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For cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, self-care is essential to help maintain self-esteem and mental well-being when suffering the side effects of treatment. A simple manicure can make a world of a difference. But it’s not always easy. Standard nail polish contains chemicals, including solvents, that can irritate patients’ sensitive fingernails, while its smell is often nauseating. The high concentration of acetone in nail polish remover can also make it painful, even hazardous, to remove.

“I lost my mother to stomach cancer back in 2010,” says Hitomi Goto, who gives manicures to patients at a Tokyo hospital on a voluntary basis. “Two years later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. But I was lucky. It was discovered early, so I didn’t need chemotherapy.”

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