My Best Skin Since Childhood

I’ve had some requests following my last blog to share my chemotherapy skin care routine. You don’t need to have cancer to try this.

THE THINKING

  • The skin is a permeable membrane. We know it’s an excellent vehicle for delivering drugs to the blood stream which is why some medications are now available as stick-on patches.
  • What I put on my skin will, to some extent, always wind up inside my body.
  • The regulations relating to ‘beauty products’ in Australia really only relate to truth in advertising. There is no requirement for companies to put warnings on products that contain known or potential carcinogens. I will do my research on the ingredients before I put anything on my skin.
  • The best skin care products for me are safe enough to eat. They are also organic, to avoid any insecticide or pesticide contamination
  • While I’m having chemotherapy and flooding my body with poison to kill cancer cells, it seems that one of the best things I could do to support my treatment and recovery is to reduce, as much as possible, the toxic load from other sources.
  • While I’m fighting cancer I’m also wiping out healthy fast replicating cells, which means my skin won’t heal easily and wont renew itself while I’m having treatment. I need to take really good care of my skin to avoid infection, damage and other skin problems.
  • My skin is also going to be more susceptible to insect bites, fungal infections and allergic reactions.
  • ‘Natural’ does not necessarily equate with ‘non toxic’. The leaves and seeds of cherries contain cyanide. So are the leaves of tomato plants, the berries of the asparagus, all forms of nightshade, angel’s trumpet, columbines, wisteria and thousands of other plants.

THE PRODUCTS

Soap

http://uniquelynatural.com.au

This company makes beautiful skin and hair care products that don’t have the usual cosmetic nasties. I’m using their body wash instead of soap. Soap is much too harsh when you’re having chemotherapy. The body wash comes in a pump pack. Hold on to your first empty one and reuse it for your body oil.

Uniquely Natural also make a luscious body bath that makes the whole house smell delicious.

Lip Balm

I’ve bought several of the Uniquely Natural lip balms so that I’ve got easy access to it wherever I am.

Moisturiser

Possibly the most important because you rub it all over your body and leave it there, so I’ve made a point of using edible oil instead of traditional creams. Options include hemp oil from here:

http://www.hempfoods.com.au/shop/products-page/hemp-oil/hemp-oil-500ml-retail/?gclid=CMnwqZ3gxLoCFQNgpgodzDQAFA

Hemp oil is high in omega 3 and great for your skin but I don’t like the smell so I’ve added a couple of drops of essential lavender oil to it.  I keep it in a pump pack that originally contained my body wash. Don’t leave it in the original packaging if you put anything in it.

I’ve also used organic coconut oil (sometimes sold as coconut butter). It’s anti-fungal and will cure any dandruff or tinea that bothers you. It’s a bit more difficult to use because it’s solid but it melts quickly between your hands. Once again the smell can be an issue. Warming it gently and adding essential oil will help but make sure you take it out of the original jar if you do this so nobody eats it.

Other alternatives include avocado oil, almond oil, light olive oil and even canola oil. Always buy them from the food section of the health food shop or supermarket and get organic if you can. You may need to experiment a bit until you find one you like. The good news is that you can use anything you don’t like in cooking. Just make sure that if you add fragrance you try a small quantity first so you don’t contaminate the whole bottle.

Do not use bio oil or any of the copies of it. They’re based on mineral oil (also known as ‘baby oil’) which is a petrochemical product. You don’t want to be putting that stuff on your skin.

If you don’t want to make up your own oil then Uniquely Natural and lots of other organic and low toxicity brands sell massage oils and baby oils.

Not everyone likes using oil and a fall back would be plain sorbelene from the chemist or a moisturiser from a company like Uniquely Natural, but check the list of ingredients. Generally speaking, less ingredients is better. The oil is an important part of my skin care routine and I don’t think I’d get the same results with ordinary moisturiser.

For cuts, pimples, rashes and other strange skin adventures

It doesn’t pass the ‘edible’ test, but tea tree oil is still my favourite for all of the various things that happen with your skin. If you want to be extra virtuous then buy the essential oil and mix it about 10% with your favourite organic carrier oil. To my mind, you use so little of this that it’s okay to just go with the supermarket version. If you can get one that doesn’t have a mineral oil base then that’s a better choice.

Tea tree oil is a naturally derived disinfectant and anti-fungal but don’t swallow it because it’s toxic. The best way to apply it is sparingly with a cotton bud.

It’s a good idea to have plenty of band aids on hand for the times when you damage your skin. Bandaid now make a ‘fast healing’ range that look like opaque silicone. You put them on and leave them on. They keep me from scratching bites or bumping minor wounds.

I’ve become aware that I tend to hurl my body at the world without proper consideration for the delicate nature of my skin. Cancer has helped me to change that behaviour.

Face

If you want to you can just use the same moisturising oil on your face that you use on the rest of your body but watch for pimples. Some oils are more inclined to clog your pores than others.

I love rose hip oil. I’ve used it on anything that might scar since I saw a knife attack victim heal her facial wounds without a mark. When I started chemotherapy I decided to abandon my usual facial moisturisers (usually either Olay or L’oreal) and just use the rose hip oil. Now I wish I’d done this years ago.

Exfoliating

Don’t do it. Remember your skin isn’t renewing at the same rate it usually does and rubbing off the top layer of dead skin cells to generate faster renewal of the underlying cells in not a good idea. Avoid any sort of scrub, body brush or loofah. I’ve found a gentle scrub with a washer is all I need. Pat your skin dry rather than rubbing it and use a soft towel. Remember that a lot of pimple creams work by encouraging peeling of the skin so if you must use them, do it sparingly and wait for the results before you re-treat.

Sun Block

It’s now starting to attract attention as a potential carcinogen so I’ve avoided it as much as possible. I wear long sleeves and a hat if I’m going out into the sun. I also have a cotton scarf that I can use to protect the back of my neck or my chest. A cotton sarong works well as a scarf that you can expand to give your sun protection when you need it.

If you must use a sun block then buy something made for children. It’s hopefully going to have lower toxicity that adult formulas.

Fingernails and Toenails

Because they also fall into the category of fast replicating cells there’s a risk of your nails peeling and splitting. I found that my oil regime meant that my nails stayed in really good condition until about week twelve of my chemotherapy, so I didn’t do anything to them except rubbing in my body oil and filing them down. Filing has less risk of splitting your nails than cutting them. My oil routine also meant my cuticles stayed in really good condition and staying out of the sun meant I didn’t get sun damage to my nail beds.

I use gloves for gardening and washing up and I’m avoiding using my nails to peel off labels or open packets. I went to get something off a high metal shelf at the supermarket a couple of weeks ago and managed to chip three large chunks out of my fingernails. Fortunately the damage didn’t extend below the quick. I was grateful that I’d decided to leave my nails just a little longer than usual. I purchased a low toxicity nail polish ‘base coat and top coat’ online and I’ve been using that to reinforce my fragile nails.

If your hands are going to be in the sun a lot then the standard advice is to paint them with a dark coloured nail polish but please check the ingredients before you buy one. Even some of the better brands are still highly toxic. I like the Scotch brand:

http://www.nourishedlife.com.au/brand/scotch-naturals.html

Consider treating yourself to a pedicure (without the polish) to keep your toenails in good shape. I often end up accidentally cutting the corners on my toes and when your body is slow to heal that’s a really bad idea.

I’ve kept using a pumice stone on the soles of my feet but very gently. The oil routine has also healed the cracks I had in my heels.

Makeup

Try this; empty out your makeup bag and start googling the ingredients. It’s got WHAT in it! Fortunately there are not a lot of healthier alternatives when it comes to makeup.

My first strategy when it comes to makeup is to not wear any at all. I know this isn’t an option for some women but I don’t understand why. My husband never wears makeup and he looks just fine.

I usually save makeup for special occasions and I’ll use a concealer rather than a foundation. Less is always better. I have some Nude by Nature products and I like them, but I’m still not convinced they’re entirely safe.

Because I wear it so infrequently I haven’t done a lot of research into this subject. I like Sarah Wilson’s blog and usually check it before I buy anything:

http://www.sarahwilson.com.au/2011/05/toxin-free-cosmetics/

THE ROUTINE

Showering

I love my shower and use it as an opportunity to imagine the water washing all those cancer cells out of my body. With no hair to worry about I figure I can use the extra time to really enjoy my shower.

When I’m done I step out onto a cotton bath mat and cover myself from head to toe with my body oil. I do this before drying off. The water on my skin helps the oil to emulsify. I find I don’t need to use a lot of oil if my skin is still wet.

While I’m applying my oil I like to think about what a great job my body is doing fighting cancer and how I’m rewarding it with my oil.

I finish with my feet and pay particular attention to my toenails and in between my toes.

I dry off with a hand towel because I’m going to need to wash it and washing a full-sized towel every day is not an option when you live with tank water. Because of the effect of the oil on the water a hand towel is big enough to do the job.

I put socks on my feet so I don’t track oil through the house.

Next I get my rose hip oil and massage about ten drops into my scalp. I like to give my scalp a really good massage. This skin is very thin and needs special care. Then I rub another ten drops or so into my face and neck, and the skin at the top of my chest that gets all the sun.

I finish by wiping the excess rose hip oil on the backs of my hands.

At night I just wash my face with a face washer and some water and re-apply the rose hip oil. If I have any cuts, scratches, pimples or rashes then I apply tea tree oil with a cotton bud before the rose hip oil. Yes, it does sting a little but it works really well.

THE RESULTS

My skin feels amazing. My age spots have disappeared from my face, chest and hands. My fine lines and wrinkles really have visibly diminished.

Any rashes or blemishes have healed quickly and pimples usually disappear overnight. Rashes and pimples are both side effects of chemotherapy.

My nails and cuticles are in the best condition they’ve ever been.

I have loads of room in my bathroom cabinet.

I’m also saving a fortune on ‘beauty products’ and having less impact on the environment.

* * * * *

Well that’s my skin care routine for those of you that were asking. I really do have the best skin I’ve had since I was a child. My husband comments on how soft it is and how well I’m looking.

It amuses me that a life threatening illness could have fringe benefits.

Cancer; the disease that just keeps giving!

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