I may be pale now, but you’ll be wrinkly later!
Sun safety is a big topic amongst 30somethings and up, but what about the younger generations? I reminisce (and lament, now) about the days when I was a teenager, riding my bike to a friend’s house, slapping on the baby oil and baking ourselves for hours so we could get the “perfect tan”. Health had no hold over vanity back then, but had I known then what I know now, I may have chosen differently.
At the age of 29 I was diagnosed with melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer. The tumor was localized to one area so it was removed with no extra treatment necessary. Unfortunately, melanoma has a very high rate of recurrence and now at 34 years old, I’ve had 12 surgeries and have all of the scars to prove it.
Getting back to the vanity side of the issue, had I ever looked closely at the face of a 30 or 40-something who tanned regularly, I’d have traded the baby oil in for some SPF 15, at least. UV exposure causes a breakdown to the collagen in the skin that increases the appearance of aging, making us look older than we are. From what I remember, most kids think looking older will give the appearance of maturity and sophistication, but what adult goes out of his or her way to look older?
In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t avoid the sun like a vampire. I still enjoy the beach, playing outdoor sports, and backyard BBQ’s in the summertime, but I protect myself as well as I can. Most sources will tell you to avoid sun exposure between 10am – 4pm, but for those of us who actually want to have a life during the warmer months, that’s just not feasible. Simple things you can do instead: wear sunscreen SPF 30+, always, as if your life depends on it; wear a hat, the bigger the brim the better; always wear polarized sunglasses; and if you forego the hat, don’t forget to put sunscreen on the tops of your ears and head (getting sunburn where you part your hair stinks!).
Skin damage doesn’t just happen to the fair-haired and light-eyed, all skin tones are susceptible to damage from UV rays. This advice applies in the winter months, too. The overcast conditions and reflection of the sun from snow can cause skin and eye damage as well. Educate yourself on the differences in sunscreens, and there are differences.
I’m not telling you to hide from the sun, I’m only encouraging you to protect your skin. Incorporate education into your employee wellness program to stress the importance of daily sunscreen use. Sunscreen and a hat are far less expensive than surgery to prevent you from looking like the Crypt Keeper!