Personal Care Products to Ditch After Cancer

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Ridding your life of toxins can be an important part of your after-cancer care. There is no doubt that the toxins in our food and our environment contribute to cancer. There are the well-known and obvious connections—such as cigarettes and lung and mouth cancer, asbestos and mesothelioma—but also many less-known toxins that definitively or possibly cause cancer.

When we discuss toxic substances, we are talking about those substances that are ingested or inhaled or that we otherwise come in contact with that can cause degenerative diseases to develop or intensify. These toxic agents can affect the nervous system along with many other bodily functions, introducing or aggravating many degenerative diseases, including several types of cancers.

The materials we incorporate into our body's makeup come not only from what we eat but also from what we take in by breathing and what we absorb through the largest organ of our body, the skin.

Unfortunately, there are so many toxins in our environment and in our homes that it's almost impossible to avoid all of them. You can, however, limit your toxin exposure by becoming familiar with the names of toxins that should be avoided and by reading labels to avoid them when possible.

Peeling or blistering sunburns are associated with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. However, not all sunscreens protect against the most damaging rays, UVA, and some sunscreens may even be linked to cancer themselves.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and other experts, you should avoid sunscreens that only protect against UVB and contain oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate. Oxybenzone is a hormone disruptor that may be linked to cancer. Retinyl palmitate may have links to lesions and tumors. Also avoid spray, powder, and towelette sunscreens—all three contain particulates that could be inhaled.

Instead, use a sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB and is made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These are mineral sunscreens, which are not absorbed into the skin in the same way chemical sunscreens are.

Sunscreen is something of a conundrum because while it is very important to protect the skin from serious sunburns, it is equally important for humans to have access to vitamin D on a daily basis, which decreases the risk of all cancers and many other diseases. Many doctors suggest using sunscreen for prolonged periods in the sun (like a midday trip to the beach or park) and relying on clothes to cover skin the rest of the time. Wearing a hat and long sleeves when out and about will likely provide you the best protection against sunburn while still allowing access to the benefits of the sun's rays on a daily basis.

More: Sunblock The Most Dangerous (and Safer) Sunscreens

Shampoo, Conditioner, and Body Wash
Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), cocamide DEA, and glycol distearate are different names for a foaming product made from coconut oil. Sounds innocuous, but according to EWG, it's not. It has gone through an ethoxylation process that results in cancer-causing 1,4-dioxane. Instead, look for SLS's safer cousin, also made from coconut oil, called sodium lauryl sulfate.

There are many nontoxic shampoos and conditioners available through natural foods stores. Also look for shampoo and body wash bottles that are BPA- and phthalate-free. This is especially important for baby shampoos and body washes.

Check out these safer shampoos and body washes.

Petroleum Jelly
Derived from a by-product of oil refining, petroleum jelly is used for everything from lip balm to diaper cream. Although it's derived from carcinogenic products, it's triple-refined and considered noncarcinogenic. However, many people who are detoxing their medicine cabinets opt to swap it out for one of the many nonpetroleum jellies on the market, most of which work just as well.

Feminine Products
Tampons and menstrual pads are generally made of bleached cotton or from cotton sprayed with chemicals. Both the chlorine used for the bleach and the pesticides used on the cotton may be carcinogenic. Instead, use unbleached, organic cotton pads and tampons found at natural foods stores. Also avoid using plastic applicators, which may be made using phthalates.

Make sure you aren't using these toxic tampons or dangerous douches.

More: Get Cancer Causers Out of Your Beauty Products

Some of the possibly cancer-causing agents found in cosmetics include petroleum, PEG compounds, siloxanes, parabens, phthalates, DEA-related ingredients, BHA, and BHT. Many of these are industrial chemicals with effects that range from being hormone disruptors to having heavy metal contaminants. Avoid cosmetics with fragrance and, when in doubt, stick to cosmetics you purchase from a natural foods store that you trust.

Avoid lotions made with fragrance, petroleum products, or parabens, a possible hormone disruptor. Instead use a fragrance-free, paraben-free lotion, easily available at natural foods stores, or a natural oil, such as olive oil or coconut oil.

Triclosan is an antibacterial that may lurk in some toothpastes and is under review by the Food and Drug Administration. It's been banned in some states and should be avoided. If you are avoiding commercial toothpastes, look for a natural toothpaste that is American Dental Association approved and includes fluoride.

More: 6 Toothpaste Ingredients You Need to Avoid

Antiperspirant, Deodorant
Although there is no definitive link between antiperspirant and cancer, antiperspirants do often contain parabens and aluminum, which have some estrogen-like qualities. There are deodorants without parabens or aluminum available at natural foods stores.

Adapted from After Cancer Care

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