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Beauty products: Hair Dye? Sunscreen? Face products/retinol?

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I'm far from being done with treatment - waiting on 2nd set of scans (MRI, bilateral mammo) after consulting radiologist saw extra stuff on my original imaging, joy - but I'm trying to build a plan NOW for "after treatment" since I'm a big long-term planner and it calms my anxiety to be able to make little plans for the future post-BC-treatment.

But I have some questions that I haven't found definitive answers for:

Hair Dye? - A couple of studies shows correlation (not causation, but still) between BC risk and permanent hair dye. The MO I had an initial consult with kind of blew me off about this and said "well I dye my hair too", but I'm curious to see what your oncologists have said about this. I have pretty much salt-and-pepper hair now (started greying early in my 30's) so I'm afraid something like henna wouldn't work well on my numerous greys. Is it the PPD / parabens / ammonia that is concerning in permanent hair dye? There's 2 brands of commercial dye that I've seen mentioned as being "safer" -- Goldwell Elumen which I think my local salon carries, and Schwartzkopf Simply Color (box dye) which advertises as "PPD & PTD free" and "Permanent color with 0% ammonia, 0% silicones, and 0% alcohol". Would appreciate any info on either as being safer for BC patients.

Sun screen? Since 2014 I've been using, daily, the french formulation of La Roche Posay Anthelios Ultra lotion & spray which has Mexoryl (not FDA approved in US yet, afaik) UVA blocker. I think it also contains the hormone-disrupting/reef-killing chemicals that have been under discussion. Since getting diagnosed with BC this year, I've been paranoid about anything that might disrupt reproductive hormones since I have ER/PR+ IDC. Am I overworried? I tried switching to Blue Lizard mineral sunscreen but to be frank, it's so crappy compared to the LRP stuff -- hard to apply, ghastly white cast, even harder to wash off/leaves residue. Any good experiences with other brands of mineral (mainly interested in the zinc oxide only versions, without titanium dioxide)? Should I even be worried about using chemical sunscreen vs mineral or is it my post-BC anxiety/paranoia?

Face lotions/serums esp. anti-aging/retinol? I've been using retinol products since my mid 20's (I'm 45) but I have read that anti-oxidants are not encouraged for BC patients because of some studies that show worse cancer outcomes with those who took anti-oxidant supplements. I forgot to ask the oncologist about this during our meeting. Does your oncologist say it's safe to use anti-oxidants on your face? How about retinol, or retinoids like Differin? I'm trying to find a safe, good anti-aging serum or face lotion that won't have anything to possibly contribute to more BC risk. Sorry if that sounds paranoid, but I will admit I'm a control freak and the BC diagnosis has me scrambling to try to find ways to reduce recurrence chance however I can without going full-tilt Quixote and jousting with windmills.

I appreciate your input, thank you.

Comments

  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 5,042
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    mumuriri,

    Let me start by saying that I am probably the polar opposite of a control freak so my attitude toward the things you’ve questioned may be too relaxed for you. That being said, while I do try to stay away from sulfates, parabens or any other unneeded ingredients in my health and grooming products, I am far from perfect at it and never compulsive. Compulsion and trying to control everything doesn’t work for me and creates too much stress particularly with respect to bc. The reality is that there is no sure fire way to prevent recurrence or metastasis so I just do the best I can and never beat myself up over less than “perfect” choices. Breast cancer creates enough stress by itself so adding additional stress by trying to control everything that goes on or in my body didn’t work for me*. I am stage IV de novo and recently celebrated 11 progresión free years. All the best to you.

    * I was compulsive about food/body products for about 6 months after my dx. My dd was living with me at the time and was my support but we ended up arguing too much over my ‘cheating”, like eating a cookie. The stress of maintaining a perfect lifestyle was far worse than a lotion with parabens that I might use on occasion.

  • specialk
    specialk Member Posts: 9,236
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    mumuriri - My feeling early on, after the active treatment phase, was that I wanted to control the things I could, since there was so much that I had zero control over - even if it is a bit of an illusion as to any measurable effectiveness. Rather than stressing me out, I found that researching cosmetics, supplements and food brought me a measure of calm - even if the items things I use and eat are not strongly linked to data either way. I would caution - as exbrnxgrl says above - don't let restrictiveness reach a level that causes stress or leaves you feeling that you're not living - it is not worth it. That said, I did find that the framework of the EWG for cosmetics and food was very useful, I will link below. They also have a sunscreen page that scores them for you. I use EltaMD tinted sunscreen - as foundation, or Cerave tinted. They are not chalky and I like that I can just do that layer and not have to wear foundation over it. I like Boscia and have used Josie Maran argan oil products, but I think there are quite a few new clean beauty products coming to the market as people are becoming more aware of what they put on their skin. I have a good friend who is now 7 years from breast cancer and she likes Ilia products. I do use retinol moisturizer, my MO has no issue with that, but I don't use it daily because I have sensitive skin that won't tolerate daily application. If you go to the EWG cosmetics page you can type "retinol" into the search box and it will show brands - filter it with sorting best to worst and you'll see some that are safest. I do color my hair - I am almost all salt, very little pepper, but my stylist does use Schwartzkopf professional color. That was a happy accident rather than a plan. With food I also try to stay with the Dirty Dozen fruits/veg to avoid unless organic, and the Clean 15 to enjoy. I have discussed supplements with my MO, but I think you will be hard pressed to find many who will discuss things like hair color, sunscreen, and cosmetics. They almost all will say there is not enough research at this point for them to recommend specifics, or even comment on what to do/not do. I follow a relatively restrictive diet, but that is as much due to celiac and digestive issues as it is to anything to do with breast cancer. I cut sugar and dairy, can't consume gluten because it makes me ill, and try to eat low glycemic, lean and clean with everything else. My MO has complimented this effort, but not mandated it, and we have not discussed at length. I take a probiotic, Vit D (mine is low otherwise) along with Vit K2 to help the D work best, B complex, a multi, I have a hard time with supplemented calcium, it tends to make me nauseous, so I try to get enough from diet. I did use L-Glutamine, Acetyl L-Carnitine, and B Complex during chemo with my MO's blessing to try to keep neuropathy at bay - but that was all I took, and I iced hands and feet for that and to try to prevent nail damage.

    Here is the EWG Skin Deep database for cosmetics:

    https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

    Here is the daily use sunscreen rating:

    https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/best-sunscreens/best-moisturizers-with-spf/

    EWG for food:

    https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php

    https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/clean-fifteen.php

    Hope this is helpful and good luck!

  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 5,042
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    Thanks specialK fir being so specific. I should always add this this whenever I comment on personal care products or diet as I know I seem rather relaxed about it all. My younger sister lived an incredibly clean life in terms of those things for over 30 years. She felt very strongly that this would protect her from a host of illnesses, including cancer. At age 50 she was diagnosed with a uterine sarcoma and was deaf less than than 8 months later. When she understood that she was terminal, she really resented what she felt was a betrayal by the very body that she had treated better than most of us. Perhaps this makes it easier to understand my relaxed views. I certainly don’t advocate for an unhealthy lifestyle but moderation and no stress over things I ultimately have little control over works best for me.

  • specialk
    specialk Member Posts: 9,236
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    exbrnxgrl - I am so sorry about your sister, it seems natural to lose your parents when they reach an expected age, but the loss of a sibling is so hard. I sympathize as I lost my older brother, my only sib, 18 months before my breast cancer diagnosis. He had bile duct cancer - a rare and almost always terminal diagnosis. He had improved his diet and fitness in the years before his diagnosis, and he felt like he was doing all the right things. There is no rhyme or reason, right? I don't know if that makes it easier or harder. I think we all have to strike a balance that gives us what we need, based on how our personalities and all of our life experiences have shaped us. I think you are doing the things that work for you, and you've arrived at what those are through trial and error, and I am so glad you have found that - it is important. The headspace around what is the best way is fraught with seeming absolutes, but there really aren't any. I am more relaxed with my own "rules" than I was initially too, and I am happier for it - but it has been a process. You and I have been here on this site together for many years - we are the same age too, and I am always so happy to see you posting and sharing, enjoying your family, retirement (but still subbing, right?), and your new pup!

  • kaynotrealname
    kaynotrealname Member Posts: 422
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    As far as topical anti-oxidants my oncologist doesn't care. Said systematic absorption isn't enough to make a difference in treatment. I've decide to avoid them the week after chemo but after that will use them as long as my skin is okay with it until next chemo where I will start the same cycle. She wouldn't care if I used them all the time but I feel better that way. Anyhow you skin takes a beating with chemo and I have found the anti-oxidant creams work best for healing and maintaining health of the skin which is truly important for infection purposes. I also struggled with finding good creams without them so I finally said screw it and use what works for your body. The good stuff always has anti-oxidants.

  • kaynotrealname
    kaynotrealname Member Posts: 422
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    Oh and about hair dye I don't have a good answer. It is linked with breast cancer it seems although it seems the darker dyes have more of a risk than the lighter ones. I personally have just decided to embrace my grey for awhile as a result and see if it grows on me. Who knows? When it comes back (I recently lost most of my hair in my first cycle despite cold capping) I may like it.

  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 5,042
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    I colored my hair for about 9 years after my stage IV dx. I only stopped because of salons being closed during the pandemic. I liked the way the silvery white strands mixed with my dark hair so I’ve kept it that way. Whether coloring or not coloring, I have remained NEAD for 11 years.

  • mumuriri
    mumuriri Member Posts: 26
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    exbrnxgrl, specialk, kaynotrealname,

    Thank you for replying! exbrnxgrl, I do think that I'm quite scared/anxious about things that may not even be critical or relevant to recurrence risk since I have been diagnosed so recently, and I'm hoping that will lessen over time -- I'm looking into ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a subset of cognitive behavioral therapy) to help me with my fears about my cancer.

    specialk, thanks for the EWG shoutout! I had actually already been browsing it prior to my diagnosis since I had already been trying to live a "cleaner" life, and you just reminded me what a good resource it is. And yes, being a control freak, my tendency right now in the face of something I can't control is to try to control whatever else I can, as unreasonable as that can become :) Trying not to be so neurotic, but it's hard, and it's comforting to be able to pick and choose things like beauty products that make me *feel* like I'm doing something to lessen my risk even if maybe it doesn't. And re: the hair dyeing, I appreciate your experience with it. I read that Goldwell is a good brand for less-chemicals as well, and the salon near me has a sign advertising it, so maybe it will be an option after treatment if I end up not needing chemo. I haven't dyed my hair since the beginning of the pandemic so it's almost all salt-and-pepper now. And thank you re: your retinol experience, as well!

    kaynotrealname, thank you for the advice on anti-oxidants, I did wonder if the warning was only for ingested vs topical (since how much is actually absorbed by the skin anyway?) I loved my retinol products but I was afraid that having used them since my mid-20s, maybe I contributed to getting cancer -- but that might just be my frantic brain trying to find a reason as to why I got this. Unfortunately my natural hair is near-black so I have to use similar shades or at least medium brown so my greys don't look so prominent, so I'm still on the fence --- I would try henna but it's so time-consuming and messy (worried the grit will clog my apartment's drain / stain tub and cost me security deposit fees).

  • kaynotrealname
    kaynotrealname Member Posts: 422
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    I think probably most of us wonder if we did something to cause our cancer but with that I think the reminder that one out of eight women get a diagnosis of breast cancer in their life is a pertinent reminder. It's common and none of us deserve it and none of us caused it. Have we made mistakes? Perhaps but there are plenty of women who make plenty of mistakes and they don't get breast cancer. For most of us a cause will never be determined and as hard is that as to live with, in a way it can also be comforting. You did nothing to deserve this, nothing to cause it. It was just crappy luck but crappy luck can change at anytime into better luck. That's what I personally am holding onto. I will definitely do everything to increase the odds in my favor but not to the point I make myself miserable. Being miserable is no way to live and if I decide to dye my hair again when this is done I will. If I decide to eat a piece a cake again, I will. Or wine. Or anything else that seems like it will be fun. Doubt I will make anything not ideally healthy a habit but life is too short and happiness is worth quite a lot to me and is also much healthier than being unhappy.