The Original Jojoba Company’s interview with Geralyn O’Brien
Today we have the honor of introducing one of our many valued customers, Geralyn O’Brien. Beyond being a customer, she is a comrade in the effort to educate the world about using safe ingredients on our skin.
While the terms “natural” and “organic” are much more widely used and sought after these days, many people are still in the dark about what really goes into their skincare products. It takes time to learn what to look for and what to look out for when reading labels.
Gaining knowledge in this area would benefit anyone, but it becomes vastly more important to those who have had to face disease. Finding safe and soothing skincare products becomes suddenly very necessary to minimize exposure to toxins.
Geralyn is a two-time breast cancer survivor. Her life’s journey has led her to become an oncology-focused esthetician. She now helps others, who bravely face cancer, find relief in their skin and we are so thrilled our jojoba has played a part in what she offers.
We all hope to not have to battle cancer, but we all know or love someone who has or is still struggling with it. We thought sharing an interview with such an educated and positive professional might be helpful to anyone interested in the use and safety of jojoba in the oncology world.
Check out two other articles featuring Geralyn talking about jojoba and oncology skincare: Oncology Skin Care in Integrative Cancer Review and Q & A with Bob Butler in Integrative Cancer Review
When did you first become interested in skin health and helping others with theirs?
I started to be more aware of what I was putting on my skin in 1998 during my first breast cancer. Chemotherapy put me into menopause at the age of 42. My skin became a lot more dry and dehydrated.
After treatment ended, I was on anti-estrogen medication because of my estrogen positive tumor, so I started experiencing the aging process a lot sooner than others. Also the area that had been radiated was extremely sensitive and any products I used would cause rashes and irritation. I started changing detergents and removing any products that contained fragrance.
I became a Reach to Recovery volunteer with the American Cancer Society shortly after my treatment ended and other breast cancer patients always had so many questions in the area of skin, hair and nail changes. Our doctors were treating our cancers and really didn't have a lot of answers in these areas. Yet every cancer patient just wants to feel normal. In 2010, when my full time job went part time due to retirement of my boss I took a leap and went to esthetics school with the intent of focusing on cancer patients.
You know the vital importance of treating skin, the body’s largest organ, with educated care. How do you convey that importance to people who aren’t fully aware of it?
We live in a world where we are product junkies. The average person probably uses more than 10 to 15 products a day exposing us to 100's of chemicals. When it comes to cancer patients it gets a little tricky because we need to be cautious of not only ingredients in skin care but price, access to products, and everything else they are dealing with when it comes to a cancer diagnosis.
At the cancer centers everything is free to cancer patients and their families, and we do not sell products. So I like to do my own fundraising outside of the cancer centers and then purchase products that fit my standards of oncology friendly and that address the particular problems to be addressed. Educating cancer patients in fun, interactive classes is my favorite way to bring awareness to what they are using. I recently held a class at Waterford Cancer Resource Center in Aurora, Illinois. We had four stations for the cancer patients’ facials, foot soaks, making a body butter and make-up. Everyone went home with samples of my favorite things including the Original Jojoba Company’s 100% Pure Jojoba. Everyone had fun, but yet they are learning at the same time. All the estheticians are oncology trained at our spa nights, so they take the proper precautions at each station with due regard to cancers and other necessary adjustments.
How did you first discover jojoba and how long after trying it for yourself did you feel comfortable passing it along to your clients?
I first discovered jojoba in 2010 when I was in esthetics school. Many of the younger girls would bring jojoba to use on them during our facial massage training because the professional line we were using at school had ingredients that would aggravate skin prone to acne.
When researching products to use at the cancer center I felt it was the best option because it was most like the sebum in our own skin, and I would be dealing with so many skin types. I liked the fact that your jojoba has only one ingredient--100% pure jojoba. This helped to simplify what I would be using on fragile skin. I also talked to, I believe it was Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, where your jojoba was being used.
What was the response from your clients when you started using the Original Jojoba Company’s jojoba? Were they already familiar with it or did you need to educate them on the safety and benefits of it?
Most people weren't familiar when I first started using it. But the response was always “my skin feels so soft” after I would use it during the facial massage.
As an oncology-focused esthetician, what services do you provide?
As oncology-focused estheticians we do not treat or diagnose skin conditions. Our goal is to help lesson and prevent skin changes by educating about the culprits in products that are the more sensitizing allergens causing irritation to fragile skin. We introduce cancer patients to safer brands with calming, soothing and hydrating ingredients.
Our facials will help dull skin that is dry, dehydrated, and sensitive from treatment, increase circulation for a healthy glow and also provide the physical benefits of bringing the body into total relaxation with healing touch since the first place stress shows up is on our faces.
How would your facial for a skin cancer patient differ from one given to a client without health challenged skin?
We would take into account any known allergies to products, foods and ingredients. We would also want to know where the clients were in their treatment schedule: surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy. Each administered drug can have numerous side effects at a time when patients are most at risk for infection. We make necessary adjustments. Other areas we would need to be aware of are any ports, pic lines, or pain or nausea patches. We adjust our facials and/or massages accordingly.
What range of clients are you able to use our jojoba with? Is there anyone who’s condition would make you uncomfortable using jojoba?
I have not come across any specific allergy to your jojoba. I have come across using other jojoba oils causing a reaction. After asking a few questions I found out such product contained jojoba with additives or fillers that were the most likely cause of a reaction. Also other jojobas are processed differently than yours and can have an odor that cancer patients have told me they couldn't tolerate.
You positively affect your client’s lives with each and every visit. Is there a particular client story you could share with us in which The Original Jojoba Company’s jojoba has played a part in their relief, hope, or well-being?
I had a client who had lymphoma of the skin, which is very rare. Her face was radiated over a large portion, and after her treatment ended she had constant shedding. With permission from her doctor to perform facials, some days her facial would consist of using jojoba for my cleanse, massage and everything in between.
She also has allergies to many ingredients after being tested by an allergist. Those allergies contributed to her skin conditions. Many of the ingredients she is allergic to are in not only skin products but food she is consuming. This client continues to be helped by using your jojoba daily as a main part of her skin regimen.
All the time I recommend using jojoba to replace other products as a makeup remover, scalp conditioner and skin conditioner. For my male clients I use the owner of the Jojoba Original Company’s recommendation to use jojoba with aloe vera gel for shaving.
Have any of your clients begun using jojoba in their home skin care routines? Have you heard any feedback from them?
Many, many clients add jojoba into their daily routine and love the difference in how it makes their skin feel but also using less on their skin. Many were using makeup removers filled with irritants. Now they use jojoba to remove their make-up.
In your article, posted on IntegrativeCancer.org, you shared a lovely home recipe for jojoba and coconut body butter. Do you have any other recipes or ingredients you enjoy mixing with jojoba?
I like mixing jojoba with Hale and Hush's Relief Bio Powder to help calm and conceal any redness and sensitivities. One client recently asked, “What did you do? Look at me - I finally don't have my red, irritated skin I have had for months due to my chemo!” I also suggest mixing your jojoba with Mineral powder from Osmosis or Advanced Minerals for a great facial concealer or foundation look ...both are oncology friendly makeup lines.
Have you used jojoba as a carrier for essentials oils in your practice? Do you find aromatherapy to be a helpful aid for clients under stress?
When it comes to working at two cancer centers we need to take into account that many cancer patients are extremely sensitive to smells. So having the room smelling from the last client would not work at a cancer center. More studies are needed but we must also be aware of estrogen positive cancers and how some oils may fall under being phytoestrogens (meaning they can mimic estrogens). There are different views in this area.
As for the aromatherapy and essential oils, I believe essential oils can be very calming and helpful for clients under stress. I also believe in asking someone who is an expert in this area to make the recommendations for the cancer patients, since some essential oils are very potent in their pure form. I agree with you, it is always important to use a carrier oil, such as jojoba, with essential oils.
You’ve had wonderful training for your work. What are some of your favorite aspects of your job and how would someone who’s interested go about getting into that field?
One of my favorite aspects is getting the cancer patient interested in skincare. Many cancer patients have never had a facial before and never realized the benefits that monthly facials can provide, not only for cancer patients but after their treatment ends, when they discover how much better their skin can be. And of course I love being part of the benefits of stress reduction and relaxation that I can provide.
For licensed estheticians to get into oncology focused skincare I recommend Oncology Spa Solutions 3-day program. Check the website for when the program will be in your area. Becky Kuehn can also bring a class to your area with enough interest. Some online classes can be taken through Wellness for Cancer and Skincare Therapy, but I only recommend this course after one has had the hands-on class. These are some of the classes I have taken and the ones I am most familiar with.
Some books to read include Morag Currin's Oncology Esthetics book, Dr. Mario Lacoutores " Skincare And The Cancer Patient", Britta Aragons "When Cancer Hits" and Britta's blog cincovidas.com. Hale and Hush's skincare website ...Kris Campbell has some wonderful articles on oncology and health challenged skin. I think that's enough homework to get someone started.
Most estheticians and massage therapists who have compared The Original Jojoba Company’s jojoba to others offered on the market come to us exclaiming how different ours feels on the skin. In this case, much better! (This is due to our first-press standard, as well as keeping our jojoba unrefined and free of fillers of any kind). Have you tried other jojobas to compare and if so, what was your experience?
Yes, I couldn't agree more. I always say take the extra couple days to order your jojoba so you get the best around. And it is even better when I send them home with a sample because they will experience what I mean.
What are your favorite things about jojoba and your favorite ways to use it, either personally or professionally?
So many ways, but I think I would have to say using jojoba for my facial massage or healing touch portion of my facial. I can feel the tension leaving their faces, neck and shoulders almost immediately. Skin that is dry and dehydrated from treatment just soaks up the much needed jojoba bringing a glow back into their fragile, delicate skin.
What would you most like anyone reading this interview to take away when it comes to taking care of their skin? Research ingredients? See an esthetician? Keep skin conditioned?
I think all areas are really important in our skin care routines. We are using far too many products that are far too irritating and sensitizing. More people are experiencing so many skin conditions that can be attributed to or aggravated by what we are using.
I also hope from reading this that everyone adds a bottle of jojoba to their household since they can replace many of the products they are currently using with a bottle of jojoba. I guarantee everyone can find a way to add some jojoba ....maybe we can even expand on your 101 uses you already have.
And most importantly for the cancer patient, bringing awareness to all the salons and spas of the importance of becoming trained in oncology skincare and massages so no one has to be turned away during this difficult time in their lives. “Everyone Deserves to Feel Beautiful”.