Nail care tips during Chemotherapy

Melissa Chieng

A common topic and concern amongst the breast cancer / cancer community is nail care before and during treatment, unfortunately one of the harsh side effects from chemotherapy and radiotherapy is the weakening of nails. If you are currently going through treatment you may be already experiencing problems with your fingernails and toenails.

After combing through articles, the reddit breast cancer community and other resources, we've compiled information of tried and tested tips and tricks to help protect your nails during treatment.


nail chemotherapy

image source.


Firstly it's important to identify what the damage looks like, weak, brittle nails and ragged cuticles are the most common signs during treatment. You may also notice white or dark lines running through your nails and a slight 'bowing' at the tips. These are all the general indicators that your nail health is experiencing damage from treatment, however it is very common and important not to panic!

FYI. As your nails are weak and trying to recover, AVOID nail salons- you may long for your monthly manicure, but your nail health comes first. Salon manicures could increase the risk of infection and any chemicals in the coatings may cause further damage.. PERIOD.

As your skin will become more dry and flaky, keeping your hands moisturised is important (use a gentle moisturiser with as little chemicals as possible) always moisturise all the way up to your finger tips and down to past your wrist. This will also help with your nail care. Always wear rubber gloves when doing chores to prevent bacteria from entering through cracks in the nails or under nail tips.

As prevention is key to nail health, it's important to protect your hands with gloves through wind & cold weather, but avoid itchy materials that could irritate the skin. Believe it or not, you should protect your nails from direct sunlight while your nails are weak, UV rays can easily damage the nail further.

Maintenance of the actual nail will also help to keep your nail healthy, keeping your nail tip as short as possible will prevent bacteria from getting under the tips. When the nails are shorter, they are also less likely to break and cause trauma. Always be gentle when caring for cuticles, use delicate movements. 

Thankfully these days there is innovative polishes that can protect your nails during radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments. Anti-UV silicium nail polish has been designed with properties that will keep your nails protected during these treatments. With the recommendation of a dark colour,.. preferably blackIf you can- try only to remove varnish if there's chipping, and if you are removing the varnish opt for an acetone free remover.

Finding just the time and the right regimen can be a challenge, but all self care is important to the body and mind. Remember you can talk to your oncologist for more advice, they'll be more than happy to help! 

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