Follow Us Here:

Cancer Knowledge Network

Cancer Knowledge Network and Current Oncology are proudly published by Multimed Inc.
Advocate - Educate - Innovate

Save Your Skin Series: Radiation Dermatitis – Erythema

skin-careWelcome to the Save Your Skin Series, by Morag Currin.  In the coming weeks, Morag will expertly walk us through the issues that we may encounter with our skin as a result of cancer treatment. Please feel free to email your questions or comments.


Part One:  Save Your Skin Series


Today’s topic is:  Radiation Dermatitis – Erythema.   Morag is joined by special guest Jeanna Doyle.

External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) can cause acute radiation dermatitis which is an early skin reaction that occurs in about 80% of people after two weeks of starting radiation therapy.  This skin reaction can reach it’s peak four to six weeks later.  Radiation dermatitis can also last for two to six weeks post radiation therapy.  This condition can affect a large number of people that are undergoing treatment for breast, head and neck cancers.

Erythema is indicated by a faint reddening of the skin in the localised area where radiation therapy is applied.  As treatments continue, the skin can sometimes get worse and can include painful, weeping or bleeding skin that can cause a lot of discomfort and even disfigurement.  If this is left untreated, this skin rash can compromise a person’s quality of life and, in severe cases, interrupt vital cancer therapy.



Most people can tolerate touch to the treated area for first few weeks of radiation therapy treatment, and then touch may need to be discontinued.  Touch may be resumed 2-3 weeks after the completion of radiation therapy.

The radiated area can be gently washed with a lotion or gel cleanser and dried with a soft, clean towel before RT treatment.  Anti-inflammatory, cooling topical products can help soothe and calm the skin in this area, however, if erythema is accompanied by itching, swelling and pain then hydrocortisone creams may be used to try to prevent and reduce the symptoms of inflammation.

It is strongly advised to keep radiated skin away from UV exposure (sun) by covering up with clothing and/or sun block.  Topical skin care products with fragrance, toxic, and irritating ingredients are to be avoided and scratching in this area is also to be avoided.


From Jeanna:

Once an oncologist approves the use of corrective makeup for someone undergoing treatment for cancer, makeup application may be made to intact skin that has no weeping or open sores. Application should be done as a thin, sheer layer of makeup on unaffected areas.


For areas exhibiting redness or other issues, apply makeup by lightly tapping makeup onto the skin in an up and down motion. Avoid dragging product onto the skin, as doing so could worsen problem areas.


To neutralize redness, apply powder with a yellow tint to affected areas. Using a green base is not advised, as it will mask the skin and require more maintenance. Yellow tones neutralize the redness without creating a flat look.


Keep coverage light and avoid harsh cleansers. When possible, allow the skin ample time to heal by foregoing makeup coverage altogether.


DISCLAIMER: It is important that a person be referred to a dermatologist who specializes in dermatological issues resulting from cancer treatment.




MoragCurrinMórag Currin is a highly sought-after esthetic instructor with more than 19 years of spa industry experience and more than 10 years of training and training management experience. 

She pioneered the Oncology Esthetics® advanced training for spa professionals and has set the standard in Canada, US, Australia and New Zealand.  She is also the author of Oncology Esthetics: A Practitioner’s Guide (Allured Books 2009) and Health Challenged Skin: The Estheticians’ Desk Reference (Allured Books 2012).

Her students learn to incorporate adjustments to spa treatments specifically for people undergoing cancer therapies, and other health issues.

She continues to travel the globe with her training and expertise, helping to raise the bar in the spa industry and to open the door to all people regardless of skin type or health issues.

A contributor to many consumer and business magazines, her work has appeared in numerous national and international publications. Currin currently serves on the advisory committee of the Skin Inc Magazine Board, and the International Society of Oncology Estheticians.

Going beyond the world of esthetics, Mórag continues to reach out to those suffering from a variety of health challenges through Equine Facilitated Wellness (EFW).



JEANNA DOYLE, LC MAP OE CM Jeanna has an impressive dual career in medical settings and in fashion and advertising. She has worked extensively with plastic and reconstructive surgeons as well as with dermatologists and oncologists. She also possesses a strong background in print, television and film. Jeanna is the founder of Suite HOPE (Helping Oncology Patients Esthetically), a nonprofit organization which provides education and support to female cancer patients who have esthetic concerns resulting from cancer treatment. Jeanna developed The HOPE Method, a training curriculum for oncology estheticians across the globe to become certified in corrective makeup for cancer patients. The HOPE method is the first corrective makeup course approved by the International Society of Oncology Estheticians. For more information about Suite HOPE and The HOPE Method, visit and For more information about Jeanna, please visit her website at



This entry was posted in all, Living with Cancer, Living with Cancer, Young Adults and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Save Your Skin Series: Radiation Dermatitis – Erythema

  1. thank you very much for the information, very useful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.