The United States saw over 1.6 million cases of cancer in 2016, according to the American Cancer Society, with a lifetime cancer risk facing about one in every two men, and one in every three women. Because of these high rates, it’s almost inevitable that you will encounter a client with cancer. In the United States, the number of those affected by cancer grows by about 50,000 each year. Each person facing a new diagnosis, along with the disease’s 15.5 million survivors, will have unique conditions and compromised health. Because of this, clients with cancer will need your special attention when caring for their nails.
There are several traditional ways to treat cancer medically, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and integrative therapies. These methods are often effective in destroying cancer cells, but unfortunately, healthy cells are also affected negatively, including blood, skin, hair, and nail cells.
Many effects of treatment would be considered cosmetic and will affect our client’s self-image and quality of life, but some are painful and even life-threatening, like low white blood cell counts and the inability to fight infection.
Typical Manicure Protocol
Here is a step-by-step example of how you might treat a client with cancer:
Step 1: Remove nail polish with ingredient-safe polish remover, such as a soy polish remover.
Step 2: Apply lukewarm (not hot) towels to both hands and hold gently for a few minutes to soften the cuticles and allow the client to enjoy the therapeutic warmth.
Step 3: Apply warm oil, such as grapeseed, sunflower, or jojoba, and gently massage into the cuticles.
Step 4: Using a plastic cuticle pusher, gently push the cuticles back making sure not to tear or break the skin. Avoid metal cuticle pushers.
Step 5: Add more warm oil and apply gently, starting at the fingertips and then moving up to the hand and arm in a soft patting motion. Remember that clients who are at risk for lymphedema cannot have massage or sliding movements on the skin or arms where lymph nodes have been removed or radiated.
Step 6: Remove all oil from the nails with witch hazel or white vinegar on a cotton pad.
Step 7: Apply an ingredient-safe nail polish if the client desires color.
How Can You Help?
Because a cancer patient’s nails will be particularly sensitive, precautions should be taken to avoid inflammation or infection.
> Do not soak in water because of the potential introduction of bacteria.
> Suggest dry manicures and pedicures while undergoing cancer treatments.
> Advise clients that they need to keep their nails clean and hydrated.
> Use lukewarm water to wash, pat dry, and apply pure oil like calendula, tamanu, grapeseed, sunflower, or a pure shea butter product.
> Do not cut the cuticles or break the skin barrier in any way. Clients with a low white blood cell count have a higher risk of infection, slower healing, and increased bleeding.
> Keep clients’ nails short to avoid the breaking and cracking of dry nails.
> Suggest they wear gloves for activities involving water or dirt to avoid bacteria and infection risk.
> Do not apply acrylics or harsh nail products during this time when nails are already compromised.
So What Can You Do? Pamper clients with the basics and listen to and care for them. Your client will love her time away from the chaos of cancer and enjoy learning how to safely care for her nails during this difficult time. Keep in mind that every client will be different, so specialized training is necessary to know how to modify services and what steps would be appropriate for each client. If you are interested in cancer care training, visit www.oncologyspasolutions.com.
Nail Products that Give Back
Pevonia will donate 5% of all October proceeds from its RS2 Line to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. The line protects and hydrates the skin, with ingredients such as green tea and rose essential oil. It’s ideal for clients with hypersensitivity, redness, and Rosacea. In addition, the company will donate 3% of profits from all website purchases during October.
For more information, visit www.pevonia.com.
Sheba Nails Dipcrylic Powders are sold as a Breast Cancer Awareness Kit and 100% of the product’s proceeds for the month of October are donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Sheba Nails owner Sheila Bargas had been a breast cancer survivor before she passed away this April.
For more information, visit www.shebanails.com.
Becky Kuehn is the founder and director of education for Oncology Spa Solutions, as well as a cosmetologist and Master Esthetician based in Tacoma, Wash. For more information, visit www.oncologyspasolutions.com.