BMT Tips & Tricks: Prednisone, Skin Care & Makeup Oh My!

Bone Marrow Transplant Survival Tips #2

I first got into skin care after a three-week hospital admission in December of 2017. I’d always cared about my skin, but it was never something that I was super invested in. As someone who has lived their life on huge amounts of steroids (mostly prednisone) for 4 years, I knew what I was getting myself into when my dose was boosted to an almost 100mg after discharge.

If you’re not familiar with Steroids, Prednisone is known for causing redness, swelling of the face, and generalized soreness (moon face). Long story short: I went to my Senior Prom puffed up like a balloon and stayed that way for 6 months afterward! Being on steroids has completely restructured the shape of my face multiple times and as a 20-year-old woman, that’s been a constant adjustment. When I realized there was a chance that it was going to happen again, I immediately started doing extensive research on how to be preventative or make it better, because I knew how uncomfortable it made me before. What I found worked out well for me. Then, when I decided to do the bone marrow transplant, I started doing research again. Once I got my skin to where I wanted it before the transplant, I needed to find products to maintain it while I was in the hospital. I went to Sephora, Ulta, and read articles online.

As a disclaimer, here are a couple of things to consider before taking my advice:

  1. It’s important to understand that my body is far more adjusted to steroids than the typical person, which likely curbed the effects this time around & during transplant. However, I’ve been able to maintain my skin through high doses of prednisone & the bone marrow transplant chemotherapy (For me, this was low potency Campath, Fludarabine, and Melphalan).
  2. I will also be upfront about my expenses. I had a high budget. This is something that I decided was important to me and I invested money in taking care of my skin. Some of these products are expensive, but some of them are more affordable on a budget.
  3. I’m not a doctor or an expert and I do not claim to be. Talk to your doctor about any questions you might have or about what might work for you.

Before Transplant

La Roche-Posay (Trio)

I first found this product to treat redness in my face and cystic acne. I would get hard red bumps on my face that just wouldn’t go away for months on top of Prednisone moon face! This product has solved that problem completely. My skin is clean and clear! My pores have never looked better. It also works in a relatively short amount of time. Basically: it’s the most effective treatment I’ve ever used.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost

This is just a great moisturizer. It’s light, has great texture, and lasts all day long. I normally put it on after I wash my face and it feels great on my skin. This product helps my skincare routine feel balanced and it’s a good finish before bed.

Dream BB Cream (Light)

I absolutely love BB cream. There have been lots of days when a full coverage foundation has been too much for my skin because of medication, and BB cream has always been the answer. It also has sunscreen, which is essential for anyone on medication that requires protection from the sun. You can find this particular product at almost any drug store and it gives has just enough coverage to be used as a light foundation throughout the day. If I’m going for a more finished look, but still want to keep it light, I usually use a powder foundation on top to give it a matte and fuller coverage.

Jade Roller w/ steam

Yes, I know, it sounds stupid. How does Jade roller help? Does that actually work? I used it and I didn’t get nearly as much inflammation. I don’t know if it caused it, but I do know that my skin didn’t swell nearly as much and it generally felt a lot better! Every day, I use hot water in the shower to warm up my skin and then used the jade roller to (moving from the top of my face to the bottom) to roll down the pockets of fat. This is really just a nice massage and it feels good on my skin. I also think it likely rolled the other products and medication into my skin, which likely helped with their effectiveness.

During Transplant

Josie Maran, Whipped Argan Oil Face Butter:

I really love this product and I still use it in my routine post-BMT. It’s simple but thick, and it doesn’t have any scent. It’s also just the right amount of moisturizing and lasts for a long time. Yes, it’s expensive. If you’re looking for a replacement that’s not as much, the Hydroboost from Neutrogena included in this post would likely work fine as well. This product is just a little bit more firming, which is what I wanted.

Josie Maran, 100% Argan Oil

This is a product I highly recommend! This is the brand that I used (and liked), but any type of Argan oil is useful. I used it mainly for my scalp while my hair was falling out. After I shaved my head, I started applying it to (what was left) of my hear and scalp every day in order to keep it healthy. Once my hair started falling out, it didn’t itch at all, and I’ve continued to use it to keep it soft and shiny. It’s also really good for your hair as it begins to grow in again, so I would encourage you to keep it in your routine post-BMT as well.

Drunk Elephant, Beste №9 Jelly Cleanser Gelee Nettoyante Fondate (Cantaloup)

This is rated the best cleanser on the market almost everywhere, and it does stand up to the hype. It’s all organic and has no smell, which is exactly what you want during transplant. It’s also not as expensive as the other products in Drunk Elephant’s line. I still use this almost everyday post-BMT too, and it just gives my skin a good refresh no matter what I’m doing that day.

You’re also going to need a good body moisturizer, although you don’t want anything with a scent (do NOT go to Bath & Body works). I used Aveeno, Eczema Therapy, Moisturizing Cream and Harbor Foot Lotion with Tea Tree Oil both of which were found at Homegoods. You need something that will nourish your skin with as few chemicals as possible. Coconut Oil is also great for your feet (they’re going to be disgusting, trust me). Keep in mind that while you’re in BMT world, you cannot bathe! So go light and use products that won’t make you feel sticky or add too much product to your skin. You want all natural as much as possible.

Post Transplant

Most of the products mentioned above I use every day. I will add on that BB Cream continues to be a wonderful thing! Because I’m on medications that make my skin vulnerable to the sun, I rarely leave the house without something on my skin (I use Garnier, as seen here). You can also add a light powder foundation to this to give it a matte look. I also do my eyebrows occasionally and have added eyebrow mascara (Maybelline New York Eyestudio Brow Drama Sculpting Brow Mascara) into the mix along with Mascara (Better Than Sex Too Faced). Combined, these products are light enough for me to be comfortable & enough to make me feel put together. Also: Post-BMT you have to wear a mask. Anything you put on that part of your face will sweat off. Pro tip: Set the makeup around your mask with a powder for special events!

Lastly: Haircare. As I write this post, I’m on day 60 and I’m just now starting to have some hair growth. There are some products you can use to help it along though. Personally, I take Biotin pills and use Biotin shampoo (I just kind of rub it on my scalp and then wash it off like a lotion for now). I’ve been using it for about a month, and I do think that it’s helped a little bit! But it definitely doesn’t hurt to try it out. As for taking care of your scalp? Keep it covered. Wear hats and get cute scarves. Also: sunscreen your head! The last thing you want is a sunburn there. Trust me.

As I transition back into normal life, this is going to change, but for now this is what’s gotten me through so far. I hope that you can find something that works for you too.

Want to learn more about my story? Follow me at @kpoements (Instagram)

Want to learn how you can become a Bone Marrow Donor? You can find out more here:

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