I am in my mid-twenties and last year, I finally made my first appointment with a dermatologist. I have Irish heritage and my fair skinned face is full of freckles. My dermatologist walked in to the examination room and the first thing she said to me is, “your skin is very damaged.” I had only met her for about three seconds when she said this.
I have never been an avid sunbather but I do love the beach and I play a lot of outdoor sports. I am embarrassed to say that I did use a tanning booth two or three times as a teenager, stuck in a cold, grey New England winter. That was pretty stupid. I do remember getting burned a few times as a child. When I was growing up, sun block was still not considered that necessary. When I was about 13, my grandmother, trying to save me from her own wrinkles, got me to start using facial sun block daily. I am very grateful for that; I only wish I had begun even sooner. Since about the time I went to college, I have been diligent about using 15 or 30 SPF sun block every time that I was outdoors in the daylight. I still did not avoid the sun, but I thought I was doing pretty well.
I had been living in Hawaii about two years when I finally made it to that dermatologist. My whole body was about as tan as it would ever be and I had freckles all over my face, arms and legs. I had heard so many horror stories of young people dying from melanoma and not even knowing they had it. I was also a bit taken aback when my grandfather discovered he had patches of skin cancer and the doctors literally shaved the top layers of skin off of his chin in neck (it looked painful!). I knew a skin screening was well overdue.
I was lucky that no cancer was discovered on that first dermatologist visit. However, precancerous cells, which looked just like a very small patch of dry flaky skin, had to be removed from above my eyebrow. Apparently, cancer is common in that area because sweat runs along the eyebrow carrying away sun screen. I also had two moles removed for testing which thankfully were not cancerous. My doctor told me that, with my skin type, I should always be wearing a minimum of 50 SPF! I should be avoiding the sun whenever possible and covering up as much as I can. I also have to get checked by a dermatologist at least once a year. It scares me to think about how much damage I may have already done to myself.
I have been through many types of facial sun blocks, and it is hard to find products that don’t make my skin feel greasy. I would like to recommend a new product I just tried for the first time: La Roche-Posay Anthelios SX with Mexoryl. It is the first product to be approved by the FDA that protects against short UVA waves, which are the greatest cause of skin aging. Of course, it protects against dangerous UVA long waves and UVB waves as well. The product is light, not greasy even after using it for several days. I would not call it perfumed, but there is very subtle pleasant scent.
My favorite total body sunscreen is Coppertone Sport Ultra sweat proof. It is fairly light, even with a high SPF, and it is waterproof. It is great for a day at the beach or playing outdoor sports. I used to hate sun block getting into my eyes while playing soccer, but this brand usually stays put.
Whatever protection you decide to use against the sun, start now.