How To Fake Dewy Skin During Chemo

Erin Hazelton is a freelance writer and women’s health advocate. Formerly a fashion and beauty writer, Erin’s career changed paths after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. Since then, her main objective has been educating women about the nuances of breast cancer and encouraging resilience in the face of adversity.

You are a few rounds into chemo and you feel your skin is looking a little “ashen.” Your hair is shedding, or maybe you’ve been freezing your skull during each infusion and have managed to prevent hair loss, but your face... your face is now mirroring how you are beginning to feel after a few infusions: lifeless and dull.

Fear not. Just like you, your skin will rebound. But in the meantime, here are a few easy things you can do to help combat your chemo-drabbed skin: 

1. Moisturize

The thicker and heavier the moisturizer, the better. Slather on straight up shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, or find a dense balm like Rose Glow Face Balm from The Sexiest Beauty. Choose whatever you feel works best for you, put on it, watch as your skin soaks it in faster than you can imagine. Reapply as many times per day as you need.

2. Fake it.

So, you still have to go to work? You still have to see friends and want to look a bit… healthier? One trick I found helpful was, after putting on a tinted sunscreen (I’m a fan of Supergoop! Bright-Eyed Mineral Eye Cream SPF 40… and put all over my face, not just in my eye area), or a hydrating foundation if that works better for you, I put a little slick of shea butter, or balm, or face oil, or even lip balm, into the parts of my face where I noticed the most new lines/changes in skin texture. For me, this was in the hollows of my cheeks, where my smile makes wrinkle-dimples. I started there, dabbing an extra layer of moisture over my sunscreen, to create a little gleam. I continued dabbing right up to the tops of my cheekbones, which also gave a little added moisture to my “crow’s feet” (which I prefer to call “smile lines”). Not only did my skin get an extra hit of moisture, the shine from whatever product I used reflected the light, making me look more… alive

I also kept a miniature bottle of skin oil in my handbag to have on hand to reapply after my skin had sucked up the first round. If I didn’t have an oil or a thick skin cream, I dabbed a little lip balm in instead. This is a trick I still use today, adding a youthful dose of dew every time I do my makeup… or need a little “refresh” on the go. 

3. Highlighter.

In the same vein, I used a fair amount of non-powder-based highlighter during chemo, applying a coconut oil-based highlighter from RMS Beauty to the inside corners of my eyes, in a line down the center of my nose, just above each of of my eyebrows, and on the cupid’s bow of my lips. I also put a bit on the tops of my cheekbones before pressing in the added dose of shea butter, facial oil, or emergency lip balm. 

An ultra sheer cream highlighter adds a dewy gleam to your face, glinting super-subtly in the light, drawing attention away from your skin’s dry state. 

*Note: Try to stay away from powder highlighters as they tend to collect in fine lines and wrinkles, drawing more attention to them, rather than refracting light away from them.

4. Hydrate.

Drinking water is something you are likely to be doing already to rid your system of the chemotherapy drugs—I used to force myself to drink four liters a day while undergoing chemotherapy. Not only does it flush your body, it also helps improve the look of your skin. When you are dehydrated, your skin is dehydrated. Just one more reason to drink up!  

You can also add a little spritz of moisture on top of your make-up or moisturizer throughout the day. We love Lumion’s Miracle Mist (it actually calms your skin too) and Rose Glow Rosewater Hydrating Spray, which is very hydrating. You can also use these mists after you cleanse, before you apply your serums and moisturizer to help soften dry skin to help it absorb your products more readily.   

How long before your skin rebounds after chemo? Faster than you think. After a few weeks you’ll notice an improvement. After a few months, your skin will have had time to turn over several times, uncovering the new skin you’ve been waiting to see.

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Fear not. Just like you, your skin will rebound.

- Erin Hazelton

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