Caring for Your Appearance During Cancer Treatment

Caring for your appearance can help you feel better about yourself. It’s especially important when you are ill, because it can be harder to feel good about yourself when you’re sick.

Along with routine hygiene, you might want to put extra time and energy into the way you look. Looking your best can help you feel more confident and in control.

What the patient can do

  • Keep up with your regular grooming habits, such as shaving or putting on make-up, and combing your hair, even if you must stay in bed.
  • If you’ll need a wig or toupee, see the section called “Hair loss.”
  • Pamper yourself. Paint your nails, or buy something that makes you feel good. (Check with your cancer team first, especially before getting manicures, pedicures, or waxing in salons or spas.)
  • Nails may start to separate from the nail bed during treatment. Keeping them short so that they don’t catch on things may help.
  • Nails may discolor during cancer treatment. Nail polish is usually OK, but check with your cancer team and plan to use a mild (non-acetone based) polish remover. Don’t use artificial or glue-on nails during and for a few months after treatment.
  • Use clean tools to gently cut, clean, and file nails. Push cuticles back rather than cutting them.
  • Protect hands and nails with household gloves during chores to reduce exposure to soaps and cleaning agents. Use moisturizing creams after hand washing.
  • Use an electric razor for routine shaving to prevent nicks and cuts.
  • Exercise each day, as much as you can manage comfortably. Ask about an exercise plan. (See the section called “Exercise.”)
  • Get enough rest.
  • Keep up with regular mouth care. But you should talk with your cancer team before setting up dental cleanings or other procedures during treatment.

What caregivers can do

  • When the patient is strong enough, encourage them to go on short outings they enjoy.
  • Help the patient keep a supply of their preferred toiletries, lotions, and grooming supplies on hand.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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Last Medical Review: June 8, 2015 Last Revised: June 8, 2015

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