Breast Cancer Basics: Protect Your Nails From Chemotherapy with Polyphenols

Chemotherapy often causes varying degrees of nail damage, called “onycholysis.” Similar to the effects on hair follicles, most chemotherapy drugs inhibit rapidly dividing cells and cause inflammation in the nail bed. These changes allow bacteria and fungi to enter the nail beds causing further damage, which can lead to ridges in the nails (called Beau’s lines), discoloration, cracking, pain from bleeding under the nails or complete nail loss. A randomized study found that the application of a plant-based nail balm markedly reduced the damage from chemotherapy. The balm is a commercial product, called Polybalm.  
Thomas speaks with ecancer at ASCO 2017 about a double-blind randomised study which investigated a natural plant based balm that attempts to act as an antidote to severe nail toxicity during chemotherapy.
Polybalm is not a quick fix remedy – in the trial over a 3-6 month course of chemotherapy it significantly reduced damage in the majority of users. For the general population, benefits will only be seen after several weeks use as the nails grow slowly so improvements to the health of the nail bed will only be recognised when the nails grow. In all but 1 of the 30 patients in the polybalm cohort, there was virtually no nail damage compared to more than half suffering significant damage and distress in the placebo group. In fact the average patient reported nail related quality hardly changed in the polybalm group.
Polybalm contains the following ingredients:
  • Unrefined shea butter (Butyrospermum parkii)
  • Organic beeswax (Cera alba)
  • Extra virgin, organic, cold-pressed olive oil (Olea europaea)
  • Organic cocoa seed butter (Theobroma cacao)
  • African sage (Tarchonanthus camphoratus)
  • Wintergreen leaf (Gaulthe- ria procumbens)
  • Lavender flower (Lavandula spica)
  • Eucalyptus leaf (Eucalyptus globulus)
These ingredients were selected for their basic abilities to moisturize the skin and prevent drying, splitting or cracking of the nail. Additionally, the phytochemicals in the essential oils are known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. You can buy Polybalm on their website.