I’m a Cancer Survivor. Here’s How That Changed My Skincare Routine

Never did I think that I would be a cancer patient, let alone a survivor. I liked to think that I was on the healthier side, bouncing intermittently between a plant-based and keto diet, until one day, just like that, I was diagnosed with colon cancer.

I had felt completely sick to my stomach. TMI warning: While I wasn’t able to go to the bathroom, I was able to vomit non-stop for 48 hours. I checked myself into the ER where they ordered a CT scan to ensure that it was not appendicitis or my gallbladder—but instead, they found a lesion blocking my intestine. That’s when I learned colon cancer is the 3rd leading type of cancer for women (following breast and ovarian) and I had it.

Post-surgery recovery—and just the mere realization that I was a cancer patient turned survivor—took a mental, physical, and emotional toll on me. Since I started chemotherapy, I have become more present in what I do, where I am, and what I buy (from the food I eat to the skincare products I apply). Here are some of the changes I’ve made to my skincare routine since learning I had cancer and starting recovery.
Guards Up

I Use Fewer Products

I used to have a 10-step morning routine and a 12-step nighttime skincare routine, with products overcrowding my cabinets, vanity, and the extra shelving units (which I bought to accommodate my ever-growing collection of products). Did I mention I used to work at one of the biggest beauty companies while also being a VIB Rouge Member at Sephora?! But I never ended up using most of the products I received from work, and of course, would purchase more or receive gifts from a PR box. 

Post-surgery 2021 version of me did a deeper dive into the unhealthy number of products I had collected over the years and how I was overindulgent in my skincare routine. Did I really need the extra serum of hyaluronic acid? Probably not. Could I cut down my routine to half the steps? Most definitely. This is how my mindset to skincare minimalism came to be.

I asked myself what are the essential steps and what can I do without. Cleansing, setting, moisturizing (Antioxidant Oil-Serum, FTW), sealing, and protecting were the five steps I had narrowed it down to for my AM routine, whereas I focused on double cleansing, treating, setting, moisturizing, repairing, and sealing during the PM. Less steps means taking the time and effort to only use formulas that’ll deliver the results we want to achieve—no marketing jargon, toxins, and questionable ingredients allowed.

I Never, Ever Go Without Sunscreen

Sunscreen is an essential, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. It’s even more so for cancer patients, given that chemotherapy heightens sun sensitivity. I have probably used everything from drugstore options to uber-luxurious SPF, all of which left me with the same conclusion: Sunscreen is to protect your skin, not an excuse to hop on what’s currently trending. Finding the right formula that works on your skin type is important, but once you figure that part out, stick with it. For me, that’s Guards Up. Its smooth texture allows me to apply it evenly across my skin, keeping my face protected from harmful UV rays.

I Choose Products That Work For My Skin

While we might rely on our favorite Influencer for that review or recommendation, it’s also important to remember that our skin is unique and can have different reactions. Specifically when it comes to the topic of aging skin, I can’t help but groan when I think about the tireless trials and the painful reactions that I have put my skin through just to try and prevent wrinkles. Surviving cancer made me rethink whether it was worth it. Some of those products for aging skin that I tested contained retinol as an ingredient. My skin definitely reacted to it, though, so I thought maybe retinol was not for me. Instead, I realized a gentler form of retinol, found in Press Restart, actually works on my skin without irritation. That’s when I figured out that not all skin is created equal and there is no ‘one size fits all’ for skincare products.

What we apply to our skin has the power to affect our bodies, so choose and use your products more thoughtfully and with intent. Your skin will thank you. For more of my skin and beauty picks, follow me on Instagram at @ownyoglow.