A tube of skin cancer medication cream knocks into an array of skincare and makeup products, sending them flying.

Efudex: The Product Predicament

Breaks in routine are difficult. When you are accustomed to doing something on a daily basis, it’s hard to take the plunge and make a change. Being told you need to use Efudex for a few weeks will throw you for just that kind of loop. Even if you are not someone who wears makeup on a daily basis, you should expect your normal skincare routine to be disrupted for a while.

Using Efudex for actinic keratoses

In 2014, when I was first prescribed Efudex for treatment of recurring actinic keratoses on my chest, I had very few questions because I assumed I was going to be applying a cream not unlike others I already used. My dermatologist, though she wasn’t forthcoming about the side effects, did fill me in on recommendations regarding skincare products. For that, I am eternally grateful. Without her advice, I believe I would have found myself in a painful predicament around the second week of treatment when things began to really heat up.

Dermatologist Efudex treatment advice

Before leaving the office with my prescription in hand, my dermatologist provided the following guidance:

  • Don’t wash the treated area with soap.
  • Only rinse your skin with water and pat dry.
  • Don’t use your normal skin creams, lotions, or moisturizers.
  • Avoid spraying cologne/perfume on the skin.
  • Do not apply sunscreen - keep the area shielded from the sun.
  • Efudex should be the only product applied to the area being treated.
  • In the event you are treating your face, don’t wear makeup while using Efudex.

Water, it is!

It all seemed very straightforward. Don’t use anything but water. That’s easier said than done when you are used to washing with cleansers, lotioning up, and going about your day. However, once I got used to the treatment phase and found support to help deal with the side effects, rinsing off and patting dry became my new normal. Once I moved into the healing stage, I was able to ease back into gently washing with mild cleansers and patting dry.

Healing and avoiding makeup

Three years later, when my dermatologist prescribed Efudex for my face to treat what appeared to be two large precancers, I found out a little more about how long I would have to follow the water only regimen. Following almost four weeks of applying the cream twice a day, I entered the erosion phase and began healing. Even during healing, the skin was raw and extremely sensitive. While it was difficult to fight the urge to cover my red, tender skin with concealer and makeup, I followed my dermatologist’s instructions.

Here comes the concealer

Even though I looked forward to getting back to normal, using my usual products, and wearing makeup again, I had become more than accustomed to going without all of it. The focus was on healing. Makeup was the last thing on my mind by this point. Watching my skin make almost daily dramatic changes for the better, was far more satisfying. A week or so into healing, I was able to remove enough of the dead skin to begin using a tiny amount of concealer to tone down the redness. A few days later, I was on the road to wearing makeup again.

You don't have to face Efudex all alone

I don’t want you to go into treatment blind. Hopefully, you have a dermatologist who covers all the bases for you before you leave the office. If you don’t, reach out to us. You will have questions about products and when it is safe to use them. Your doctor’s office can help you and so can the thousands of Efudex users who, just like you, are living with change. You need only reach out. We are here.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The SkinCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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