We’re so fortunate to constantly meet inspiring, badass women who embody the “Self-Care Revolution” lifestyle and Shaney jo Darden is no exception. After a friend’s cancer diagnosis over 15 years ago, the artist and designer founded the global non-profit organization The Keep A Breast Foundation (KAB) to raise awareness of breast cancer and to encourage prevention and early detection among young people. She now refers to this work as “a calling” and credits art as the bridge to spreading the organization’s message in an accessible and encouraging way. More recently, Shaney developed Non Toxic Revolution™ - a branch of KAB whose mission is to inform, educate and inspire young people to revolt against the dangers of toxic chemicals in their environment and food supply especially those linked to the initiation of breast cancer. Its aim is to focus on prevention as a means to maintaining long-term health and well-being. NTR also provides alternative choices so that young people everywhere can make smart changes. With sunscreen season in full swing and SPF products often being the worst offenders when it comes to toxicity, we thought this the perfect time to pick Shaney jo's brain about her work, self-care rituals and her approach to health after her own skin cancer diagnosis.
What originally drew you to the non-toxic movement? When I was a kid my mom was always having us eat sugar-free this and that, she put jicama sticks in my lunchbox and generally instilled the idea of eating healthy, whole foods. After I started Keep A Breast in 2000, I became part of the world of breast cancer news, research, and facts. When I learned that most cancers were not related to family history, I started to ask myself then what can a cancer diagnosis be attributed to? I began studying more information about the environmental links to cancer. I came across a report on The Breast Cancer Fund Website called The State of The Evidence written by Dr. Janet Grey. It was the scientific evidence of the environmental links to cancer. This changed my life and inspired me to create the Non Toxic Revolution.
After years of raising awareness for breast cancer, you were recently diagnosed and underwent treatment for skin cancer. How has that experience altered your perception of health? Having any kind of cancer sucks, and it forces you in many ways to evaluate what is important to you in your life. I’m already leading a pretty healthy life as far as what I eat and what products I use on my skin and in my home. The main way this experience has altered my health is my mental and spiritual health. I’m changing my life in many ways to make sure I’m caring for myself and my spirit in a more loving and consistent way. I’ve started to check in with my body and spirit every morning by asking what do you need today? Listening to what my body and spirit says, and giving myself that gift to satisfy my needs.
What are some of the biggest misgivings you hear from young people when spreading the gospel of the Non Toxic Revolution? Actually, young people are so excited and eager to get information about the things that they have the power to change. They light up when they learn something new. It’s the older people that are harder to change, they may be stuck in a rut of using the same old toxic deodorant they have been using since they were a teenager. They may not even believe this message has any merit.
What are some natural ingredients that can be used to protect the skin from UV damage? The ingredients that help protect us from the sun and are non toxic are a lot simpler than many may think. Say yes to Zinc Oxide- an ingredient that effectively blocks UVA and UVB rays, Avobenzone absorbs the full spectrum of UVA rays, and Ecamsule filters out UVA rays. It may come as a surprise that anything above SPF 50 is actually unnecessary and misleading. SPF 15-50 is all you need to keep your skin safe from the sun.
What are some of the most destructive ingredients found in sunscreens today? Although vitamins are usually good for us, Vitamin A, sometimes labeled as retinol, is actually a destructive ingredient in sunscreen. Vitamin A allows the growth of carcinogenic lesions on the skin. Oxybenzone is another to look out for, because of allergenic effects, and Fragrance, that contains phthalates, and an average of 14 chemicals not listed on the label (for proprietary reasons). Sunscreen sprays should also be avoided to avoid the release of nanoparticles in the air and on our skin.
Have these ingredients always been known to be toxic or are these more recent findings? I think that when people were making the regulations for the cosmetics industry, they weren’t anticipating the overwhelming addition of synthetic ingredients that we have today. The FDA has very little oversight of the cosmetics industry, for example: they can’t require a product recall if it is causing harm, they can’t require companies to safety test before putting a product to market, or even review and approve ingredients before they are sold to the public. Although we’re not sure of the mindset when these regulations, or lack of, were put in place, it seems that the amount of ingredients used, and the amount of products we use on a daily basis have increased over the decades and require more attention than they did 40 years ago. Our exposure to “safe levels” of certain chemicals is in question because of the frequency that companies use toxins, such as phthalates, parabens, fragrance, and many others. That’s why our message is for everyone to be their own health advocate. Check your labels, so you can regulate what goes on your body, and ask questions to show companies that you want more transparency when it comes to ingredients.
We're all about self-care. Besides avoiding toxic chemicals, do you have any self-care routines or rituals? One of my favorite things to do in the morning before I get in the shower is lymphatic brushing. It wakes my entire body up and feels so good. Stimulating the lymphatic tissue boosts your immune system and allows your body to process ten times the amount of fluid throughout the day, it also releases the toxins from your body that the lymphatic system detects and keeps you healthy!
When you do feel your most beautiful? I actually feel the prettiest after a long day on the beach with no makeup on, dirty hair, sunkissed and salty skin.
Naturally, our sunscreen met Shaney jo's high standards. Protec Plus Natural SPF 30 is a lightweight, natural mineral sunscreen that works hard to fight free radicals and environmental aging. Best of all, we’re donating 50% of its sales to the Non Toxic Revolution through July 17th.
Check Out Our EWG Skin Deep Rating