Skin Care After Cancer Treatment
Jennifer Young is a UK-based skincare company that specializes in customized products, unique to each individual’s skincare needs. We asked the company’s founder, Jennifer, who has also created a line of skincare especially for women who have been through cancer, to share a little of her expertise with our readers.
Despite having a skin care and beauty collection that was created to help patients recognize themselves as they go through treatment, we are often asked about post-treatment skincare. Here are the most common questions and our answers.
Q: I am nervous about oestrogenic (estrogenic) ingredients in my personal care products – should I be?
We have worked with a medical team in the UK, as well as patients and survivors, to develop our products. Those affected by cancer told us what they wanted the products to achieve. The medical team gave us some ingredient ‘rules’ and we had to adhere to them in order for them to agree for the products to be sold to their cancer patients.
Their first and foremost rule was – no plant oestrogens (also known as phyto-oestrogens) as oestrogens ‘feed’ some cancers. We have more detailed information and scientific references at www.BeautyDespiteCancer.co.uk.
The feeding of a cancer is no less of a concern to our survivors, as many are forever concerned about its return. With this in mind, we do not recommend plant oestrogens to those that have been diagnosed with cancer. Plant oestrogens include aloe vera, borage, evening primrose, avocado and many more.
Q: What can I do to improve my post-treatment skin?
Look after it! We always recommend a full skincare routine: cleanse, tone, treat and moisturise. Your skin has been through so much. The chemo drugs and the radiotherapy can be so damaging and the stress of diagnosis and treatment doesn’t help!
Love your skin and invest sometime in nurturing it.
Most post-treatment skin is dry, and many women tell us that they feel as though the aging process has been accelerated by their recent experiences.
Cleansing is vital as it removes the dirt and grime of the day. Using a cleansing balm rather than a lotion will moisturize the skin as well as cleansing it.
Toners provide hydration.
A serum is usually the next step in a skincare routine. Many beauticians consider this to be the most important part of any regime. Careful consideration should be given to serum choice. It is important to consider one’s goals when deciding. Most women want anti-aging properties, as well as ingredients that match their skin type. Oestrogenic oils have some well-documented anti-aging properties (particularly soy), but they may not be the best choices for cancer patients and survivors. More suitable ingredients may be nut oils, such as walnut and macadamia. Oils for sensitive skin include apricot kernel and peach kernel, so look out for them too. Some essential oils are associated with hormonal changes. It is important for many women to avoid these oils (geranium and clary sage are some examples of such oils).
Moisturizers are the product for most women, as this is the only product used by many. It takes a brave soul to come between a woman and her moisturizer, BUT we at Beauty Despite Cancer don’t recommend moisturizer!
Many of our clients tell us that they have sensitive skin and that it reacts to many things. Moisturizers are a mix of oils and water. Oil and water do not mix naturally and so many other ingredients have to be added to get them to form a wonderful, white (colors), soft cream (emulsifiers), that feels smooth as it is applied (pH modifiers) and does not become moldy with time (preservatives). The addition of all of these extra ingredients increases the chances of the product reacting with sensitive skin. Hence, we always recommend balms as they have far fewer ingredients (a balm is a mix of butters and oils and, as it does not contain water, preservatives are not needed).
Don’t forget the rest of your body! You have skin all over your body -- not just on your face! This sounds obvious, but so many women use skincare products on their face and nowhere else. A body oil helps to keep the rest of you young. How many of you have noticed women whose neck is older than their face? (Try Amoena's Skin Balance Gel Cream if you wear an adhesive breast form.)
Q: Should I use natural and organic products?
It is entirely up to you. A cancer diagnosis changes values for many, and a move to organic and natural is one of the changes made by a lot of women.
Organic means that the plant ingredients used to make the products have not been exposed to pesticides. Research has shown that organic ingredients do not contain residue of pesticides. Using organic products reduces exposure to some potentially hazardous compounds.
Q: How do I choose organic products?
This can be a minefield! Many beauty brands appear to be organic and natural when they are not, or have a very low percentage of organic and natural products. The secret to discovery is label reading. Good manufacturers have transparent labeling. Not literally transparent, perhaps labels that are easy to understand would be a more accurate description. Product labels in the USA are written in English so you have a head start over us Brits – our EU law requires our ingredients labels to be in Latin. Look for ingredients that are natural – they should sound like a plant, avocado oil for example. Many products mention their one natural ingredient on the front of the package in BIG letters, but reading the ingredients reveals that the product is 99% liquid paraffin and only 1% natural.
Jennifer Young is a bit of an ingredients freak, be it food or skincare, hair-care or cosmetics, and is the creator of Defiant Beauty, the skincare and beauty collections formulated for use by those going through treatment for cancer. Jennifer is also the editor of Beauty Despite Cancer, the website of Defiant Beauty. At Beauty Despite Cancer, past and present cancer patients, as well as experts, share their experiences, give comfort, as well as providing advice and information for those suffering from cancer.This article was posted November 6, 2013.