Britta Aragon, author, cancer survivor, entrepreneur, make-up artist, safe cosmetics expert, creator of CV Skinlabs, and developer of Cinco Vidas discovered her passion for promoting safe self-care through her experiences as a Hodgkin’s disease patient and a caregiver during her father’s eight-year cancer battle. In 2008, she founded Cinco Vidas, a blog designed to inform those suffering from the side effects of cancer treatment and from skin conditions like chronic dryness and eczema.
Aragon’s blog highlights natural solutions and creates awareness about potentially harmful chemicals in personal care products, foods, and the environment. After successfully launching Cinco Vidas, Aragon assembled a team of leading dermatologists, toxicologists, and holistic skincare chemists to develop CV Skinlabs, a safe, non-toxic range of products to repair and restore radiance to sensitive and fragile skin. Aragon’s passion for skincare, health, and wellness has been featured in US Weekly, People En Espanol, Crazy Sexy Life, Refinery 29, Self.com, Telemundo, Well and Good NYC, Real Simple Magazine, and Organic Spa Magazine.
Below is my in-depth interview with Britta Aragon about her transformative journey from cancer patient to wellness advocate.
Phillips: At age 16, you were diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. How did your illness affect your high school years?
Aragon: When I was 16, I was focused on trying to figure out who I was and I was concerned about fitting in with my classmates. After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, I didn’t go into morbid reflection because I didn’t fully understand that my life was hanging in the balance. At that time in my life, I lacked the emotional capacity and life experience to understand death so I didn’t think about it too much. I just thought about hanging out with my friends and going shopping. Before my treatments, I would try to think positive and mentally prepare myself. Every Thursday, I was scheduled for chemotherapy treatment and my plan was to rest, pray, and to think about feeling good. While I was healing, I thought about what I would do with my friends, hanging out at the mall, and eating my favorite foods. The following weekend, after all of my treatments, I would always find the energy to have fun with my friends and family. Looking back on my situation, I think my desire to fit in and be cool helped me to fight cancer.
The most devastating part of my Hodgkin’s disease treatment was losing my hair and gaining weight. Before Hodgkin’s disease, I had long silky hair and a slim figure. It was painful to look at myself in the mirror, watching my hair fall out and gaining weight at the same time. I can remember making a big deal about my appearance and not understanding why my parents weren’t all that concerned. I was so focused on what I should do about my hair and my parents were worried about losing their daughter.
Phillips: How and when did you become a make-up artist?
Aragon: After I beat Hodgkin’s disease and my cancer went into remission, I finished high school with a totally different perspective. I was so happy to be alive and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. After surviving cancer, I developed a passion for living a healthy lifestyle and I became what some people would consider a free spirit. I was certain that I would end up in a field related to health, wellness, or beauty but I didn’t know how. Initially, I enrolled in the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) but that was just a stop along my journey of self-exploration. During my time in college, I didn’t find what I was looking for, so I took some time outside of the academic environment to find out about myself. After leaving UNLV, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I always ended up in or around the health and beauty industry.
The one thing I learned from my cancer experience is that the doctors don’t know everything, so I began doing my own research. I learned what foods and vitamins aid the body in healing. I became a walking health manual and my friends would always ask me health questions. One day the light bulb went off, I knew that I needed to put my passion for skincare and my passion for healthcare research together to pursue a career. At the age of 26, I decided to go back to school to become a make-up artist. I attribute my career choice to my grandmother who purchased my first skin cream. She gave me the following advice: “Always wear a hat, use good quality skin cream, and don’t stay out in the sun too long.”
Phillips: What inspired you to write the book entitled “When Cancer Hits”?
Aragon: After I won my battle with cancer, I thought I was finished with this deadly disease. Well, I was wrong. My dad, who was my best friend and hero, was diagnosed with colon cancer. I was forced to deal with cancer again and faced the possibility of losing the most important man in my life. My dad fought cancer for eight years, the disease spread to his lungs, liver, brain, and his bones. During his eight year fight, cancer changed his body. He constantly experienced skin problems and suffered from rashes and reactions to lotions. All the products that I purchased for my dad would irritate his skin, so I began to research all of the ingredients in the products that I purchased for him. After I finished my research, I learned that all of my dad’s skin products were filled with carcinogens and hormone disruptors. Once I put all of the pieces of the puzzle together, everything changed. I began to read everything that my dad used or ate. I started shopping at health food stores to purchase skin care products and other personal care items for my father. Although the natural products were healthy, they were not very effective. So I was stuck with the choice of purchasing effective items with carcinogens or ineffective natural products.
After my personal encounter with cancer and then watching my father transition into the afterlife, I knew that I had to share my experiences. I wanted to make it easier for the next person who faced a situation similar to my circumstances. So I created Cinco Vidas, a blog to honor my father’s five reoccurrences of cancer. The purpose of creating the blog was to create awareness about potential harmful products in food, personal care products, and the environment. Also, I wanted to share my research on skin care to educate and assist cancer patients and their care givers. The goal of the blog was to provide a community forum where people could seek answers and share solutions.
Several weeks after the Cinco Vidas website was up and running, I had a dream. I saw my father holding a book and he said that he was so proud of me. When I woke up the next morning, I tried to figure out what book he was holding. Then it dawned on me that he was holding my book. So, I don’t really think of When Cancer Hits as my book, I feel like I co-authored the book with my father because he inspired me to share our battle with Cancer.
Phillips: What fueled your passion to become an entrepreneur?
Aragon: I’ve spent the majority of my life fighting cancer and I want to help people who are fighting or will fight some type of cancer. My goal is to use my business and my brands to educate and empower people with information to make healthier choices. CV Skin Lab isn’t your traditional cosmetics company that puts profits first and everything else second. CV Skin Labs is profit with a purpose because we formulate all products with our customer’s well-being as our top priority. My passion for my business and my desire to be an entrepreneur came from the desire to create natural, safe, organic formulas that actually work on a variety of sensitive skin conditions. In addition to being all natural, we have gone one step further to have our products clinically tested to prove their effectiveness.
Phillips: What advice can you share with other aspiring business women?
Aragon: You have to become passionate about the business that you are starting. I’ve been through battles with cancer, lost my father to cancer, and I’m currently going through a divorce but the most difficult experience was starting a business. If you want to truly know who you are, starting a business will answer lots of questions about your character. Most people are frightened by the idea of starting a business because the statistics are very scary. The stats say that most businesses will fail in the first three years and the business owners will experience major financial hardships. I agree with the stats when people go into business just for the money. I think aspiring women business owners need to have a passion for their business and we must know that we are helping others. That’s the magic recipe! If you don’t have passion and purpose, there are going to be mornings when you don’t want to get up and other days when you want to throw in the towel. There were several days when I felt like throwing in the towel, but I thought about the thousands of people who I felt like were counting on me.
It’s also very important to have people in your corner who believe in you and your business. On those days when you have doubts, the people in your corner will help you to push forward. In the early years, I would constantly remind myself that I can’t fail if I don’t quit. I forced myself to overcome self-doubt and to develop a positive thought process. Another important lesson that I learned was to place my trust in God’s universal plan and not to worry about how everything was going to work out.
Phillips: Can you please share a few important things about skin or skin care that would be helpful to our readers?
Aragon: When I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, I didn’t know why I was sick and I was just focused on getting well. When my dad was diagnosed with Colon Cancer, I begin to think about the products that we consume and the effects that they have on our body. After I began conducting serious research on what causes cancer, I learned that diet, lifestyle, and environment play a major role in who gets cancer. My focus is to contribute to the solution with Cinco Vidas and CV Skin Labs. Here are three important skin care facts for your readers to think about:
- 70% of the products that you apply to your skin get absorbed into your blood stream.
- The average woman uses 12 personal products that contain 126 ingredients and the average man uses 6 personal products with 86 ingredients.
- A recent Environmental Working Group Study found 16 difference cosmetic and skin care chemicals in blood and urine samples of 20 teenage girls. The chemicals found matched the ingredients in the products that the teens frequently used.