I was diagnosed with skin cancer at age 26, long before I was diagnosed with Hashimotos. At the time I thought I’d never be able to enjoy the sun and the outdoors in the same ways. I was devastated by the idea of having to bath in sunscreen and completely cover up before stepping outside, it felt so restrictive.
My “Perfect” Health
At the time of my skin cancer diagnosis, from the outside, I looked like your typical healthy person:
I ate “healthy” – low calorie, lean meats, vegetables, fruits, yogurts, and sweets only occasionally.
I exercised daily doing a mix of weightlifting, cardio, training for fitness shows, and half or full marathons.
On paper I even looked perfect; normal cholesterol, heart rate, blood pressure, etc. I was a skilled personal trainer with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fitness, Nutrition, and Health who (at the time) thought I knew all there was to know about being healthy and losing weight.
Despite doing all the right, “healthy,” things prior to my skin cancer diagnosis, the intensity of my seasonal allergies had progressed to the point of wiping me out for days or weeks, migraines became more frequent, “normal” joint aches or muscle soreness seemed to linger longer and longer, and it was getting tougher to lose or maintain my weight.
I slowly started to question my health and what I had been taught all those years in school.
Skin cancer was my body waving a BIG red flag about something deeper going on.
The Wake Up Call
Being diagnosed with skin cancer at such a young age sparked an undeniable urge to get to the bottom of my own health issues and use my knowledge to help others.
I practically had zero risk factors associated with skin cancer – no family history of any cancers related to melanoma, I used sunscreen if I was outside for extended periods of time, and sure I used a tanning bed or spent time in the sun without sunscreen from time to time, but I wasn’t your typical frequent tanner who was putting themselves at risk for skin cancer by any means.
The pieces of the puzzle just didn’t seem to add up. I was “healthy,” had minimal risk factors, and was young, yet for some reason, cancer cropped up. I knew there had to be more to the story.
Shortly after my diagnosis, I enrolled in the Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® (FDN) Course to dig deeper into my own health issues and to get to the bottom of them once and for all. With my newly acquired knowledge, I aspired to help others also struggling with chronic health issues and weight loss despite the fact that they were eating right and working out.
As I started digging deeper, I found A LOT of cellular damage, hormone imbalances, liver congestion, and gut dysfunction…
No wonder why cancer had found itself at home in my body!
My hormones were going haywire causing deep dips in my energy, making it difficult to manage my weight or to keep inflammation under control, resulting in those intensified seasonal allergies, aches, and pains.
My liver was overloaded and unable to move cancer-causing toxins out of my body effectively, coupled with high oxidative stress (i.e. cellular/DNA damage) making me the perfect candidate for cancer.
I suspect that the toxin sunscreens and other personal care products I had been using all my life had a LOT to do with how I landed in this situation.
The good news is this story has a happy ending. I’m now over 10 years skin cancer-free. And I’m not afraid of skin cancer or sunscreen anymore, or any other health condition for that matter.
As Dr. Nasha Winters, author of the Metabolic Approach To Cancer, once said “you are what you don’t poop.”
Cancer-causing toxins are eliminated through stool, urine, and sweat so if you’re not doing those things regularly or well, your risk for cancers and other chronic diseases escalates.
It is estimated that over 120,000 toxins and synthetic chemicals have been introduced in the U.S. over the past 50 years or more, and the majority of them have not been tested for long-term side effects or safety. That number is staggering and scary, considering the research on toxins and how they can alter our body chemistry and health.
These toxins are found all around us: in our water, air, food, cleaning supplies, furniture, moisturizers, hair care products, and, of course, sunscreens. So here we are applying sunscreen to protect us from the sun’s harmful rays while at the same time we could be harming our health.
The toxins commonly found in your typical sunscreens include:
- Obesogens – toxins that alter cells from becoming things like bone and stem cells into becoming fat cells instead
- Endocrine disruptors – toxins that alter the function of the endocrine glands such as thyroid, adrenals, pancreas, and ovaries
- Xenoestrogens– toxins that mimic estrogen in the body, causing an increase in overall estrogen levels that disrupt overall hormone balance and function
Obviously, you can’t live in a bubble and you still want to protect your skin when in the sun. Reducing toxin exposure is critical to building your health and maintaining your results. It’s about controlling what you can and navigating what you can’t control.
The sunscreen you choose to put on your body is something you can control as a way to reduce your overall toxic load, protect your skin from the sun, and lower your risk of cancer or other health issues.
Here are some of the toxic ingredients you want to be on the lookout for in your sunscreen or other personal care products:
- Dyes and artificial colors
- Fragrance is almost certainly synthetic
- Parabens, also found as methyl-paraben
- Gluten, also found as hydrolyzed wheat protein
- Oats, soy, and dairy (aka whey) hydrolyzed protein
- And Phthalates, which are some of the most toxic toxins!
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a great resource to check the toxic load for all types of consumer products, including sunscreens. Check out their Skin Deep Database for a detailed evaluation of toxins on hundreds of thousands of products, and aim for products that have a toxicity rating of 4 or less.
Now you might be thinking: I’ve tried natural sunscreen before and it sucked, it felt greasy and gave me all kinds of white streaks.
And yes, while this can happen, not all safe sunscreens are alike. The evolution of safe sunscreens has come a long way and here are a few of my favorite safe sunscreens that leave you feeling grease and streaky-free!
- Alba Botanica Hawaiian Sunscreen, Green Tea, SPF 45
- Alba Botanica Hawaiian Sunscreen Clear Spray, Coconut, SPF 50
- Hint Sunscreen Spray (various scents), SPF 30
- COOLA sunscreen varieties (check EWG Skin Deep for best options)
- BeautyCounter’s various sunscreen products
So be safe this summer, from the sun and from toxins at the same time. Choose a sunscreen that supports your health from all angles.