of skin are help for my mum, she is 65 years old and her face is very dry, could you suggest what her first brand would be to use?

    Thanks Sharon

  14. Karen payne January 9, 2015 at 3:24 pm -  Reply

    I have been a great fan of decleor and elemis products for years now but over the last year I have had a lot of illnesses and a hysterectomy as well as lots of other surgery and I have just had major surgery again and am feeling totally washed out and my face keeps breaking out in spots around chin and mouth and skin feels and looks tired and washed out .please can you help and suggest any products that will help

  15. Jill DowdingWalker January 30, 2015 at 10:57 pm -  Reply

    Thank you, Alison! I am highly delighted that A’kin will be back on QVC soon – I hope lots of their beautiful, gentle products will be available.

    I love the Ultrasun, but may I also recommend the Alpha-H cream with factor 50 as an alternative? It is superb, especially if my skin is feeling topsy-turvy and upset!

    I am one of those with a long-term medical condition, lots of medication and skin which requires special care. I find the gentlest approach the most rewarding. Your advice is very much appreciated, thank you!

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