Emollients and Moisturizers

Emollients and Moisturizers

PEP Topic 
Skin Reactions

Emoliients and moisturizers are substances that may contain a variety of chemical agents designed to make the external skin layers more pliable and increase skin hydration by reducing water evaporation from the skin. Emollients and moisturizers have been studied in patients with cancer regarding their effects in the management of skin toxicities caused by cancer treatments.

Effectiveness Not Established

Guideline/Expert Opinion

Edmonds, K., Hull, D., Spencer-Shaw, A., Koldenhof, J., Chrysou, M., Boers-Doets, C., & Molassiotis, A. (2012). Strategies for assessing and managing the adverse events of sorafenib and other targeted therapies in the treatment of renal cell and hepatocellular carcinoma: Recommendations from a European nursing task group. European Journal of Oncology Nursing, 16, 172–184.

PROFESSIONAL GROUP: Nursing task group; no formal association or description of how the group was brought together was described.


Purpose & Patient Population:

PURPOSE: To review effective strategies to assist nurses in caring for patients receiving sorafenib, with the focus on those adverse effects the group felt were most difficult to manage—hand-foot syndrome, diarrhea, fatigue, and oral complications

TYPES OF PATIENTS ADDRESSED: Patients receiving sorafenib for renal cell or hepatocellular cancer

Type of Resource/Evidence-Based Process:

RESOURCE TYPE: Evidence-based guideline

DATABASES USED: PubMed, Cochrane Library, and hand-searching of the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing and American Society of Clinical Oncology website     

KEYWORDS: Side effect general terms, and specific terms for each side effect (e.g., altered taste, hand-foot syndrome); disease-related search terms included renal cancer, cancer of the kidneys, hepatocellular carcinoma, and liver cancer

INCLUSION CRITERIA: Evidence base included wider literature regarding the management of similar adverse events in patients with other types of cancer and other types of antitumor therapy. No other specific criteria were stated.


Phase of Care and Clinical Applications:

  • PHASE OF CARE: Active antitumor treatment            
  • APPLICATIONS: Late effects and survivorship

Results Provided in the Reference:

Out of 2,469 initial citations retrieved, 37 were included for review. No specific quality evaluation of citations was done due to the nature of the literature, with few clinical trials. No description of the group process used is provided. Findings from citations reviewed were outlined and a review of the literature was provided, but no actual synthesis of evidence exists. Noted is that most evidence in this area is from experience.

Guidelines & Recommendations:

Recommendations for mucositis include oral care, amifostine, and antibiotic paste for prophylaxis. For symptom management, recommendations include ice chips, topical lidocaine solutions, sage tea and baking soda oral rinses, and topical solution containing aloe vera, and advising patient to avoid tobacco, alcohol, and spicy foods, mucosal coating agents (e.g., Gelclair®), hydrolytic enzymes, and treatment interruption. For diarrhea, recommendations are patient education, loperamide, diphenoxylate, cholestyramine, probiotics, tincture of opium, and antidiarrheal agents, and avoidance of lactose, high roughage, fatty and spicy foods, fruit juice, and caffeine. For hand-foot syndrome, recommendations include use of emollients, wearing gloves, and avoiding constrictive footwear, hot water, urea- or salicylate-containing creams, and treatment interruptions. For fatigue, recommendations include encouraging activity, maintaining normal work and social schedules, providing supportive care, and considering antidepressants, methylphenidate, sleep medication, and treatment-free intervals.


This review adds nothing new to the limited body of evidence in this area, and does not include a huge body of literature related to the management of fatigue and diarrhea symptoms. Most evidence reviewed was of low quality and expert opinion. No process by which the group evaluated the evidence strength in order to make full recommendations is described, and the result is generally a listing of previously documented opinions related to the management of these symptoms.

Nursing Implications:

This review provides recommended assessments and management approaches that are at the level of expert opinion only.