{Beauty} A Cancer-Survivor Comes “Clean” About her Beauty Products

A year ago, FOF Tracey Brown was willing to put just about anything on her skin. As the founder of the popular beauty blog Blinging Beauty, and a former Sephora executive, she received mountains of sample products. Creamy foundations, luxe lipsticks, smoothing peels and hydrating lotions–Tracey tested every one. She admits to especially loving super-powered cosmeceuticals: “If something burned me to death or turned my skin red–that was my thing,” she says. “I liked to feel it working.”

Then, in 2010, she was diagnosed with cancer.

Specifically, chronic lymphocytic leukemia–the very blood disease that had killed her mother at 67 and her grandmother at 98.

Suddenly, she saw beauty products differently. “Having cancer made me want to use less chemicals on my skin. Period.” she explains. “Your skin is your largest organ, and what you put on it is absorbed into your bloodstream. It also made me think about my own daughters and what they use.”

According to a report from The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a nonprofit that lobbies to keep dangerous chemicals out of consumer products, “more than 1 in 5 personal care products contain chemicals linked to cancer and 56 percent contain penetration enhancers that help deliver ingredients deeper into the skin.” While the chemicals in any one product are unlikely to cause cancer in an individual, there’s simply no definitive research on the cumulative effects of being exposed to multiple products every day.

For Tracey, finding products that were safe, but also effective, became a priority. “When it comes to skincare, I’ve gone 100% to clean products,” she says. “There’s no easy way to know what’s safe. A product labeled ‘natural’ can have some pretty scary ingredients. I look at the labels, at all the ingredients (not just the active ones), and compare them to the list of chemicals that we know are dangerous.”

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics recommends checking against this list of the 12 most harmful chemicals found in cosmetics, which includes pthalates, parabens, fragrance, petroleum and sulfates.

The good news: “The new generation of ‘clean’ products, as I call them, is amazing,” says Tracey. “I use them now because I actually prefer them to the products I used to use.”

Check out Tracey’s favorite products, below, and tell us in the comments, is there any ingredient you avoid when buying cosmetics or skincare products?

[portfolio_slideshow]

Tracey Brown and her staff try out all sorts of products for her fab blog, Blinging Beauty. (But she uses the products above “day in and day out” she says.)

34 Responses to “{Beauty} A Cancer-Survivor Comes “Clean” About her Beauty Products”

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  3. Security says:

    Very great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve truly loved browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing for your feed and I’m hoping you write again very soon!

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  4. karenclongo says:

    FOF should do a giveaway of these products to several lucky winners!

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    • admin says:

      Hi Karen – Stay tuned! We have product tests planned with several of these brands and we’ll be announcing them in the next few weeks! –FOF EDITORS

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  5. {Fashion Flash} | Fab Over Fifty Style Blog says:

    […] After her cancer diagnosis, this top beauty blogger revamped her beauty routine. Should you do the same? Find out at Faboverfifty. […]

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  6. ktpotat says:

    Do you know of a hair dye that would follow your guide line?

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  7. Jessica Drummond, MPT, CHC says:

    Have you tried Sari Motley’s skincare stuff? (http://www.sarimotley.com)

    I love it, and she is very aware of keeping unhealthy chemicals out of her products. I try to feed my body all of the best stuff… my mouth, skin, mind and spirit!
    Thanks Tracey!

    xo,
    Jessica Drummond, MPT, CHC
    http://www.jessicadrummond.com
    FOF Guru

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  8. Laura McLendon says:

    I can’t tell you the names of all the chemicals etc that I try to avoid. but the more natural the better is my choice!! Always!!

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  9. tracey says:

    Thank you to everyone for well wishes. It was hard to tell this story, but when I talked to friends and colleagues, I realized that I am not the only one! I am open to any questions about products and basic beauty!

    Thanks!

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  10. bamr07 says:

    Tracey,
    I want to use products that do not have chemicals that cause cancer. Thank you for giving a list of your favorites. It helps me in my search. Happy and Healthy New Year.

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    • tracey says:

      Hi there–

      I’m glad my story could help. If you need any more suggestions, please feel free to reach out to me. I am an FOF guru and a member here as well.

      Best to you too
      Tracey

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  11. MARY says:

    Considering her mother and grandmother both died from this same cancer, this article really doesn’t make sense. Sort of scare tactics! Sorry!

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    • admin says:

      Hi Mary – I think I see what you’re saying. We (The FOF Editors) didn’t intend to suggest that Tracey got cancer from her beauty products. Clearly this disease runs in her family! However Tracey felt strongly about lowering the number of carcinogens in her environment and her personal care products once she HAD cancer. (She also told us that she has reduced the BPAs in her household products, for example.)
      I hope that clarifies!

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    • tracey says:

      Hi Mary–

      This story is quite short, so it does not have every bit of information. The bottom line is that I do have a disease that is inherited. My grandmother ultimately died from CLL, but she was 98. She was vital until she was 97. My mom generally died from CLL, although it was aplastic anemia due to chemotherapy which technically killed her.
      To illustrate — I also have a predisposition to being a big girl. So that means that I avoid foods that cause me to gain weight, because it’s easy for me. So I prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to my CLL. I do not want to exacerbate my condition by adding unnecessary chemicals, particularly ones that are known carcinogens into my body.

      As was noted, I am a product junkie. I still test main stream products daily. But for long term wear, I prefer “green” beauty products.

      I hope that clears things up.

      Best to you–
      Tracey

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  12. Susan Goldstein says:

    Thank you, Tracey, and congrats on beating your cancer.
    I like your suggestions, and will follow through. I really like to try products that have been vetted by someone in the “know”, like you.

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    • tracey says:

      Hi Susan —

      Thanks for reading. I appreciate the support! By all means, try these products. For so long I poo-pooed green products because I frankly didn’t like the way “pay off”. However, the y are so much better now, I am a fan of the results for both beauty’s sake and for the sake of my health.

      Best to you
      Tracey

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  13. BlueBear says:

    Fantastic article and I love the recommendations that go with it! I already use the Tarte lip stains and love them but I found some others from your slide show that I will try, specifically the Henriksen products. Thank you so much for this! May 2012 bring you only the best of health!

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    • admin says:

      Hi BlueBear –
      So glad you liked the story! I interviewed Tracey for this and have found myself ordering several of the products in the days since I wrote the story. I’m especially interested in the Vapour Beauty foundations, which several people have now told me are amazing. Thanks for your comment.
      Best,
      Lina (FOF Editor)

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    • tracey says:

      Hi Blue Bear–

      I’m so glad you found the suggestions helpful. Please stay in touch! I found that the Bite products are wonderful for a variety of lip products.

      Best —
      Tracey

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  14. Ann says:

    What a great article. People looking for natural products might also like the Sevani skin care line.

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    • tracey says:

      Hi Ann

      Thanks for the reading. I will look into that line, as I have not tested it.
      Best
      Tracey

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  15. Carolyn says:

    I don’t use anything that has fragrance in it. It is a double no no because it agrevates my sinuses and causes migraines in my husband. I try to keep away from most chemicals and use very little makeup. I always use sunscreen though and it is hard to find one without chemicals. Can’t wait to try some of these suggestions.

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    • admin says:

      Hi Carolyn – I don’t use anything with fragrance either! (It gives me a terrible rash). It was interesting to learn that “fragrance” is an actual ingredient–not just the smell that a product has. I’ve since found some really good fragrance free products that actually still smell good. My latest favorite is Jonathan Product shampoos and conditioners. The ONLY good fragrance-free hair products I’ve been able to find.
      Let us know how it goes if you try any of the products mentioned in the story.
      Best,
      Lina (FOF Editor)

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      • tracey says:

        Hi,

        I also found that Jason’s Natural has a good fragrance free shampoo.

        Thanks for commenting.
        Best–
        Tracey

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  16. Karen says:

    This was great. I can’t use anything with sorbital in it and many lipsticks have that. Anyone know brands that don’t?

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    • admin says:

      Hi Karen – So glad you like the article! I looked into the ingredients of the BITE Beauty lipsticks that we mention in the article and the don’t appear to have Sorbital. Here’s a link to them on Sephora: http://www.sephora.com/browse/product.jhtml;jsessionid=3UE1ALKM2GUEYCV0KRRRPIQ?id=P283903&categoryId=C24034#moreInfo

      Good luck and let us know how it goes!
      (the FOF Editors)

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    • tracey says:

      Hi Karen —

      It looks like FOF has answered for me. You will love Bite Beauty. Not only are they gorgeous, but they have all lip products, even balms. They taste great and you don’t have to worry about eating them. ; )

      Best
      Tracey

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  17. pamela willis (Asili Body Products) says:

    Tracey is one of a kind and one of my favorite! I met her on Facebook, but I feel like I’ve been knowing her for a lifetime! Thanks for sharing her all-natural beauty products. Her advice is invaluable.

    May God continue to bless you Tracey!

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    • tracey says:

      Hi Pam!

      Thanks for leaving your comment. And anyone reading these comments, please know that Asili body products are chemical free and amazing. Great for women post chemo and for cancer survivors as they are so healing and emollient.

      Thanks for your continued support.
      Best
      Tracey

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  18. styleosophy says:

    Tracey,

    Just as I was going to ask what you thought was the best sunscreen available that will not make me (as a black woman) look ghostly, you mentioned it! I have searched high and low for a great full-body sunscreen that provides the coverage without all the chemicals. Thanks for your suggestion and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    I wish you wellness and great health.

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    • tracey says:

      Hi there–

      Thanks so much for the well wishes. And I’m sure you will love Melvita products. They are pricey but worth it. I also use Alba Botanica, which a less expensive brand.

      Best to you
      Tracey

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