Most of us have read articles about sun safety. According to dermatologists, 'safe tanning' is an oxymoron like "healthy cigarettes." The sun is only safe if we avoid it (the vitamin D-connection being the gray area-more on that later). There is no such thing as a 'good tan' or a 'healthy tan' according to my dermatologist (and others).
Some facts from my dermatologist:
- We should stay out of the sun in order to prevent skin cancer as well as wrinkles.
- If in the sun, we should cover up: long-sleeve shirts, pants (moisture-wicking if necessary), hats, glasses. Avoid peak hours of 10am-4pm unless you are in Iceland in the summer - then just never leave the house (kidding). Wear UV-protective sunglasses as your eyes can become damaged as well.
- If we MUST have our skin exposed (think: lunch date in cute sundress), we should use A WHOLE SHOT GLASS of sunscreen for our entire body. Or a whole Tablespoon for your face and neck. (This feels like a huge amount as you are rubbing it in and it takes For.Ever.) Reapply every two hours or more if sweating or wet.
- Sun damage is cumulative, which means the more of it you have, the more damage. It's never too late to start preventative measures. Every day that you expose yourself, you increase your risks.
- Sun damage occurs even inside, near windows. Put on sunscreen, even when indoors near windows.
- Any tan is a bad tan unless it comes from a bottle. The actual darkness of the tan indicates the extent to which DNA has been damaged. This can lead to cancer. And wrinkles. And looking like Snooki. Nobody wants that.
- I worshipped the sun as a teenager. My cousin once mistook me at the beach for an African-American girl when meeting her at the beach. 100% true story.
- I was read the riot act by a dermatologist in my 20s and I began using sunscreen religiously. Problem: I was using a small fraction of the necessary dose. I figured 'a smear' was good enough. Not so.
- I was not covering up, believing falsely that my (smear of) sunscreen was going to protect me.
- I STILL proceeded to tan because I had applied my (smear of) sunscreen, which I did not realize was bad in and of itself. I thought that a tan was OK since I was wearing sunscreen, but it is NOT OK. During my appointment the dermatologist pointed to my bare boob (THERE IT IS!) with a pen and said "You do see how milky white you are? THAT is your natural color". She pointed at said boob again. And again. With her pen. Um, awkward, but she drove her point across. Not to mention that I had no idea that I am really milky white!
|I was a teen who was always 'working on her tan.'|
The result of my time in the sun?
- I have been getting suspicious areas removed and biopsied for years.
- Thankfully, all biopsies have been either negative or precancerous- so far.
- Some of the biopsies are leaving marks that are unaesthetic and I've been warned that this is 'just the beginning' if I do not change my habits regarding the sun.
- My eyes are showing signs of sun damage which can lead to cataracts and retinal problems.
|Band-aid covers my biopsy site. Ellie consoles me.|
|Janetha took this photo of me in June. But let's look a little closer...|
|Thank goodness for fillers, is all I'm saying.|
How have my habits changed since learning all of this?
- I now slather myself with sunscreen first thing in the morning, and throughout the day (and I do mean 'slather')
- I find shade when possible.
- If I must be in the sun, I either wear long clothing, or a hat or I use an umbrella. Yes, an umbrella. Or I use a combination of all of the above.
|Even while driving, I now wear long sleeves and often a hat. Not fun.|
|Thanks, Eden, for the sending me this photo, complete with label. I think.|
|I have a small umbrella that I keep in my purse and I use it ALL the time.|
|This is not me. It's a model wearing a western-version of a burka from Coolibar.|
The vitamin D dilemma:
The only problem with avoiding the sun is that your body decreases its vitamin D production which is the new golden-child of vitamins. It is purported to prevent everything from diabetes to bone health, mood disorders, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases. Now listen to this: I was tested not long before my appointment and despite my sun-worshipping habits, and the fact that I live in Southern California, I was LOW! So now I supplement with D3 per the advice of my endocrinologist, and current tests are normal. You can read about the Vitamin D connection on WebMD, The Mayo Clinic and the Harvard newsletter. It is widely accepted that the current recommendations of 200IU are far too low to be effective and many doctors are recommending anywhere from 1000IU per day. Check with yours.
So there you have it: A dry post about sun damage that I hope will help even one person out there. And you got read the word "boob." I hope it was worth it.
On the up side, a small dose of chocolate daily just MIGHT help to protect us from the sun's damaging rays.