Tips for Catering to Clients With Cancer

Spa pros discuss the finer points of offering oncology services.

cancer-patient-skin-care[Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/ISTOCK]

What spa services do you offer to guests who’ve been diagnosed with cancer?

Bevin Hamilton, spa director, Larchmont Sanctuary Spa in Los Angeles: Addressing mind, body and spirit, our therapists accommodate the specific medical considerations of each guest with a therapeutic Oncology Massage (60 min./$115). Additionally, because chemotherapy, radiation and medications often leave skin dry, itchy and more susceptible to infection and sunburn, our estheticians perform an Oncology Facial (60 min./$119) using carefully selected, non-irritating and hydrating products to help minimize these side effects. We also use specialized therapeutic massage to help reduce pressure and swelling on the surface of the skin. Finally, we host a biannual Day of Renewal—a complimentary, nurturing and restorative program for people nearing the completion of their cancer treatment. As a group, guests participate in guided imagery or another form of relaxation, followed by a spa treatment suitable for their needs and a group lunch.

Kerry Kourie, certified oncology esthetician, Skinchanted Spa in Peekskill, New York: Our Caring Cancer Facial (45 min./$75) is a blissful treatment, performed after a detailed intake discussion and designed with the guest’s medical needs in mind. This service offers extra hydration to soothe the skin, especially where radiation treatments may have left it raw and sensitive. We’re also very mindful of ports and PICC lines, as well as any lymph node removal, and don’t use excessive steam or heat. It’s our most affordable facial, as we don’t want to burden clients with extra financial strain when they’re already going through such a difficult time.

Monica Norman, owner/operator, esthetician and oncology skincare educator, Spa Esoteric in McKinney, Texas: We offer facials, massages, body treatments, hand and foot treatments, hair and scalp care, and wig work. We also spend a lot of time helping guests with their diet, makeup, lotions and potions to adjust to their new normal. Each service is approximately 60 minutes, although we take an additional 30 minutes or so to complete intake forms, and everything on our oncology menu is priced at a discounted rate of $50 or less.


What special training do the professionals who offer oncology services have?

Kourie: I became an oncology esthetician over an intensive weekend-long workshop nearly eight years ago, and have had many refresher courses since then to keep practicing oncology esthetics safely. This special training is incredibly important because we learn about client needs, treatments and empathy, as well as what not to do. We have to ask about medications, whether they’ve had surgery, chemo, radiation, a port or a PICC line, when treatment started and when their last infusion was. We never want to cause more trauma, and just knowing to ask these questions puts clients at ease and protects them and the technicians. Some chemotherapy treatments are skin absorbable within the first few days, so it’s important to take any necessary precautions; this allows all minds and bodies to be at ease during the services.

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Norman: Our therapists have been trained to work with all types of cancer and know how to accommodate surgeries, scars, ports and reconstructions, as well as hydrate and heal the skin. There is so much happening in the cancer treatment world, so we’re constantly reading articles, learning and networking with other health care providers, nurses and cancer clients as well. Spa Esoteric goes to great lengths to make sure every guest is comfortable, nurtured and safe.

Hamilton: Our oncology therapists have all attended intensive training at the renowned Greet The Day program, which the spa pays for. It’s vital that they’re educated in this truly beneficial and healing modality, as it allows us to give back to
the community.


What are your go-to products and techniques when working with cancer patients?

Norman: All of our oncology services can be modified to fit each guest. Massages are tailored to factors including the type of cancer, what stage of treatment they’re in and what their pain tolerance is. Typically, we use light pressure without any electric accessories or products containing fragrance, and instead use grape seed oil, shea butter or coconut oil. Our facials are modified as well: We cleanse the face, use very gentle exfoliation and light massage with grape seed or black seed oil. We also do an infusion with Intraceuticals Rejuvenate Daily Serum, an oxygen-based treatment to add more hyaluronic acid (HA), which chemo destroys. We don’t do traditional manicures or pedicures, instead soaking the hands and feet in water that’s not too hot with Epsom salt. No scraping or filing, no acids, no firm massage—if any at all.

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Kourie: Some cancer treatments dry out the skin and leave it raw and irritated, so I use professional products without any harsh chemicals or dyes, and retail items that can be used at home to help alleviate discomfort. I carry an all-natural, organic line called Hylunia; the brand also has a medical line called HyMed, including a Reconstructive Cream specifically designed for use during and after chemotherapy and radiation. This product can be used for diabetic wounds, bedsores, severe eczema and psoriasis, too. It’s a very therapeutic and restorative moisturizer that aids in the healing process and helps prevent infection. My oncology clients have given me such positive feedback about it, and have even said it eased the discomfort of hand/foot syndrome! We can also add a pharmaceutical grade CBD oil to any facial, if desired, to calm irritated and inflamed skin.

Hamilton: Everything we use for massage and skin care has been oncology approved by our vendors. We focus on products with non-irritating and hydrating ingredients that will soothe the skin, including lotion that has been recommended by the educators at Greet The Day.

—Alexa Joy Sherman

This story first appeared in the October issue of DAYSPA Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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