Cancer, Chemotherapy, and Your Skin


My name is Dr. Hal Simeroth and I have been working within the scientific research and development sector for over forty years.  Over the last decade, I have been focused on the skin science and exploring research and product development related to skin rejuvenation and restoration by means of stem cell technology.  Over the past three years specifically, I centered this research on stem cell activity in human skin, and the latest knowledge about these various types of stem cells. As a result of this study I designed a complex of ingredients that has been shown to stimulate the stem cell activity in our skin.  This complex was given the name … SRC-7.   Before we reach the age of 30, our stem cells continually act to replenish our epidermal cells and collagen. After 30, these cells begin to slow down in their production.  As we get older, some become senescent and are no longer very effective.   This phenomenon makes a significant contribution to the thinning of our skin layers and the loss of collagen structure which brings about an unwanted “aging” appearance as the years pass.

In 2018, the first product was designed … Stemology® Serum Complete with SRC-7 … and was later made available for public purchase in December of 2018.  In October, a patent was filed with the US Patent Office for this ingredient complex and application. 

Coincidentally, in July of that same year we received the unfortunate news that my daughter Kristen, had a cancerous mass, the size of a small grapefruit, in her upper chest area and was subsequently diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma.  This was devastating news and traumatic for us all.  Kristen was 45 years old with two small children (2 and 4), a devoted husband, and an executive level career in the Geosciences.  She was about to face the most distressing challenge of her life.  She began the first of 12 successive chemotherapy treatments in mid-August 2018.  As the treatments continued, the impact on her body became more difficult with each session.

Chemotherapy Impact On Skin – General Observations

As her chemotherapy treatment progressed, we both noticed that her skin appearance was beginning to show signs of rapid aging.  Chemotherapy is the targeted killing of cells in the body that are rapidly dividing.  It is aimed at cancer cells, of course, but the skin’s healthy stem cells are generally rapidly dividing as well and thus, are damaged in this treatment process.  Since our skin depends on these stem cells to renew and replenish the needed cells in our skin, there is a major impact on our skin’s health and, of course, our outward appearance.  In addition, there is typically an impact on sebum production and the skin becomes abnormally dry.  This also causes premature aging and sometimes can result in itchy, flaking skin, if allowed to continue.  Another typical negative effect appears as a loss of radiance and a “graying” of complexion.  This is caused by the fact that our outer layers of skin in the epidermis are not being replaced as quickly and those older layers continue to remain on the surface much longer than normal.  Exfoliation offers some help, but care must be taken … the production of new replacement epidermal cells is muted by hampered stem cell activity; thus, a careful balance must be maintained such that over-exfoliation does not occur.  In general, the impact of chemo on our skin appearance and health causes rapid, premature aging.  Suddenly we look 10 -15 years older!  Not only is this a negative for overall health, but the loss of self-esteem and the resulting emotional impact negatively contributes to our overall sense of well-being.  Our hair is coming out, our eyebrows and eyelashes are gone, and our skin looks like it is aging one year every week.  This negative reversal in appearance can contribute to depression and a loss of that positive attitude so needed to keep spirits up and maintain inner strength to fight this ugly disease.  It is not only a physical battle but a mental one as well.  Anything we can do to increase perceived beauty, or even just a sense of “normalness” during this period will help in this battle. 

As Kristen’s chemo treatments continued, the impact was wearing her down.  Her skin was very dry, and cracked, and had lost its radiance.  I realized that the SRC-7 products that I had been working on during this same time, could possibly help.  Although these products were not being marketed yet, I gave her samples to try about midway through her treatments.  These are things I advised to avoid during chemo:

  1. Exposure to sun and UV rays – your immune system is already compromised and the ability to overcome free radicals in the skin from UV is greatly hampered.  Oncologists recommend not using antioxidants while going through Chemo, so there is no good way to resist free radical damage to skin cells.  The best strategy is to avoid the exposure.
  2. Avoid anything drying to the skin – hot water, products with alcohol or synthetic ingredients, or any ingredient that retards sebum production.
  3. Avoid harsh exfoliators such as alpha hydroxy acids (e.g. glycolic, lactic acid) or beta hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid.  Use gentle and careful exfoliation methods.

Specific Observations During Kristen’s Chemotherapy

Kristen began her regimen using the SRC-7 Serum and Moisturizer about half-way through her chemotherapy sessions.  This is her description of the experience …

“By September of 2018, I was only two chemotherapy treatments in when my skin and hair began to show progressive signs of damage from the drugs. I have always had normal to oily skin, and now I was battling very dry and weathered skin. The fine lines on my face had turned into full-fledged wrinkles. I looked 20 years older than I was. There was zero glow, just dull and dry.  Frankly, I looked as sick as I was. When you are in the midst of treatment, you tend to feel like this is what to expect, and accept.

I did not want to accept this as the new “norm”; I wanted to do something about it. One of the most important things, at least to me with small children, was to try and look as normal as I could. I wanted to shield them from this diagnosis. I spoke with my father as I had used his product designs at Stemology over the years. He suggested that I try a new formula that he was working on. I would have tried anything just to feel like myself, or rather, look like myself again.  Given the timing and circumstances, it was almost as if my Dad designed this for my special situation.  Keep in mind that I had radically changed all my skin and hair products in the wake of my diagnosis and all I was using was 100% natural organic products. I knew that Stemology would fit right into this as that is what the products are all about. I began using the Serum Complete with SRC-7 in October of 2018.

After using it for the first week, it gave me physical relief from the dryness. The tightness was gone and my skin felt quite a bit softer.  In addition, it never felt oily, which for me is always a drawback of moisturizing products. The SRC-7 dried and absorbed into my skin completely.

After about two weeks of using morning and night, the deep wrinkles and general flakiness were gone. I still had some fine lines, but they were already visibly softening around my lips. This is when I started noticing a bit of a glow coming back to my skin.

At three weeks, the glow was fully back and then some!  At 4 weeks in, as unbelievable as this sounds, my skin looked better with Stemology on chemo that it did on a previous typical day without.  Incredible. My husband commented on my skin all the time. Even my girls both told me daily … “mommy you look beautiful today”.  Getting that during treatment is worth everything. The first time I saw my skin in a photo, I did a double take. My skin was radiant.  This was about 8 of 12 chemo treatments in.

Now that treatments have wrapped up, I still use the Stemology serum twice a day religiously. It has kept my skin completely hydrated, and looking better than ever. In addition to using the serum on my face and neck, I recently started using it on the resulting scar I now have from where the chemo port was surgically inserted a year ago for infusions. This small area near my collarbone has undergone two surgeries, insertion and removal of the port in the last year. I have used the serum on this scar and 6 weeks later the mark  is almost invisible. The wound healing properties of this serum are incredible.  And just another thing to help bring me back to feeling normal again.  I would refer this product to ANYONE, and especially all of my brothers and sisters out there fighting the fight. Because God knows how much you need to feel normal and good during those tough days.”

Final Thoughts

As a father, when your child is stricken with such a difficult struggle, you feel somewhat helpless and look to do anything that would make the situation better.  I am thankful for the experiences and education that brought me to the point of creating something that, coincidently, would be helpful to my daughter in her time of need.  Even though it was a small thing to help in improving her skin health and appearance, it was a blessing to be able to do it.  Some might say that this story was motivated primarily from the desire to sell product and make money; but that is not the case.  If not one product was sold, it would have been worth it to bring some goodness to Kristen and help her through her time of trial.  If I could give it away to every chemo patient who wanted to use it, I would do so.   Unfortunately, I do not have the wealth necessary to do that.  I am hopeful, that a way can be found to make it available at a highly reduced cost to anyone wanting it while going through the struggle with cancer and chemotherapy.