Oncology Esthetics

As part of our esthetic services, we are proud to be on the forefront of client care. It is always our intention to provide the best and safest of skin care services for our clients.

Cancer patients and those who have had to deal with cancer in the past need to be aware that not all spa treatments are designed specifically for them. Only a Certified Oncology Esthetician or Certified Oncology Massage Therapist has received the training and knowledge to ensure their services are safe and beneficial.

Gina’s journey began when a Reconstructive Plastic Surgeon referred an oncology client to her for a relaxing treatment. The client was in the middle of cancer therapies and just had a double mastectomy with an open port. Gina knew that she had to equip herself with the proper knowledge to insure her client’s safety while taking care of her skin. This is not an area estheticians are trained in so she sought out the best training available. After receiving intense training, Gina was amazed how much there was to learn and understand about caring for the oncology client.

Gina is one of a handful of estheticians in the Bay Area certified in Oncology Esthetics. She was certified in 2013 through The Morag Currin Method of Oncology Esthetics, a global training center. MCMOE specifically focuses on providing education in modalities, proper techniques and ingredients that support individuals undergoing or recovering from cancer therapy treatments. The method is based on Currin’s book, “Oncology Esthetics: A Practitioner’s Guide,” and all course instructors are MCMOE certified. It is also mandatory that all estheticians certified will go through recertification every two years.

A recent article by Dr. Brian D. Lawenda for the Integrative Oncology Essentials website provides an excellent overview of this subject for individuals considering spa treatments. 

What Cancer Patients And Survivors Need To Know Before Going To A Spa

Published June 11, 2013 by Brian D. Lawenda, M.D.10 Comments

Your skin is your body’s largest organ and what you put on it and how you treat it really does matter. It is also your first-line of defense against the numerous toxins and infectious organisms you come into contact with everyday. If you have cancer or have been treated for cancer in the past, these recommendations are important.


We highly recommend that before you head out to that spa, check that your spa therapist is trained in Oncology Esthetics® or Oncology Massage Therapy and ask your cancer doctors for recommendations and instructions on do’s and don’ts. Make sure to ask about this before you go, and schedule your appointments with those experienced therapists.

You can find trained and certified spa therapists in your local area on the therapist directories here:

Common Sense Guidelines: 

  • Just because a product looks organic or natural (i.e. ‘natural ingredients,’ ‘not tested on animals,’ etc.) does not mean it is necessarily safe to use for your particular circumstances.
  • Avoid products with lots of ingredients. Discuss skin care products with a skin care specialist or esthetician with experience in working with cancer patients. A great online resource to learn more about skin care products is The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
  • Spa treatments that include massage that use heat or friction should be avoided in the areas of the body that are undergoing cancer treatment unless approved by your cancer doctor. We recommend only using spa therapists who have experience and training in working with cancer patients as there are many issues that are pertinent to giving a massage to someone with cancer or a history of cancer.  It is important that your spa therapist ask you for information pertaining to your cancer treatment in order to personalize each and every treatment you have.  Different side effects can occur during treatment, so it is imperative that you share any changes that would affect the outcome of your spa treatment.
  • Hygiene is of critical importance. Make sure your spa therapists explains to you how they disinfect all equipment, surfaces, tools, and water baths. Sanitation and infection control regulations are governed by the state, and spas are required to abide by these regulations.  If sanitation standards are not to your liking, it is safer to find another spa that can cater to your needs.  Your skin is very vulnerable to infections during cancer treatments, so you need to be vigilant in making sure your spa is taking every precaution to keep their clients safe.


If you are undergoing cancer treatment, your skin may become reactive or more prone to irritation.  

  • Radiation therapy causes inflammation to the skin in the treated area.
  • Many cancer drugs can cause inflammation, cracking, peeling, and acne.
  • Surgical wounds disrupt the protective barrier of the skin and can serve as route for bacteria, viruses and chemicals to enter more easily into the body.

It is very important to discuss with your cancer doctors whether your skin will be affected during your treatment. Let them know that you would like to be able to go to a spa or see your spa therapist (skin care therapist/esthetician/nail technician or massage therapist).  It is important to know if you have any limitations to any spa treatment that you plan on having.  Spa therapists who are trained to work with you will ask you to obtain a medical release note from your doctor to indicate limitations, if any

Some spa treatments such as a facial, manicure or pedicure, body treatment, may utilize a variety of products during the treatment.  Spa therapists who have experience and training in working with individuals who are undergoing cancer treatments know to use a minimal amount of products and to keep your homecare regimen simple.

Admittedly, although most physicians have very little (if any) training in the use of skin care products, I (Dr. Lawenda) still recommend that you play it safe and ask your cancer doctor(s) if they approve before you use it on your body.


Even if you are no longer undergoing cancer treatment, your skin has a memory and does not forget the damage or inflammation from the past. So you still need to be careful in how you treat it.

  • Radiation therapy can cause thinning of the skin in the area radiated, scarring or fibrosis (thickening of the skin), impaired circulation of blood or lymph fluid (lymphedema) and increased sensitivity to chemicals, ultraviolet light and heat.
  • Cancer drugs can cause scarring of the skin or make the skin more sensitive to chemicals and ultraviolet light.
  • Surgery can lead to impaired blood and lymph circulation, thinning or scarring of the skin, decreased skin pliability and limitations in limb range of motion.


Going to a spa is truly a holistic mind-body-spirit experience, and one that I (Dr. Lawenda) highly encourage my patients to explore and enjoy. The recommendations and information in this article will hopefully make your trips to the spa as safe as possible. Choose your spa and therapists based not only on their reputation but also on their experience in working with individuals who have cancer or a prior diagnosis of cancer, and play it safe with the skin care products they use, as many are loaded with potentially toxic or irritating chemicals. Oncology-trained therapists will know which products are the safest for you. Most importantly, pamper yourself, have fun and relax…you deserve it.

Contributing co-author: Morag Currin, Author of Oncology Esthetics: A Practitioner’s Guide and and founder of Oncology Esthetics® training




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