Skincare Products and Efudex: If and When I Use Them

Questions about Efudex are numerous. I have been using Efudex to treat actinic keratoses since 2014, and I have talked with dozens of patients during that time. We all seem to have more in common than just our precancers. It feels as if most of us leave the dermatologist’s office with little more than just the prescription for the cream. When it comes to knowing how to care for our skin during treatment, we have questions, and lots of them.

Efudex changes everything

Every morning and evening, we have skincare routines. These are routines we take for granted will never change unless we shake things up ourselves. Being told to treat our skin with Efudex throws a wrench into our everyday hygiene habits. It’s incredibly difficult to discern which of our products are still safe to use while applying the topical chemotherapy cream. It’s especially stressful when your doctor may or may not go over all of the ins and outs before you head home.

My products and how I use them

Below, I address the products about which I have asked my dermatologist myself along with the times during the treatment process when I use them.

Bath soap/body wash?

No, not during treatment. I only wash treated skin with water both morning and evening. After the last application of Efudex, I wait a day or two before using bath soap on or near the tender skin.

Face wash/cleansers?

No, not during treatment. I resume using Cetaphil following my last application of Efudex. Normally, I ease back into using it the day after my last application.

Facial moisturizer?

No, not during treatment. Vanicream is my daily moisturizer, and I find it to be very soothing during the healing process. I begin using Vanicream the first day of healing.

Body lotion?

No, not during treatment. I miss my scented lotions, but I don’t use them until the skin has had time to heal and isn’t peeling daily. I substitute Vanicream for my usual body lotions for a few weeks.


No, not during treatment. I try to stick to mineral sunscreen products, but even those I put off using until about a week after the last application or until my skin is no longer raw. I go to some extra lengths to stay out of the sun until I have had some time to heal and no longer have scabbing.


No, not during treatment. It’s a difficult few weeks for me when I have to treat my face. Not wearing even concealer is stressful when my face is slowly reddening, but it’s best to wait until later in the healing stage when the skin is smoother and not irritated.


No, not during treatment. If I am treating my chest, I don’t spray perfume on my neck. Wrists? Yes, as long as I am not using Efudex in that area. Perfume that will come in contact with the treated area can wait until healing is almost complete.

Water, water everywhere

Do you get the idea? Water it is. From the first day to the last, I use only water to gently rinse the treated area and then pat dry.

Ease back into a routine

All skin care products and makeup items are eased back into my daily routine following the last day of treatment. I was fortunate enough to have a dermatologist give me a heads-up about only using water. Some of the rest of these products, I learned the hard way to give some more time before resuming regular use. It’s a simple routine but one that many are left to discover on their own.

Do you have any tips for using Efudex? Were you given specific instructions upon receiving your prescription? Or were you left with questions of your own?

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