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How my mastectomy made me reconsider my beauty routine

How my mastectomy made me reconsider my beauty routine

I have fake boobs. In the space that my breast tissue once occupied live two silicone implants, tucked underneath my chest muscles. I made the decision to replace my natural breasts with man-made ones last March, after learning I had the BRCA1 genetic mutation. Given the fact that this mutation gave me an 87% likelihood of developing breast cancer, I chose prevention over surveillance and underwent a double mastectomy in October 2015.

Being in a position to alter my fate through something as radical and invasive as surgery gave me pause. Regardless of my genetic makeup, there were plenty of lifestyle changes I could and should have made that would have improved my health and well-being, without having to go under the knife — and I started to consider them. But in hindsight, I think I was looking for a distraction from my impending surgery rather than a wellness plan. Whatever the catalyst for my decision to have surgery, I was subsequently in a position and frame of mind to take control over my body and long-term health. And yet, it was the impetus of putting fake breasts in my body that pushed me toward a more natural lifestyle.

Fortunately, my diet was already in check. Having worked with health- and farm-focused restaurants for nearly five years, my meals were full of well-sourced, sustainably-grown, insert-buzzword-here foods. That, plus a healthy dose of SoulCycle, yoga, and dancing it out at concerts a few nights a week, kept me in good shape. So, ever the good student, I hopped online to research my beauty routine: the bad, the good, and where to buy it. I dove into my medicine cabinet and performed my own Marie Kondo-style tidying. I furiously read labels of my “dermatologist recommended” products, and realized I could barely pronounce 90% of the ingredients. After my purge, all I was left with was a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Castile soap and a sample-size moisturizer that was thrown into a Sephora bag with my last purchase.

Being in a position to alter my fate through something as radical and invasive as surgery gave me pause.

Luckily, my neighborhood beauty shop, SHEN Beauty, specializes in all things natural, so I stopped in for a consult and left with a lighter mind (and wallet). Thanks to my pre-shopping research, I knew ahead of time to avoid overpriced coconut oil moisturizers (sorry RMS!) in favor of extra virgin coconut oil I could buy in bulk from Amazon. Because cleansers don’t sit on your skin for long, I also knew this was an opportunity to save money. Across the street from SHEN sits a natural food store with plenty of quality and budget-friendly products. So, I scooped up Acure Organics’ face wash, shampoo, conditioner, and, of course, dry shampoo. I did splurge on moisturizers, serums, and sunscreen from brands like Korres, REN, and Drunk Elephant, respectively.

By this point in my quest to become more natural, it was the middle of summer and the apple cider vinegar I’d been dabbing under my arms needed an upgrade. It was hellishly difficult to find a natural deodorant that could withstand summer in New York City. One desperate night, I ran into Rite Aid and bought Old Spice, which was the only aluminum free option. It’s more than a year later and I’m still volleying between pit putties and pastes, looking for the perfect one. Thankfully, I think my body is giving me a break and adjusting to the lack of chemicals because I no longer need turbo-powered antiperspirant.

More than anything, my body and mind have adjusted to my new, more conscious methods of consumption. I wish it didn’t take a mastectomy and fake boobs to lead me down the natural path. But in the case of my boobs and by beauty routine, I realized that research and mindful decision-making led me down a better path towards long-term well-being than opting for convenience or avoidance. (Of course, I’m grateful LOLA has combined convenience & conscientiousness.)