DIY spa treatments to try out at home

Published: 10 Sep 2019

Chemotherapy can make your skin very dry and irritated and leave your nails brittle. People tend to think of these problems as cosmetic - but in the same way that losing hair from chemo can have a massive impact on a patients’ mental well-being, so too can irritated skin and dry, damaged nails.

This week is National Spa Week

When you’re going through chemo you may not feel up to visiting a spa or beauty salon. You may be feeling too vulnerable to put yourself in someone else’s hands, or even allowing someone else to see your scars, hair-loss or other side-effects you may be experiencing.  If this is you there’s no reason why you should miss out - why not arrange your very own spa day in the comfort of your own home.  Invite a couple of friends (or partner if they’re willing) and create a home pamper day.   

Set the mood - turn up the heating, turn down the lighting, switch your phone to silence, put on a soft bathrobe, fluffy bath towels, light some scented candles, listen to some relaxing music and relax.

Create your own homemade treatments

Decide in advance what treatments you’re going to give yourself – a facial, pedicure or manicure. Of course, you can use your favorite off-the-shelf products, but for a true DIY spa experience, why not have some fun and try your hand at creating your own lotions, potions and scrubs.  

We've found just a few to get you started – and you're bound to have most of the ingredients in your kitchen cupboards already. And what's more, they're totally preservative and paraben-free!

Before you start patch test first and check with your medical team if you’re unsure about any of the ingredients.  Your skin will probably be more sensitive than usual – and if you have open sores, remember than recipes with salt, lemon or any other astringents may sting.

For your face

Gentle Oat Scrub

Exfoliation is a key part of any facial routine and beauty experts recommend a gentle scrub 2-3 times a week to help slough off dead skin cells and unclog pores. If you’re undergoing chemo and feel your skin could do with a boost, mix up this gentle scrub from the contents of your kitchen cupboard. 

Soothing and anti-inflammatory oats are ideal for sensitive skin.  They will gently unclog your pores while their natural saponins cleanse and absorb dirt and oil – leaving your skin feeling soft and smooth!

Soothing Manuka Honey Facial

You can use regular honey for this recipe, although manuka honey has superior anti-bacterial qualities. It’s been shown to aid in wound healing (encouraging the regeneration of tissue), reduce inflammation (helping to calm redness) and treat spots (thanks to its ability to fight bacteria). 

If you suffer from spots or acne add a drop of tea tree oil or if you want to even out skin tone add a small pinch of turmeric and a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice. As well as being a great antioxidant, the active ingredient that gives turmeric its yellow pigment is a phytonutrient known for its anti-inflammatory abilities, while turmeric powder itself is an excellent exfoliator that’ll help to brighten skin no end.  Combined with the slight bleaching effect of the lemon juice this mask will gently exfoliate to get rid of dead skin and encourage new cell growth.

For a mask that’s not too runny, mix together:

2 teaspoons of full-fat greek yogurt 
1 teaspoon of manuka honey
1 drop of tea tree oil or turmeric* and lemon (if you choose)

*go easy on the turmeric – not too much or your face may turn yellow!

For your hands

Softening Hand Scrub

Give yourself a luxurious hand treatment by following these simple steps.  Use your favorite body scrub and hand lotion – or go one step further and create your own.  We’ve included a recipe for each below, but there are lots on the internet, so find one that you like.

You'll need Olive Oil, Body Scrub, Hot Towels, Hand Wash, Hand Lotion.

  1. Keep a towel in your lap or over your work surface
  2. Pour a dollop of olive oil into the palm of your hand
  3. Massage into your hands and wrists and rub deeply into each fingernail, one at a time, also paying attention to your cuticles. Three minutes should do it, but the longer you rub, the softer your hands will be
  4. Do not wash or rinse your hands. 
  5. Apply a liberal amount of body scrub. Any kind of scrub will do. You can even make your own scrub using the recipe below.
  6. Wet two small hand towels with warm tap water and wrap them around your hands and remove towels when they have completely cooled.
  7. Wash your hands thoroughly - use a gentle nail brush to remove any mixture out from under your nails.
  8. Rub a generous amount of your favorite lotion into your hands (or make-your-own – why not try out Mother Earth Living DIY Natural Hand cream below). Put extra lotion onto your nail beds and cuticles so they are completely softened.

Cate Blanchett's DIY Herb and Citrus Hand and Body Scrub

Apparently, Cate Blanchett loves a good DIY hand and body scrub. Her recipe combines sea salt and coconut oil with lemon and mint. It's refreshing, invigorating, and easy to whip together, plus it will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. 

Mother Earth Living DIY Natural Hand cream

A lot of conventional hand lotions use ingredients, such as phthalates, parabens and petroleum by-products, that have been linked to infertility and even cancer. Instead of buying a product with a laundry list of ingredients that you can't even pronounce, have a go at making your own.

Try this one by Mother Earth News: which uses baking powder, camomile tea, grated beeswax, olive oil, cocoa butter and essential oil such as lavender.

For your feet

Our feet are often neglected when it comes to our beauty regime, but they often work harder than the rest of our body!  They too deserve a papering; a relaxing foot soak, exfoliation to remove dry skin, moisturize and a pedicure to keep toenails looking great.

Peppermint Foot Soak

Peppermint offers several aromatherapy benefits including giving you an energy a boost and soothing tired muscles. It has an invigorating effect on both the skin and muscles, and it will not only reduce inflammation but also offer much-needed cooling relief for tired and achy feet.

To make the soak boil up a couple of liters of water and then add the following oils:

4 drops peppermint essential oils
2 drops lemon balm essential oils
3 or 4 eucalyptus oil essential oils
½ spoon coconut oil (optional)

Epsom Salt Foot Soak

Epsom salt soak can help to soothe and relax tired and achy feet. The magnesium sulfate will also be absorbed through the skin directly to help relieve muscle pain, tension, and inflammation.

Other ingredients to try in your foot soak:

You can try out different ingredients depending on the problem – we’ve listed a few along with their beneficial properties:

Vanilla Coconut Sugar Scrub

As with the foot soaks, there are so many ingredients to choose from for your scrub – this one smells good enough to eat and is so soothing on your skin. Plus vanilla has a list of beneficial properties as long as your arm: antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, antidepressant, febrifuge, aphrodisiac, tranquilizer, sedative and relaxant.   You can use on your hands as well as your feel

In a mixer add:

½ cup solid unrefined coconut oil
1 cup raw sugar
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean pods (more if desired)

Let us know what you think – and do you have any other homemade recipes that you swear by?  Share your DIY blends with thousands of people who are fighting cancer right now.  To be part of this supportive, loving and friendly community join the Facebook Chemotherapy Support Group.

Penguin Cold Cap Therapy

Penguin Cold Caps are the original inventors of modern cold cap therapy; the drug-free, non-invasive and most successful method for reducing chemotherapy-induced hair loss. 

To find out more visit