Metal free sun cream - recomendations anyone?

A little problem has cropped up and I could use your help ladies.

You can guess I’m a gardener, I have an allotment and spend oodles of time there at this time of year. It’s so reassuring to be in the great outdoors and gets life back into perspective. Plus organics veggies are pretty good for all of us right now.

I started rads yesterday - it seems I cannot use sun cream during rads due to metal content and I have to cover up. OK this seems to be sensible but really not that practical with all the bending and stretching. I spend hours at the allotment sometimes - time just flies there really. It’s currently far too hot to work there and wear up to the neck t-shirts and scarfs, and there is no shade.

So has anyone hear of safe sunscreen to use during rads? My therapists have not and cannot recommend anything right now. I can’t find anything on the internet.

I asked if I could put it on, then wash it off before treatment but they seemed a bit iffy about this, but are looking into it for me - it does not currently sound that hopeful.

It’s really a poor time for me to be having rads, and I’m not giving up gardening any time soon. So perhaps someone has some ideas or experience that might help me? Thanks.

hi, I dont know if this will help i only use organic skin care as it has no chemicals in it, Holland and barrett do an organic sun screen by Lavera and also alot of the supermarkets sell green people sun cream i dont know if these have metal in them so you would need to check that.

good luck and happy gardening

Hi charhie - I have the Green People sun lotion. It is organic and paraben free - but on the list of ingredients it does have titanium dioxide, which it describes as a mineral UV filter.

Greenfingers - have you asked the rads people if you can use suncream away from the area where you are having rads? As the rads are highly targeted it does seem odd that you couldn’t use suncream on your face and arms. I can understand about soaps and shampoos that could come into contact with the breast area.

On a separate note I have recently decided to chuck out all my toiletries and make-up, and go organic and paraben free. It is expensive and the range is limited - but I have freed up three shelves in my bathroom cupboard, and have now got everything down to about 15 products including make-up! I hadn’t realised how much stuff I had that I never used.

Update on advice from my latest visit today.

I can wear sunscreen but not in the treatment area - so up to the neck essentially and in the armpit - this is because they want to keep my skin neutral which was the explanation.

This was on a post it note from the oncologist - so no chance to ask what that meant - any ideas anyone? This is the same oncologist who 5 weeks ago told me I could wear sunscreen and deodorant. I don’t know what has changed but right now I’m a bit miffed. It’s obviously a phase but does everything like this miff you as well?

It was suggested I wear a wide brimmed hat - they really have no idea what I do in the allotment - so far each suggestion is highly impractical as either too hot or likely not to work.

Thanks for the suggestion of the cream however titanium is a metal so no good unfortunately. I spent a good time squinting at bottles in boots today - the ingredients are such gobbledygook there is no chance of figuring it out myself.

I rang McMillan they had not heard of this either, but suggested I went to see the hospital pharmacist for advice, now that was a good idea.

Miff no 2 was the kind offer of a hospital car park pass yesterday - just a few days after I purchased one for myself - why did no-one say that was coming then?

Hi greenfingers - are you having rads just to the breast, or to the lymph nodes by your collarbone and in your armpit? If you are having the neck lymph nodes zapped too, you will need to keep the cream off your neck as well as the collarbone area, and at the opposite point on your back, as you get burns to the exit point too. I would think putting suncream on your face and arms would be fine.

In any case the rad techs will tell you precisely on you first session - so just need to make sure you aren’t wearing any suncream on the affected area on that day.

Hi Finty,

Well I was told it was just my breast to be zapped and not my underarms and no issues with deodorant and sunscreen - I could wear them - this was the oncologist. Nodes were not discussed - but then as I had high grade DCIS the surgeon said that nodes were not involved, so I did not ask about them.

After that no comment/advice offered at planning so I went to the first rads with both sunscreen/deodorant on [that’s common apparently according to the techs I met] but they treated me anyway. Firstly before treatment we had a long chat when all this came up because apparently the fields are clipping part of my underarm and stop 2cm below the dimple in the lower neck. They showed me the pictures of the fields from the planning on a body image they had made up of me at planning [amazing eh?]. So the areas where I normally wear sunscreen on my upper chest [and where all my clothes will not cover] are affected - it even goes a fair way down the side of my body under the arm - gosh I was flabbergasted, I just had no idea this was so comprehensive.

So I asked could I wear sunscreen and remove it before treatment, then reapply but they seemed unsure as they had not been asked before - does that seem unlikely to you it does to me? The weekends seem not to be an issue to me but apparently they are as well but I still cannot understand why.

Sorry but they were not precise with me and no I have not heard anything about an exit point either - what is that? I’ve only been told to take care of the front area not my back.

Has anyone the ability to explain to me what keeping the skin neutral means?

I think I might go to Holland & Barrett tomorrow, and read the labels, but so far label reading has not helped that much. I’m trying to get hold of my friend to make some sense of this but no joy so far.

I’m a bit fed up with this now. First the screening service tells me I can go home from my recall, once they had dealt with my cysts, then they have a re-think and change their minds and do a pretty traumatic core biopsy. Then say they have found ‘an abnormality’ but they categorically state at the time ‘it is not cancer’ but they were keen to remove it for my safety. So after a lot of persuasion I finally agreed. The surgeon also said she felt it was not cancer and ‘see you for the all clear’ after the first op. Then it is cancer after all and I needed additional surgery as they missed the margin - which was clearly marked out by a wire - the wire was in the final histology section of the excision instead of the middle. 2 more ops in fact since mistakes were made during the second excision as well and I had a haematoma excision the same day [that was nasty as well]. So the rads seem to be required. Now apparently I am being under informed about just what the rads involve. It’s not as if I am not asking questions, I just fell fobbed off and told the bare minimum. Given all this what are the bets this is going to stop anytime soon?

I know I am possibly one very lucky woman and obviously I’m really grateful that it was found early and at an easily treatable stage [and sometimes pretty freaked that it nearly got dismissed as nothing] but this is tinged with all this ongoing hoo hah that has now been going on for six months - frankly I’ve really had enough I want my life back.

After all this settles down it looks like I will need to have plastic surgery next year to both breasts to restore some form of symmetry. This DCIS, in comparison to most issues I’ve seen here,is a minor problem and a very early discovery. It seems never ending to me - I have to ask how do you ladies cope with it all?

Sorry to rattle on but I am sure you can understand how I feel.

Hi greenfingers,

I can understand how you feel after being messed about so much.

I had rads over 2 yrs ago now and it was Feb so sun cream wasn’t an issue although I was aware of restrictions. Creams have to be metal free as if they’re not the rads rays won’t be as effective - think they can bounce back a bit like they sometimes show on suncream bottle diagrams.

The bit about your back is that the rays have to have an exit place so you may get an itchy patch on your back. In my case I had to have a large area zapped after a mx, no recon - it went from my collarbone down to the bottom of my ribs, from my sternum round to the start of my back and all under my arm plus a bit on my neck as I had other issues. I did get a matching itchy bit on my back.

I’m afraid I can’t really suggest anything suitable apart from apply suncream on arms and legs, wear some sort of headgear and cover up - sorry.

And remember, the rads keep on working for a while after you’ve actually had the last dose (apologies if they’ve told you this) so you will still have to be careful then.


Hi, Greenfingers

I am having chemo (8x FEC) so won’t be having rads until Dec so sun not an issue, but I have an allotment and wear a scarf with a hat on top ( from Asda)not a wide brim one but it keeps the sun off my face. I wear a long sleeve shirt ( still too hot ) with sun cream on as well. I bought some organic sun cream from a shop called Amarya who only sell organic products. they have a web site. don’t know if there is metal in it though

Hope you find an answer soon


Hi green fingers - in answer to your question as to how people cope with this - I would say, if you can, try not to sweat the small stuff too much. For me, I know I will be under continual treatment for the rest of my life, however long that might be - so I try no to get too worked up about relatively minor inconveniences. I think my docs do their best, though inevitably it sometimes isn’t as efficient as I would like. I’m further down the road than you, and perhaps some of your agitation is more related to coming to terms with having cancer?

Regarding suncreams - two years ago we took our kids on a rafting trip on the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon. It was July, and the temp regularly hit 120F, and rarely went below 100F, even at night when we camped on the riverside. We were in the sun all day every day for a couple weeks. I realised on day one that the factor 50 and 70 sun cream I had packed was useless - it gave me painful prickly heat. Fortunately I had a Plan B - a couple of my husband’s old office shirts - lovely thin cotton, with long sleeves and a collar up, gave complete protection, together with a good hat and pyjama style trousers - I was fine. Interestingly the river guides, who are on the river for 5 months a year didn’t use sun cream either for health reasons - but covered up instead. Anyway this is a long way of saying I am sure with some ingenuity you can find a way around your gardening problem! Good luck, finty x