About this blog

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 11, 2010. As a result of my treatment, I have lymphedema in my left arm. I draw my strength from the Lord, as well as my family's Scots-Irish heritage. Our Graham's were a tough and scrappy bunch of fighters on the Scottish/English border. They came to America and continued to fight when necessary: in the American Revolution; the Civil War; and my brother is a Captain in the U.S. Army. My ancestors settled this country against all odds. My great-grandmothers on both sides of the family were pioneer women who settled the West. Along with that heritage, and the full armor of God, I am walking the walk and fighting the good fight.

Monday, June 13, 2011

De-toxifying where I can

Before my diagnosis. I read Jillian Michael's book, "Master Your Metabolism" where she talked about endocrine disrupting chemicals in our household cleaners, kitchen utensils, beauty products, etc. At that point, I started to change where I could. I would buy toilet paper and paper towels that were not bleached with chlorine, dish detergent without phosphates, lotion without parabens, and so on.  At that point, my main concern was how these chemicals may interfere with and slow down my metabolism. I had a weight loss goal, and these things could be getting in my way.

Now I realize the reasons are much bigger to avoid these nasty chemicals.  Cancer has made me hyper-aware of all of the toxins that surround us every day. There is no way to completely avoid them, but I am resolved to cut them out where I can.  I have a lot to learn, but thought I'd share some changes that I've made over the past few months that I feel pretty good about.  The skin is our largest organ. What we put on it gets into our bodies, so its important to know what is in your products.

There is an an organization called the "Environmental Working Group" and they have a skin deep cosmetics database. You can look up products and see if they have hazardous chemicals in them.  I highly recommend this organization and the tools on their website to screen products before you buy them. According to EWG, current public health laws allow almost any chemical as an ingredient in personal care products, misleading and incomplete labeling of ingredients, unsubstantiated claims about product benefits, and no required safety testing of products or ingredients.

Body moisturizer
I used to love going into stores like "Bath and Body Works."  All of the yummy fragrances and lotions were heavenly.  Unfortunately, most of them aren't good for us.
I've spent a lot of time on the cosmetics database trying to find a product that I could use after my showers that was readily available in stores locally and not outrageously expensive.  I'm sure there may be a product or two out there.  But I found something much simpler and very pure-  Coconut oil.  Reading the list of ingredients, there is only 1.  "Organic virgin coconut oil."  I could eat it if I wanted to!  A cancer survivor friend of mine says, "If I can't eat it, I don't put it on my body."  Even the most "organic" looking products at Sprouts have a long list of ingredients.  I love the simplicity of coconut oil! I must say that I am very pleased with the results. It is a solid at room temperature. I have a little craft stick that I use to scoop a little out and put on my skin. It starts to melt almost immediately. I just rub it in. The oily feel goes away after a couple  minutes, and I smell like a yummy tropical drink!  Even better, my skin is smooth all day. It really is amazing stuff. I don't think I'll ever buy another body lotion-coconut oil is the best I've ever tried, and its completely non-toxic.  The label says you can use it on your hair as well.  I haven't tried that yet, but I might. I bought a small pot like this at Sprouts for under $10.

This is another minefield of chemicals. EWG hasan annual review of sunscreen products and even an app for the iphone so you can check products while you are at the store.  Using this app last year, I was able to find a sunscreen at Sprouts that is safer than anything I've used in the past. It's Badger, SPF 30, unscented. According to EWG, there are very few products that provide adequate sun protection without harmful ingredients. EWG's suggestions are to avoid:

  • Aerosol spray and powder sunscreen;

  • Oxybenzone;

  • Insect repellent.

  • On the proactive side, they suggest:
    • Hats and shade in mid-day sun;
    • Zinc or Titanium are the best active ingredients in sunscreens, otherwise Avobenzone at 3%;
    • SPF 30 for intense sun.
    You can get EWG's 2011 guide to sunscreens here.

    Like lotions and sunscreens, cosmetics have a lot of chemicals in them that get into our systems. I don't really wear makeup that much. But I do like to make an effort if I'm going to church or have some event to go to. I've found a brand that I like, Coastal Classic Creations. This company has signed the compact for safe cosmetics and rates a 0-2 on EWG's hazard score.  (EWG has 3 levels of scoring: Green if the product or company rates 0-2, yellow if between 3-6, and red if between 7-10. By point of comparison, Maybelline rates between 2-8 depending on the product, and some Loreal products rate the highest hazard score of 10.)

    According to the company's website, they are, "committed to the development of cosmetics and personal care products made without carcinogenic toxicants or any toxicants, which are known or which are suspected of causing harm to all forms of life."

    I've tried their powder foundation, blush, mascara and several colors of eye shadow/liner. It took some getting used to using the products because they are very powdery and it does not take much at all to use.

    It is hard throwing out all of my other makeup that I've accumulated over the years. I find it easier to do a little at a time. But I don't see myself using them anymore, knowing that there is a safer product out there. For me, it is all about decreasing my exposure to chemicals and toxins where I can.
    If you don't think it matters, check out this article, "Why This Matters-Cosmetics and Your Health." It explains it in much better detail about it than I could ever.

    I welcome everyone's comments on natural products that work for them!


    1. Great post! And happy belated cancerversary. You survived!

      I'm just back from Whole Foods where I bought Badger Sunscreen and Coconut Oil. I've always purchased oil free moisturizes because I have normal to oily skin. But I'll try the Coconut oil as my night-time face moisturizer and will try it on my body after showering. Thanks for the easy tips for healthier living.

      I don't have any favorite natural products to share, but one thing I do to add nutrition to an otherwise crappy kid snack (Rice Krispy treats) is replace half the cereal with Kashi original cereal and add 1/4 cup flaxseed meal. At least now my kiddo is getting some protein and fiber when he eats this sugary snack.

    2. Great post Tonya! So glad you are using the cosmeticdatabase.org site. You are doing a worthy service by educating a lot of people. Kuddo's.