Every once in a while a beauty influencer or brand comes along that’s so extraordinary in their efforts to give back, attention must be paid. Each Feel Good Friday, we’ll highlight these do-gooders along with simple ways to support their efforts.
Cancer doesn’t play favorites. That’s what Cynthia Besteman, a self-proclaimed health nut, learned in 2011 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I led a very healthy lifestyle, no meat, I exercised, didn’t smoke, and rarely drank, so I was really thrown for a loop,” she says.
The prognosis inspired her to take a deeper look at potential toxins that were hiding in household products, and even investigate her beauty routine. “While I was clearing everything out I took a look at the ingredients in my face wash and was horrified,” revealed Besteman.
The home detox motivated the Seattle-native to craft her own pure – and good-for-you – skin care for personal use, and then for friends and fellow patients. “I met women in treatment who didn’t have the energy to stand in the drugstore and read labels so I thought, ‘well I’m going to do it for them!'” She officially launched Violets are Blue in 2013 with a give-back initiative that offers comfort to women in a similar position. On their first day at Mount Sinai’s Dubin Breast Center in NYC (a scary day for most, notes Besteman), Violets Are Blue gifts patients with a BeLoved care package, designed to alleviate skin issues associated with chemotherapy and radiation.
And the brand’s movement has only just begun. Here, Besteman details plans to launch the program in additional hospitals (and why they need your help to do so), plus her best advice for supporting a friend that’s been recently diagnosed.
Alexis Farah: What made you want to start Violets Are Blue?
Cynthia Besteman: When I was diagnosed with breast cancer it was a complete shock! I started to really go deep with eliminating toxins in our house (sheets, towels, plastics, curtains, you name it), as well as my beauty products. And I was quite surprised by what I saw with my face wash, for example. I thought what I was using was an all natural brand but apparently they had been bought out by a larger company and had changed the formula. I then started learning how to make my own skin care, and around the same time, I met women in treatment who were experiencing the same frustrations. I created a line specifically for patients, but most of my testers were friends and family who fell in love with the products. So two lines were launched: One for treatment, our BeLoved line, which we offer for sale and also donate packages to women at Mount Sinai, and the other is our Signature Line, which a portion of the proceeds go toward our donations. So women buying something healthy for themselves are also helping other women get healthy.
AF: It’s such a unique – and very important – initiative. Do you have any plans to expand?
CB: I would love to see us doing more hospital donations. I get requests all the time, however we’re still so small and only can afford to do the one. As we grow, our donation platform will grow as that’s what’s at the heart of my company. I can’t tell you what it means to get a thank you card or email letting me know how much the women enjoy the packages. I want to do this all over the US!
I also met an UBER driver from Sudan who said in his city, they only have one chemo machine and many people die waiting to get treatment. I literally couldn’t sleep that night and thought, when we get bigger I am going to make sure this doesn’t happen!’ Violets are Blue has launched this year in several major beauty stores and I hope with the line getting more attention, the awareness for the benefits of green beauty will grow.
AF: What are the best/safest skin care ingredients for women going through chemo or radiation?
CB: Whether you’re undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, the main thing that happens is your skin get extremely dry. You want really nourishing oils and butters such as castor oil and shea butter. Lavender has been shown to not only calm the nervous system, but to also be anti inflammatory, which is great for compromised immune systems. I also love carrot seed oil for its nourishing properties and natural SPF factor (although it should never be used solely as an SPF). People in treatment really want to stay away from petroleum-based products as it won’t let your skin breathe. You really want to stick with very basic ingredients.
AF: For someone who has a friend or family member about to start chemo or radiation (but they don’t have access to your line), what is a good gift or care package to give them?
CB: Simply put, your time! Give them a ride to chemo and sit with them during their treatment. Ask if they need you to go to an appointment with them. Bring them a home cooked meal, or hire a house cleaner. Come over and sit with them, text them, let them know you are thinking of them. That is what really matters! I had friends disappear when I was sick, but I also had even more friends really step up and be there for me. They’ll never know how much those small things meant the world to me.
AF: Our turn to help, how can we support your efforts?
CB: Share my story, donate to our BeLoved packages or better yet, buy a beautiful gift for yourself. In turn you will be helping someone get a lovely gift on what will be the scariest day of some women’s lives.