Photo courtesy of and Stuart Miles

Photo courtesy of and Stuart Miles

I have a great tip for saving your nails from the toxic effects of chemotherapy.  I have heard about this from several people who were going through chemotherapy (particularly Taxol) and they said it absolutely works and that it was introduced to them by the chemo nurses, so I decided to share it with you.

I can’t tell you how many women I know going through breast cancer have been upset about losing their nails – having them turn black and falling off is definitely stressful and it can’t feel very good either.  Not all chemo regimens cause this, but so many do and Taxol seems to be the worst.  It isn’t permanent but it can take up to 6 months to grow out a new nail and that’s a long time to be without a nail protecting your fingertips.

How to Save Your Nails While Undergoing Chemotherapy

Just before you sit down for your chemotherapy infusion, get a bowl of ice cubes and water and plunge your fingertips – so that your nails are covered – into the bowl of ice.  If it gets painful, just withdraw them for a minute or two, but try to keep your nails in the icy water for as long as you can.  Don’t do it to the point of pain or frostbite!  Just keep putting them in and taking them out when you need to.

How It Works

Icing your nails constricts the blood vessels, so less toxicity gets through. The chemicals that cause hair loss can also affect your nails and your fingernails grow much more quickly than your toenails.

Why Keeping Your Nails Is Important

Nail care is your first line of prevention, especially if you have had a few (or all) of your lymph nodes removed along with your breast cancer tumor.  You will need to be particularly careful of damage to the nail, also hangnails or cuts or burns on the hands or fingers, which could lead to infection.  Lymph nodes exist to help deal with infection and if they are not present, or present but in diminished numbers, an infection could be quite serious for you.

A Warning About Manicures & Acrylic Nails

Please also be aware about the dangers of manicures and nail polish.  See my article Are Your Manicures Increasing Your Breast Cancer Risk  for more information. 

For a lengthy time after you finish chemotherapy your immune system is compromised and you will need to avoid infections and viruses until you are fully recovered.  You can decrease the length of time you have a compromised immune system by being very proactive and juicing and taking the juice of lycium barbarum (goji or wolfberry), but here’s the thing about acrylic nails.  If bacteria gets trapped between your natural nail bed and the acrylic overlay, either during application or from splitting and chipping or other sorts of damage to the acrylic nail, you could get a very serious infection and even need to be hospitalized.

To further complicate matters, many nail salons are using a poisonous substance called MMA in their nail adhesives, which is an industrial grade adhesive and not meant for use on the human body.  MMA stands for methyl methacrylate and it is bad news for your health.  This chemical is illegal but the nail industry is hard to police so it’s still being purchased on the black market and used in some nail salons.  It can cause serious damage to your health.

Ladies, I know that acrylic nails look beautiful and it’s one of the things you CAN control after getting through breast cancer, but I don’t believe the risk is worth it.  Just my two cents worth.

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook ( and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.