Fun in the Sun? Not So Much…

21 Jun

Someone recently asked my biggest regret in life.

I didn’t have to ponder that one.

“Not using sunscreen until my mid-30s!” I said.

My pal laughed, like I was making a joke or trying to sound glib.  But it’s 100-percent true.  I wake up every morning to crow’s feet and “overgrown freckles,” which continue to expand into unsightly splotches.  Let’s not even talk about my wrinkles.  (Suffice it to say, I recently got bangs.)

I’ve had chemical peels, each hurting like a son-of-a-you-know-what as several layers of skin burns away.  I’ve considered Botox for my brow and Rejuvaderm for my “commas,” those ever-deepening gullies framing my mouth.  For now, I make due with slathering SPF 70 or more on my face and hands every morning.  I reapply if I’m spending any time outside.

Vanity plays a big role in my epidermal angst, but so does an underlying unease about skin cancer.  I’m the poster child for melanoma: blue eyes, fair skin, a childhood spent at the beach that yielded plenty of bad burns.  My husband (another blue-eyed albino) and I do monthly “mole checks,” during which we scan each other’s backs for those sinister growths.  Sexy?  Not at all.  Necessary?  Probably.

So do me a favor this summer: Slap on that sunblock even if your outdoor excursions consist of darting outside to fetch the mail!  The American Academy of Dermatology offers additional advice:

  • Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more to all exposed skin.  “Broad-spectrum” provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.  Reapply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, where possible.
  • Seek shade when appropriate.  Remember that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  If your shadow appears to be shorter than you are, seek shade.
  • Use extra caution near water and sand because they reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chances of sunburn.
  • Avoid tanning beds.  Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling.  If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
  • Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.

For more, visit www.aad.org.

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3 Responses to “Fun in the Sun? Not So Much…”

  1. Richelle June 21, 2011 at 10:43 pm #

    This is so timely for me. I just had my first biopsy yesterday at the ripe old age of 31. I’ve been kicking myself as I remember all the sunburns I’ve had, all the time I spent laying out and (*shudder*) the trips to the tanning bed in my youth. I wish I had listened! I’m trying to stay optimistic and believe the results will come back negative. Lisa, not listening to all the warnings about the sun is my biggest regret, too.

  2. Stacey June 22, 2011 at 1:37 am #

    Richelle, I hope it comes back negative. I had my first basal cell carcinoma removed at 28 from my face. Not fun but I was very glad it wasn’t melanoma. I’m trying to now do better for me and the kiddo to prevent any damage for him and further damage for me. I cringed just this evening seeing a lady laying out by the pool.

  3. Lisa June 24, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    Oh, Richelle. I’m wearing my cowboy hat in your honor tomorrow at my son’s swimming lessons! Please keep us posted on the results.

    And, Stacey, my fair-skinned, blue-eyed father who grew up in LA had his first carcinoma removed at age 22! And–now at the ripe old age of 75–his dermatologist is about to take off yet another one on his cheek. Fortunately, he, too, hasn’t had a melanoma but it’s scary out there. Good for you to keep your child safe as well as to take great care of your own skin. Live and learn, no?!

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