In our monthly column, senior writer and editor Adriana Ermter shares her personal experiences with breast cancer.
By Adriana Ermter
I’ll never forget the day I looked in the bathroom mirror and saw a face that resembled mine, except that it looked ten years older, staring back at me. And no, it wasn’t the cloudy, moth-eaten Lululemon sweater I only ever took off on laundry day, bad lighting, months-long fatigue or even my emotions playing tricks with my eyes. This was real. So much so that not even Kylie or Rihanna could help me, despite being the Holy Grails of Millennial beauty. Biologically I was still be the same age, but my skin? An extra decade’s worth of fine lines, crow’s feet, dark under eye circles and cheek sag had all but literally wiped out my formerly tight, collagen-plump and rosy glow.
Obviously, I speed dialed an expert. To be clear, I don’t mean my oncologist, surgeon or radiologist. I called Dr. Nowell Solish, the founder and cosmetic dermatologist of Cosmetic Dermatology Toronto Yorkville and co-director of the Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Clinic at Women’s College. Of all the doctors I’ve interviewed throughout my editorial career, he’s more often than not my go-to for medical knowledge and skincare insight. Plus, he’s unflappable, genuine and incredibly kind.
“The aging you’re seeing is one hundred percent real,” Dr. Solish confirms over the phone. “Your skin is thinner now, it has less moisture and the estrogen your body would normally be producing, which helps prevent aging, has been blocked because you’re taking Tamoxifen.” His words made me want to crawl back under my duvet with the cats. Instead, I reached for a healthy helping of denial and asked if my newfound wrinkles are permanent. “Compounded with the stress of the diagnosis, surgery, treatment and reality of having had cancer…yes,” said Dr. Solish. “Your skin aging will be permanent. Breast cancer is very hard on women.”
So hard that it has many looking for anti-aging solutions and not always in the right places. Three long-lasting facial rejuvenation treatments, however, are safe for breast cancer patients, says Dr. Solish. He’s referring to tried, tested and true, Botox, Hyaluronic Acid and Platelet Enriched Plasma. “You can safely do these services during and after radiation and chemotherapy treatment,” he adds. “Just aim to book your appointment before you start your next cycle of chemotherapy when your immunity levels are up, so that you don’t risk infection. And always double check with your oncologist.” While I have not tried any of the three, I think about it. A lot. Plus it makes me feel like I’m more in control of my aesthetic destiny just by having this insider info in my back pocket.
Below I discuss three potential treatments that can help to address the dry skin and aging caused by breast cancer and breast cancer treatments. While I focus on these three options, there are many other more cost-effective ways to combat these side effects.
Treatment one: Botox
The injectable drug that freezes muscles into place to help prevent wrinkles and fine lines from forming on your face. It is most commonly injected on forehead lines, crow’s feet around the eyes and on frown lines.
The procedure: uses teeny tiny needles, takes about five to 10 minutes to administer and can cause slight bruising or redness. Word to the wise, opt to microblade or other similar tattoo services for your eyebrows “before you have Botox,” says Dr. Solish. “You want your eyebrows to be in the right spot and to look like you.”
Longevity: Four to fives months.
Cost: $400-$600 per session.
Treatment two: Hyaluronic Acid Filler
Hyaluronic Acid is an injectable acid that plumps up your face, diminishing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and sunken or sagging skin. It exists naturally in your body and skin, but is depleted through cancer’s accelerated aging.
The procedure: uses multiple small needles, takes 10 minutes to fulfill and can cause some immediate redness. “Tiny drops are injected underneath the skin all over the face,” explains Dr. Solish. “The hyaluronic acid attracts water to bring moisture and volume back into the skin.”
Longevity: Six months.
Cost: $700-$1,000 per session.
Treatment three: Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Facial Rejuvenation
Injecting your body’s blood plasma, which is full of healing and growth properties, to improve skin texture, smooth fine lines and provide a tight and youthful appearance.
The procedure: requires drawing your blood, removing the blood plasma and then re-injecting the PRP into your face with tiny needles that feel like 50 mosquito bites. It takes approximately 15 minutes to prepare the blood and another 10 to inject it. “The skin looks red and bumpy for about a day afterwards,” warns Dr. Solish. “So don’t make any plans for that evening.”
Longevity: Four to six months.
Cost: $600-$700 per session.
Adriana Ermter is a multi award-winning writer and editor. Her work can be read in Living Luxe, Figure Skater Fitness and IN Magazine, as well as online at 29Secrets.com, RethinkBreastCancer.ca, Popsugar.com and AmongMen.com. The former Beauty Director for FASHION and Editor-in-Chief for Salon and Childview magazines lives in Toronto with her two very spoiled rescue kittens, Murphy and Olive. You can follow Adriana on Instagram @AdrianaErmter