Interview Feature: Britta Aragon, founder of CV Skinlabs
Britta Aragon is a NYC based natural beauty expert, cancer survivor, and creator/founder of a safe, nontoxic skincare line called CV Skin Labs. Britta is also the author of the book, When Cancer Hits. The story behind her skincare line is so incredibly inspiring... I feel honored to have had the opportunity to interview her for my blog. I've also been using some products from the CV Skin Labs line, and they are nothing short of amazing. I have really sensitive skin, so my skin doesn't react well to many products. Every product I've been using from the CV Skin Labs line has left my skin calm, balanced, moisturized and glowing! I'll be posting individual reviews over the next few weeks of each product, so stay tuned! In the mean time, take a few minutes to read the feature and get to know Britta!
How Britta Began....
"I remember being interested in beauty and skincare from a very young age. My grandmother, a beautiful Mexican woman, always told me to stay out of the sun to avoid damaging my skin. She also bought me my first eye cream when I turned 15, which gave me a clear message that skin care was important. My mother, as well, was always into fashion, and I always looked up to her and wanted to look just like her. So it was natural for me to become a makeup artist, but what really encouraged me to seek out natural ingredients and nourishing oils and extracts was my experience with cancer.
I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease when I was sixteen years old. I went through chemotherapy, which successfully treated the cancer, but also severely dried out my skin. Later, my father was also diagnosed. He had colon cancer, and went through chemotherapy and radiation, and suffered severe side effects. One was an acne-like rash on his skin. Being a makeup artist, I bought him high-end creams for dry, sensitive skin and they ended up burning and irritating his skin further. That's when I started looking at the back of these products to see what was in them. I read the names of all these chemicals that I couldn't pronounce... I started to research all these ingredients and was shocked to find out some of them to be carcinogens. And most of all that these that these potentially dangerous ingredients were in high-end products, where they could make compromised skin worse, and even potentially cause other health problems. I knew then that I had to change that!"
What inspires you and your skincare line...
"I am inspired by all the stories I have heard over the years of other people who have overcome extremely difficult odds to triumph in their own lives. I feature many individuals and organizations on my blog, cincovidas.com, who have suffered through cancer or other health difficulties and have used their experiences to reach out and help others. Giving back is really what fulfills me, and that's what I'm trying to do with my skin care line.
I don't want anyone else out there with cancer, or rosacea, or psoriasis, or medically challenged skin, to have side effects or otherwise harmed by products like my father was. So I'm inspired to create safe, nourishing formulas that use the magic of nature to soothe, heal, and repair without any potential adverse effects. It's amazing what nature can do, but oftentimes we don't see it because manufacturers would prefer to cut corners and save money with cheaper chemical options. I get excited about seeking out oils, nutrients and extracts that get amazing results on the skin and work naturally with the body...like our Tri Rescue Complex which is infused in all my products. It’s a powerful blend of Turmeric, Reishi Mushroom and Bisabolol from the plant chamomile."
What are some of your favorite products and why?
"My favorite products are those that make me feel good all the way through and work, you know? It's simple, but so many times we have products that don’t do that, at least not entirely. They may make us look better, but we know they have harsh chemicals in them, so we may not feel great about using them. Right now, I am loving all products that leave a glow and radiance to the skin. For body, I love my the Body Repair Lotion from my own line... it's amazing how long my skin has a radiance even after a few hours. For face and especially now in the winter, loving Indie Lee’s Squalane Facial Oil or Kahina’s Aragn Oil.
Some others I love include chemical-free perfumes, like those made by "A Perfume Organice" or "Give." When I use them, I know I'm enjoying a natural scent made with herbs, fruits, and pure oils, rather than risking my health by exposing myself to potentially dangerous fragrance chemicals."
What goals and aspirations do you have for yourself as a natural beauty expert, and for your line?
"For the line, I'm just looking forward to continuing to expand with new products that will meet the specific needs of my customers. That means that each new product will use safe ingredients that help repair skin, feel luxurious and bring back a healthy glow. I also am a strong believer in self-care, as when we feel good, we tend to be of the most help to others, so I want to create products that nourish people inside and out and bring a little light into their lives.
For myself, I am excited about learning more about the natural wonders that are out there. We are just now beginning to study all the options that the plant world has to offer us, and that will be a continuing growing field that reveals new miracles all the time. Turmeric, for instance, has only recently become known for its ability to heal, and I expect we'll see a lot more of things like that in the future.
In addition to learning, I look forward to continuing to spread the word through my blog, book, and speaking engagements about the importance of safe self-care. As more of us learn about the potential dangers in certain chemical ingredients, more of us will demand safer options, and that's the way we'll make important changes in the industry."
What are some of your biggest frustrations with the cosmetics/beauty/skincare industries?
"I think my biggest frustration is that they are more concerned with profit than they are with safety. For big corporations, the goal seems to be the bottom line, no matter what. Of course, I understand that businesses need to be profitable. What frustrates me is when companies drag their feet on things that relate to safety. We know that several ingredients that are typically used in personal care products today are linked to health problems like hormone disruption and even cancer. The companies say they use very little of these ingredients, so that makes it okay, but the truth is most of us use these products several times a day, every day of our lives. What is that doing to our health and our environment? No one really knows, but already we are seeing evidence of these chemicals in our waterways and in our systems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have done several studies proving that we have things like parabens and phthalates in our bodies.
My thinking is that if there is a risk—shown in scientific studies, no less—that companies owe it to their consumers to make a change. But they tend to drag their feet until the public makes a huge outcry before they do anything, and I just think that's irresponsible."
How did your book come together...
"I wrote my book, When Cancer Hits, because I hope that my experience and my father's experience can help others out there who are going through this very difficult journey. In my life, I learned that my doctors were very concerned with saving my life, and saving my father's life, but as for all the difficulties we would face while going through treatments? They weren't that helpful. So my book is full of tips on how to deal with things like hair loss, skin rashes, mouth sores, nerve damage, dry skin, missing eyelashes and eyebrows, nausea, radiation burns, night sweats, fatigue, and all the things that we have to deal with when we're going through chemotherapy and radiation.
A big part of my book talks about avoiding harsh chemicals, because skin is so sensitive during that time. I give ideas for home remedies for most side effects, and talk a lot about making your own self-care a priority.
Another big part of the book is dealing with the emotional side effects of having cancer. It's such a huge change in our lives. We have to learn how to deal with the fear, and the anger, and the despair, and everything else that comes up. And we have to learn how to live with the fear that the cancer may come back, and the depression and sense of loss that we may feel as survivors. So I hope that when people read my book, they'll regain a sense of control in their lives that will help them emerge from the whole experience feeling stronger and more sure of themselves."
Some words to live by...
"I think what I've learned most of all through my experiences in life is that we have to learn to listen to that little voice inside us, and we must always believe that we're worthy of the best life has to offer. Over and over again, particularly when I was interviewing cancer survivors for my book, people told me stories about how listening to their intuition benefitted them. Some knew there was something wrong, but the doctors and medical tests determined everything was fine. It was only through persistence and unflinching belief in themselves that these survivors saved their own lives.
I think in the end, we do know what's best for us, but we often don't trust ourselves, or don't believe we deserve what's best. So I try to encourage people to understand that self-care is not selfish. Everything we have to give comes from within, and we must tend to and care for that person so that he or she can then turn around and give their best to others. Kindness and encouragement must begin at home, within ourselves, and only then are we free to give it to others."
Check out Britta's blog: Cinco Vidas
I hope you guys enjoyed learning about Britta! Stay tuned for the CV Skin Labs product reviews that I'll be posting over the next couple weeks!