Normal skin has a hydrolipid film & protective acidic coating. Skin care is an important component in lymphedema care as the skin is a barrier which helps to prevent infections. Everyday soaps & lotions are not sufficient in skin care for lymphedema. One reason is the pH level. For example, soap is strongly alkaline which destroys the skin’s lipid & protective acidic layers. Another reason is that some have adverse effects. For example, Petroleum or Mineral Oil are occlusive agents & can irritate the skin. Below is a guideline for skin care which should be done daily.
- Cleansing skin – Soap-free, mild cleaning lotions or medicated body washes are recommended. These cleansing products are pH neutral (pH 7) or slightly acidic (pH5). One example of a soap-free product is Eucerine Body Wash. Another good product to use is Cetaphil (a dermatology-recommended product which is pH-balanced). Be sure to dry between skin folds & toes/fingers when washing.
- Lotion – Natural products or mild, medicinal products most similar to the skin’s external composition are preferred. Examples include Eucerine, LipoLotion, HydroLotion & Cetaphil. Some patients prefer the plant-based Burt’s Bees lotion as an alternative or EmerginC.
Note: Lanolin (found in many lotions) has an allergic potential but Lanolin Alcohol (a highly purified form) does not. The latter form is good for skin care as it is most similar to the skin’s dermal lipid layer & is found in Eucerine.
Tip: Monitor your skin for signs of a fungal infection (odor, redness, rash, etc.). Areas that are warm & moist (such as skin folds, groin & feet) are prone to fungal infections (especially yeast infections, in particular if you have been taking an antibiotic). There are different types of fungal infections: Athete’s Foot (Tinea Pedis); Tinea Versicolor; Ringworm (Tinea Corporis); Jock Itch (Tinea Cruris); & Yeast (Candidiasis).
Foldi, M, Foldi, E. (2006). Foldi’s Textbook of Lymphology (2nd ed.), p. 625-626. Germany: Urban & Fisher.