Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Caring For Your Nails Before, During and After Chemotherapy

I have just realised that, despite the main aim of my blog being to help others who are going through chemotherapy, I haven't put my nail care advice guide, that I wrote just before I started my blog, on the site.  Silly me!!!!!  So, here it is, and I hope it can help keep someone going through chemotherapy from experiencing what I went through with my nails.  Firstly, I'd like to show you the damage done to my nails by the chemotherapy.

Caring For Your Nails Before, During and After Chemotherapy

Before I started chemotherapy for breast cancer, I was told by my oncologist, and the breast-care nurse, to paint my nails with dark nail polish to protect my nails from the sun's UV rays, and to hide any damage that might occur.  Despite using nail polish, my nails were still horribly damaged - they went a horrible brown colour, started to flake and peel, and even started to come away from the nail bed.  I went searching for information to help me repair my nails, and also ways to care for them once they were looking good again.  No one told me any of this information before I started chemotherapy, but if they had, I possibly may not have had any of the problems with my nails that I did.

So, I decided I wanted to try to help prevent all the beautiful women (and men) going through chemotherapy from going through the same experience I did.  Here are some things I WAS NOT TOLD that you really need to know BEFORE you start chemotherapy.

1.  Prevention is better than a cure, of course, so be prepared and start early. As soon as you know that you are going to have chemotherapy, start using the nail and hand routine below, and do it every day without fail.  Hopefully, this may stop you from getting the severe damage I did.  I can't promise it will prevent all the damage, but it should help a lot, and should definitely help to keep your nails from drying out.

2.  Buy yourself the best CUTICLE OIL/NOURISHING SERUM you can afford.  Revitanail and Sally Hansen make some really great ones that nourish, strengthen and protect your nails, but there are other brands out there too.  They are readily available from pharmacies, department stores, beauty shops, Priceline stores and, of course, online.
     I have recently discovered that PURE JOJOBA OIL is the best thing you can use on your hands and nails, so I am using that now, too.  It is available at health food shops, Priceline and Chemist Warehouse, but it is a lot less expensive online, and there are many companies that sell it.  Check out eBay, or just Google it and you will be amazed by the other uses it has, too.  It's also odourless.  AMAZING STUFF!!!  

    I would suggest you use both the cuticle oil and Jojoba Oil to give you even more protection from damage.  Massage one of them into you nails and cuticles every time you wash your hands if you can, but at least twice a day, morning and night.

3.  ALWAYS use a GOOD QUALITY BASE COAT on your nails before applying your nail polish, because today's nail polishes are made to adhere to the base coat, not your nails.  It will help stop your nails from being stained by the nail polishes you use, too.  You can also get strengthening and nourishing base coats - even more protection and nourishment for your nails.  Availability is the same as for the cuticle oils. 

4.  Apply as many coats of nail polish as you need to get the coverage on your nail you want, waiting for each coat to dry before applying the next coat.  Usually two coats are enough, but some polishes require three.  Apply thin coats, because the thicker the coat the longer it will take to dry.  They are available from the same places as mentioned above.

5.  If you want your nail polish to last more than just a few days, you should use a good quality TOP COAT to stop it from chipping and getting damaged.  There are some great top coats available, from the companies I have already mentioned, and of course from the same places.  Reapply your top coat every other day to make your polish last longer.

6.  Finish off by applying a good quality HAND AND NAIL CREAM.  Massage a generous amount into your hands and nails at least twice a day, but more often if you are washing your hands a lot, because washing dries out both your hands and nails.

7.  Always try to use gloves when you are washing the dishes, gardening or cleaning around the house, because they, too, will help to prevent your nails from getting damaged.

8.  Always use an ACETONE-FREE POLISH REMOVER, because acetone dries your nails out, and is very harsh on your cuticles.  There are some great conditioning ones for different skin types. They are available from the same places as the other nail care products.

9.  Every time you remove your nail polish, massage your cuticle oil/nourishing serum into your nails and cuticles several times, over a couple of hours, before applying your next nail polish.  This gives the oil/serum a better chance of getting right into your nails and cuticles, and will really make a difference to how strong and healthy they are.

10. Don't use a metal nail file or emery board on your nails, because they will only cause even more damage.  Buy a good quality Czech crystal/glass nail file , which is a lot finer and so much kinder to your nails.  Manicare sell a great one which I use.  Don't be tempted to buy a cheap Chinese one, because the quality is inferior and could cause damage.

11. There are ECO-FRIENDLY VERSIONS available for all the products mentioned above if you are concerned about the environment or have allergies.  These are usually advertised as being 3-free or 5-free, which means they don't contain the nasty chemicals most of the other polishes do.  Just Google for more information and where to purchase them.

12. Lastly, one of the most important reasons for putting nail polish on your nails is that it not only helps to protect your nails, but THEY WILL LOOK GREAT, too, and that will make you feel better about yourself, and that has to be a good thing.  When you see the range of nail polish and nail art products available, even scented ones, you will be amazed at how attractive you can make them, it will really lift your spirits, and may even help to take your mind off what you are going through, which is what happened with me.

If this information helps to keep just one person from getting the damage chemotherapy did to my nails I will be happy.  Seeing my nails the way they were was so depressing, and that was the last thing I needed, and the last thing YOU will need while you are going through your chemotherapy treatment, and afterwards, during your recovery period.  If you already have damage, it's never too late to start looking after them.  It really is worth the effort.

Here's a photo taken on 25th February 2015, less than five months after the last photo was taken, showing the improvement which following the above regime has made to my nails and cuticles.  There is still some damage, for example the lifting from the nail bed, but I'm hoping that will improve with time, God willing.  Most of this improvement has come since starting to use the pure Jojoba Oil mentioned earlier.  Please do give this amazing essential oil a try.  It's an absolute miracle worker, and makes your hands and nails feel great, too.

I would like to wish you all the best for your journey through your cancer treatment, and hope that you reach the other end with a good outcome.  Look good and you'll feel better!

© Christine Chipman 2014


  1. They look lots better. My nail walls pull away from my nail too. It could be any one of my illnesses though lol so I just try to deal with it as it comes :)

    1. Thanks, Alinta. I'm sorry you have this problem, too. It really hurts when my nails break so far down my nail, and having to patch them takes so long. I have been using the tea-bag method with nail glue, but I saw a hack online last night that said not to use glue where it can come in contact with your tender skin under the nail. The advice was to using some micropore tape from the pharmacy, and just press that onto the nail for a few seconds and then add your base coat and polish, etc. I'm going to give this a try next time I do my nails and see how it goes. The tape is really cheap, too, so that's an added bonus. Hope you are feeling OK.

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