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Natural beauty revolution: Toxic beauty, cancer and me

Safe to say, natural beauty was not something I ever really considered pre-cancer and I feel I need to start this post with a confession… I hate to say it, but… I’m a tart! There you go, it is out there.

Call me vain and that may well be true, but when it comes to lotions, potions, creams, gels and miracle pots of magic that are going to make me look younger, prettier or simply make my eyes “pop” then you can count me IN! I dread to think how much money I have spent in the name of beauty, but having spent a lot of my adult life unhappy with my weight, looking after my skin or putting on a face full of slap was always my way to present my “best self” and I have always been of the belief that there is no better armour for a woman than a bright red lippy. Throughout my cancer treatment I have always prepared myself for the scary appointments and dealt with scanxiety with a pair of killer heels and power make-up.

My “big appointment” warrior staples!

Although when I was a teenager I was very concerned with whether my skincare or make up was cruelty-free, I’m ashamed to say that by the time I was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, my biggest concerns were whether or not I liked the shade, the brand, the effect or if it would hide my crinkles. I had parked my beauty ethics in pursuit of younger, dewier looking skin and was completely bought in to the idea that sometimes in order to work, you needed the chemicals and screw the consequences!

I was even debating the pros and cons of fillers and Botox – after all I had just turned 40 and heaven forbid I might look it. And sod it, I was blooming invincible and I needed to look it too – chemicals, schmemicals! At this point in time to me natural beauty was a phrase that equated to a lot of time and a lot of make up to create the overall effect of “no make-up” LOL

What are you actually putting on your skin?

Do you know that just over 100 years ago, women were using arsenic, lead and mercury in their cosmetics? It sounds ridiculous doesn’t it, and yet if we look at some of the chemicals that are common-place in so many of our beauty products now – can we really say we have moved on?

The beauty industry today commonly uses phthalates, parabens, talcum powder, nanoparticles, formaldehyde, lead acetate, coal tar, camphor, triclosan, resorcinol. toulene, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), UV filters such as octyl methoxycinnamate and 4-methybenxylidene and many, many more nasty chemicals in their formulations – known carcinogens, allergens, irritants and general toxins, and we happily slap it on with gay abandon without a second thought about what it may be doing to our bodies or the planet as a whole, providing we can get the results we are looking for.

It was something I had never considered or looked into before, but as chemotherapy massively impacts your skin – making it dry, sensitive and reactive, I felt it was important to understand what products I was using, and when I started looking, I was horrified!

Why does it even matter? Surely it must be safe?

Because when you think about it, your skin is your biggest organ, and it is designed to be porous – that is fundamentally how skin works. This is why natural beauty is worth a consideration… If you think that what you put on your skin doesn’t matter, then take a minute to think about how a nicotine patch functions – absorbing the nicotine directly into your bloodstream from a patch on your arm. How comfortable do you feel about rubbing a known carcinogen directly into your heart? Yet we don’t think twice about using creams and serums that are stuffed to the gills with parabens.

Consider the fact that the chemicals in our sunscreen are killing off oceans of coral reefs and marine life, yet we consider that same sunscreen safe to put on our kids. It is shocking and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty certain that my choice of deodorant did not cause my cancer, and as far as I am aware a lipstick never killed anyone. But… all those toxins can’t be good either, and there are so many natural, green beauty brands proving on a daily basis that these nasty chemicals really aren’t necessary, it makes you wonder why we are so happily and unquestioningly wandering down the toxic beauty rabbit-hole.

Without wanting to sound like a full-blown hippy, I can’t help but feel that as our cosmetics and beauty habits become more synthetic and chemical-based, as our food becomes more processed and convenience orientated, and as our world becomes more polluted and toxic, we seem to be getting ill at a higher rates, at a younger age and I genuinely believe that we seem to be paying the price for living so far out of balance with nature.

And do you know what else – I am so sad that in this day and age, so many of the big high street brands still routinely test on animals. Because there really is absolutely no excuse for any animals big or small to come to any harm for the sake of a shower gel or shampoo or mascara!

I decided that whilst I couldn’t control the toxins that were going to be going in to my system in the form of chemo and treatment, I could control what I chose to put on my skin – reducing the toxic load on my system and being a bit kinder to my body (and the environment!) during a time when it was going to be battered from the inside out. It was time to cut the chemical nasties in my skincare and begin my own personal natural beauty revolution.

How to embrace natural beauty?

I downloaded the “Think Dirty” app (nowhere near as fun as it sounds!) and started checking what was in my products, things that didn’t score well on the “dirty” scale were replaced with natural alternatives. I was shocked and p***ed off about the level of green-washing that goes on – a brand simply has to include a tiny percentage of one or two natural ingredients to be able to market themselves as “containing natural ingredients”

They are not really lying, after all we have laws against that, but it is the classic magicians trick of diversion and distraction – something that is rife throughout the beauty industry at all price points – tell them about the sweet almond oil, and conveniently ignore the high levels of petrolatum. The great thing about using an independent app like Think Dirty is that it helps you cut through all the marketing speak and see for yourself what is good or bad with a product and starts to train you on what to look out for.

Despite being adamant this was the right thing to do, I approached my switch to natural beauty with trepidation – I expected that weaning myself off my creams and serums would be difficult and if I’m honest I half expected that my face was going to drop to my knees and that I would age 100 years overnight. I have to confess that when I started, I figured it would be a temporary thing whilst I was going through active treatment and I could always go back to the “good stuff” when I was done.

The truth is that my skin is better than ever, my skin is softer, plumper and I have a healthy glow; my fine lines are less, and the make up I use is just as luxurious and effective as anything I was using before my beauty detox. Despite eight rounds of chemo and twenty radiotherapy sessions, people are constantly surprised at how well I look – I choose to presume this is because of my healthy glow and not the size of my bum post-chemo! 😉

So it is safe to say I am a convert to natural beauty, and for me, I have found it to be far more effective than the chemical laden products I had been so dependent on before. I spend a lot of time trying to spread the word about reducing the toxic load in our skincare and cosmetics as it just seems such an unnecessary thing to waste our toxins on… Personally I would much rather use a natural body lotion and keep my “toxin quota” for more essential items like gin and chocolate!

If you would like advice about making the switch to natural beauty and starting your own green beauty revolution, products to help you to #fightfierce along your own cancer journey, or even the perfect shade of red lippy to help you #findyourroar then drop me an email to [email protected]

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