More people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the United States than all other cancers combined. At least one in five Americans will have been diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70 years old. Coloradans are high risk because of high altitude exposure with 300 sunny days per year. There are various types of skin cancer. Having a regular visit to your dermatologist will ensure that any suspicious moles or spots are diagnosed early to avoid the dangerous spread of disease.
The peculiar love/ hate relationship with moles: Many clients present with moles on their faces and bodies. Many tell me that they “kind of love them” — even when they are not pretty moles -because the marks have become a part of their experiences. The problem is when moles, or any spot,) start changing and mutating. This is a red flag that the cells may not be a normal growth and could be dangerously spreading beneath the skin surface.
My opinion of a tan vs. beauty
Growing up on the New Jersey shore, I was exposed to hours of sun…but as I got into my teens, I figured out how to “maximize the sun.” At the time, in the 80s, it was culturally believed that tan made us look healthy, so we tended to spend hours perfecting the “look.” I succumbed to the cultural belief and was inspired, like many, by the Farrah Fawcett swimsuit poster.
We believed that a tan gave a healthy glow, covers imperfections, and even makes you look thinner. Fast forward a few years, and I would see the people who were “too tan” looked weathered, wrinkled, and their skin was sagging with lack of moisture. Science began to show us that not using sunscreens or using methods to enhance sun exposure is the #1 reason for aging the skin, creating wrinkles, sun spots, milia, uneven texture, and developing skin cancers, which start years before they appear on the surface of the skin. Hyperpigmentation is the most challenging thing for estheticians to treat.
The new beauty is healthy-looking skin, not tanned.
Over time our culture has refined our sense of beauty and changed from dark tanning to healthy-looking natural skin that retains its natural moisture and suppleness.
Spotting Skin Cancer Early
Many of us find a suspicious-looking spot because a friend or a family member points them out, or your dermatologist catches the spot. Often an esthetician or hairdresser may be your first line of defense as they can see your skin or scalp at different angles and close up. As these may be overlooked, please ask your practitioner to keep a lookout for irregularities – Better caught sooner than later.
What it looks like:
Skin cancer is not always recognizable. It can look like a red nodule, scaly, bleeding, pearly or waxy or red or brown or black or like an age spot. Be aware of any changes in a mole in color or size and make an appointment with your dermatologist to get a professional opinion if you any changes.
Your best defense to protect your skin:
- Look at your skin and monitor changes
- Wear your sunscreen and frequently re-apply when out in the sun
- Avoid direct sun – the best hours to be in the sun are before 10 am and after 2 pm
- Avoid tanning beds
- Consume a healthy diet and eat cruciferous vegetables
- If you notice a suspicious spot, make an appointment with a reputable dermatologist as soon as possible. If you are concerned or have a family history of skin cancer, have the dermatologist perform a biopsy to ensure the health of your skin or learn if further treatment is required.
My personal experience:
I have had melanoma twice. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and can quickly metastasize’. The first experience when I was 35 years old where it appeared as a mole on my nose. It did not look like typical skin cancer. I had grown used to this mole until my brother made a not so nice comment, and I had it checked out by my dermatologist who biopsied and removed the growth. Thankfully because of my brother’s “snarky comment,” I was alarmed and had the spot checked out as it was an early melanoma.
The second occurrence was just recently, and 20 years after the first diagnosis. I had a fast-growing, what looked like, to my untrained eye, a ”sunspot” under my chin that I finally saw when I arched my head to give myself a facial. Skin cancer needs to be diagnosed by a professional. I have regularly scheduled skin checks every three months by my dermatologist, and this spot was not seen in my previous appointment. This spot was fast growing. As I am very aware of skin changes, and it’s my business, I immediately made an appointment with my dermatologist. Our motto must be When in doubt- have it checked out! Don’t let the fear of “what if” stop you from finding a dangerous mole early, or also being relieved if the pathology turns out to be a benign growth. Fortunately, the melanoma was caught in very early stages and did not spread to underlying tissue.
More acknowledgments of why sunblock matters: Revealing my story is often difficult to convey, and I reveal my experiences to my clients. We are all vulnerable. Before I became an Esthetician, I walked my dog (I have had 11 dogs over the years) from 6-8 am. I would put sunblock on the front of my face that was more prominent to the sun. I did this for the two peak months of summer. As a photographer who had many beauty and image photo shots and photoshoots, I believed that getting a tan on the sides of my face would contour and thin my face. It worked, but here’s the catch — Years later, my dermatologists, only with the naked eye, noticed that I had sun damage everywhere but the front of my face and that the 60-day window one summer at off-peak hours was still visible years later. Moral of the story: Sunblock matters!.
Where else to put sunblock:
Use it to all exposed areas of your body as you do not want to get UV radiation or accelerate aging or start the beginning of skin cancers that can be seen years after initial exposure. Put it on your ears neck and hands as car windows are not SPF protected, and your hands are on the steering wheel. Use it lavishly everyone, and concentrate on your entire neck and face no matter what time of day you’re exposed to the sun.
How long does sunblock last on your shelf and your face:
Quality Sunblock expires after two-year shelf life.
- Sunblock needs to re-applied after 80 minutes and more frequently if you’re swimming or with water sports.
- Check out this article for more in-depth sunblock protection information.
To your health and vitality!