Products I Switched To When I Got Cancer
non-toxic skincare, haircare, body care, and makeup edition
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, my cancer diagnosis brought me into deeper levels of self-knowledge, deeper levels of communion with my ancestors, deeper levels of right relationship with the land, with what I was put on this planet to do. It was and might forever be the worst thing that happened to me though. Two things can be true.
I say this because in some ways I’ve always been an herbalist, a gardener, someone both attuned to and interested in the land. In fact, when I was sick but didn’t know it (more on that in an essay soon) while living in Spain, I was considering shifting to a plant-based lifestyle, loved that the food I was eating was healthier (because America’s food systems are so screwed up), and all in all just thinking about shifting or really returning to ways of being and knowing that I had forgotten about. When I got sick, this initiation was no longer an option, no longer something I was considering. It was something I was doing and continue to go deeper into still.
We’ve already discussed that the day I got my diagnosis, my best friends mom decided I would go vegan. I did pretty good with the vegan lifestyle for about a year and then at the advice of some doctors and my own internal knowing shifted to being plant-based. This means that instead of totally avoiding all animal products, I eat plant-forward (so think less red meat and chicken, more fish or only fermented dairy products because they’re easier to digest). Anyway, this post isn’t even actually about diet, I’m just trying to set some context as a way in for all of us.
What I’m actually here to share with you are the product swaps I made when I got my diagnosis because “As within, so without.” So, if I was eating better, but not getting enough sleep or drinking enough water, what was the point? If I was eating better, but still wearing clothes full of plastic knowing that my skin is the largest organ of my body, what was the point? If I was eating healthier but still using beauty products full of not-so-good for me things, what was the point?
We can get into the other areas in future notes, but today I just want to share the skin + body + hair care and makeup products I shifted too after getting my diagnosis. These products to the best of my knowledge are safe for our endocrine systems, don’t or minimally disrupt our hormones, and are free from carcinogens (which have the potential to cause cancer).
What’s listed in each section is what I use currently. The "Other Brands I have tried/trust” bit is exactly that, stuff I’ve used in the four years since, but am not using currently (not because it’s bad or anything, just because I am just a girl who likes to change things up occasionally) and will also provide you with another place to start. For the most part, if a specific product from a brand is listed here, that means the brand is chill overall, but you know, double check and do your own research always. Nothing I share is ever medical or herbal advice. Price points vary. Enjoy.
Sunscreen: Summer Fridays ShadeDrops Mineral Milk Sunscreen SPF 30 (TRULY LEAVES NO WHITE CAST THEY HAVE A FAN IN ME FOREVER)
Masks: Aztec Secret Bentonite Clay, Tata Harper Resurfacing BHA Mask, Tula Claycation™ Detoxing & Toning Face Mask Stick, Golde Clean Greens Face Mask, Farmacy Honey Potion Plus Ceramide Hydration Mask
Shampoo: Amika (love this after taking out a protective style)
Conditioner: Amika + I also DIY this a lot with avocado, bananas, honey, and some hair oil.
Mask: Aztec Secret Bentonite Clay with water + ACV
Leave in Conditioner: Adowa Beauty
Other brands I have tried/trust: Briogeo
Shower gel: Naturium Multi Oil Hydrating Body Wash
Exfoliant: Frank Body Original Coffee Scrub
Moisturizer: I either make my own shea butter or slather myself in sesame oil (it’s an Ayurvedic thing)
Sunscreen: Fenty Mineral (I use the face one on my body)
Toothpaste: Dr. Bronners
Deodorant: Raw Sugar (Love the Beach Rose + Aloe and Vanilla + Charcoal Scent)
Highlight: Haus Labs
Lip Liner: Sephora Collection
Blush: Tower 28
Eyeshadow: The same Haus Labs highlight
I am not a full face girlie so don’t really have a foundation recommendation, etc so hopefully these brands give you a starting place if you need/want more robust makeup options.
Oh and you probably need to throw that perfume of yours out. Fragrance can be literally anything and is often mixed with not so good stuff. Some clean fragrances I love are by: Clean Reserve, Phlur, The 7 Virtues, and Ellis Brooklyn.
You’ll notice I haven’t laid out here everything I was using before. That’s for a few reasons, one I am not trying to get sued and two it has been four years since my diagnosis. And when I got that diagnosis, I switched all my products, immediately. Like, I was diagnosed December 26th, 2019 and by January 11th, 2020 I had all new products. That’s what, two weeks? I was obsessive about researching new things to use and vividly remember an Ulta, Whole Foods, and Sephora trip to pick up new products when I could finally get out of bed in early January. I was and remain determined to do my part in this whole saving my life thing.
Does using these products make a difference? Who knows. Does it give me more peace of mind? Absolutely, and peace of mind is priceless. It’s all relative. It’s all about what works for me (and when making your own decisions, you).
If you want to know what’s in your products to see if they’re on the up and up or if you might consider making some swaps, I use Think Dirty, EWG, and Cosmily to check what is in everything before I buy it.
I also recognize that healthier options cost more. I am in no way saying that just because a product has a carcinogen or endocrine disruptor in it that you will get cancer or some other disease. I am saying that for me, from my unique vantage point as a breast cancer survivor, it’s important and worthwhile to spend the money on stuff I feel safe using.
I can also afford to do so. We are all doing the best we can with what we have and none of this should be on us anyway. The US government shouldn’t allow ingredients that are harmful for us to be in products to begin with. Basically, no judgement either way, no preaching at you. I am not trying to convert you to my lifestyle or way of being. I am just sharing what I know and have learned from my experience.
But, I will say that if you’re thinking this doesn’t apply to you, breast cancer is on the rise in young women, and not because of genetics. Hmmm…could it be what’s in our products? Our lifestyles of all work and no play? The fact that so much of our culture is rooted in consuming alcohol? No fear mongering, just saying. Just food for thought.
No affiliate links present as well, btw. And a marketplace I used a lot in the beginning to find and try products I trusted was Credo. They have stores around the US as well. Would 100% recommend. Clean at Sephora is also a place to start, but I always do extra research regardless.
Also, I have dry, sensitive skin which you know, matters if you want to actually try any of these products. If you don’t, just use the brands as a starting point.
I will continue updating this list as relevant. Any questions? Let’s chat in the comments.
I am currently on a two-month intense ceramics residency. A lot is coming into view of course about my work with clay, but also with regard to my practice in general. I had this misguided notion that I needed to keep my herbalism/gardening/healthy living work separate from clay work or writing work when the reality is that it is all intertwined, it is all connected—it is all one. I will no longer be siloing myself.
Lastly, if you feel supported by this or any of my work, consider becoming a paid subscriber or resourcing my practice through a gift (tax-deductible you’re a US tax-payer) and you can buy me a coffee if not in the US/don’t care about taxes!