Even though I want to believe that 50 is the new 30 I can’t deny that biologically I am over half a century old. I have lived most of it active in adventures and sports that involve being outdoors. As a teenager in Wisconsin my summer jobs as a lifeguard at the neighborhood pool gave me that perfect back to school tan. In my early 20’s I was proud to serve my country in the US Air Force and even prouder to serve them in Hawaii and Guam. It was hot and the days were long, so when we had days off, my girlfriends and I would take off to the beach and work on getting the deepest tan we could. We gaged our beauty on the shade of our tan and darker was definitely better. I take after my mother’s English side of the family when it comes to skin type and why I thought I would look as good or achieve the same level of pigment as someone with Polynesian ancestry I can only wonder. Heat stroke perhaps?
When I was 24 years old I moved to Florida. In Florida, it is difficult to minimize your sun exposure and I don’t remember ever using a sunscreen during my Monday thru Friday work week. On weekends, I was active in watersports. I even spent a few years competing with jet skis. And as a semi pro competitor I couldn’t not have a tan. By then, my tan wasn’t intentional as much as a result of participating in an outdoor beach sport. But, I didn’t have to really work on my tan, because my mom managed a tanning bed business and I was able to tan for FREE whenever I wanted! I have a photo of me when I was about 27 holding my 3 year old nephew. Looking at that photo now I see a little boy with milky white skin and his aunt who was far too dark to look natural.
I have been in Washington for 22 years now and can’t remember when I had a tan last. Not that you can’t get a tan in Washington, but somewhere I came to the realization that all those freckled brown spots that litter my face, shoulders, back and body can’t be healthy or beautiful.
Today I read two articles that were passed on to me here at Cascade Facial Surgery and Aesthetics by one of our sunscreen product representatives. The messages in the articles are not only significant but knowing my history of sun exposure pretty much puts me in the HIGHEST RISK category. Sun exposure can cause skin cancer, increasingly for melanoma skin cancer. Recent studies have shown that the incident of melanoma in woman aged 40 to 60 risen 24% since 1970. And tanning bed exposure increases your risk of skin cancer even more. As I ponder the message I am anxious and scared. But my mother didn’t know back then that giving me free tanning sessions was endangering her daughter’s life. Nor did I know that all those years of constant weekend sunburns put me at risk of an early death. I can’t change the past. I can only focus on protecting my skin from further damage. I sometimes check my “spots” for weirdness, but now I am convinced it needs to become a regular routine exam by a physician. I have a 20 year old daughter who doesn’t feel the need to tan. She has heard the message and for that I am grateful. Please take the time to educate yourself and your family about the risks associated with sun exposure and know that it’s super easy to apply sunscreen every day. Enjoy your life, do what you love to do, but choose to protect the only skin you’ll ever have.
By Joan Phillips, Center Manager, Cascade Facial Surgery and Aesthetics, PLLC.