May is skin cancer awareness month!

When I was a kid and teenager growing up in Western Washington, any time it was sunny and 70 degrees or more, I was out soaking it up!  If you missed out, it could be another month before you saw the sun again!  I remember putting on tanning lotions and anything that smelled like coconut, but never anything above SPF 4, because I wanted a tan!  I bought my first SPF 15, something by Aveda, prior to a Hawaii trip 17 years ago.  Then in 1997, I got into skin care and began to be more aware of things like sun damage and signs of aging!

The skin care profession has definitely taught me that much of the signs of aging, like age spots and wrinkles, as well as skin cancer, comes from sun exposure.  I will admit that, for a long time, the signs of aging scared me more than the worry of skin cancer.

Over the last number of years, I have gotten my skin scans and recommended for all my clients to do the same.  There have been a few occasions when clients visited the dermatologist on my recommendation and skin cancer was caught early.  They were thankful and I was relieved they got the care they needed!

Now that I have moved to a dryer, sunnier location (wine country!), I am more conscious of my sun protection than ever.  The weather is turning warmer now that it’s spring, and I for sure know that I need to get some new SPF soon.  Also, everything is dry here and my skin has been getting some itchy, flakey spots. Wahh!  I have some remedies in my pocket, but these spots were stubborn!

I have been seeking out great doctors in my area, and had visited an awesome dermatology clinic for an open house a while back, Center for Excellence in Dermatology.  I made an appointment at the derm clinic and went in yesterday. While I was getting all my spots checked out, there was one spot on my back, which of course I hadn’t noticed, that looked suspicious.  The PA, Heidi Tate, did a biopsy and I will be anxiously awaiting results over these next 10 days!

Whatever the spot turns out to be, I am thankful I was able to have my skin scanned and to get all these things checked out.  Every part of my skin seems to be acting a little bit differently since my move, so I had lots of little things that have been bugging me, like an itchy scalp and some discolored spots (sebaceous keratoses) on my face.  I got steroid prescriptions for my scalp and the itchy spots on my skin, and next time I will have the spots on my face treated (they’re not suspicious, just annoying).  The PA was wonderful, thorough, and informative. She also shared that the Skin Cancer Foundation is now recommending SPF 50! What?!!

I’ve learned that there is not a big difference at all between an SPF 20 and 30, and that the higher the SPF beyond 30 generally means more chemicals.  There are physical sun protectors and chemical sun protectors, and some products combine both.  When the SPF is so high, people can be fooled into thinking they can go all day without reapplying.  The PA mentioned, as well, that it’s okay to use a lower SPF, like 20 or 30, but just reapply every 60 minutes.

During these economic times, I know that not everyone has the means or the insurance coverage to get their skin cancer screenings.  After my appointment yesterday, I looked up the Skin Cancer Foundation and discovered that they are doing a skin cancer screening tour!  You may be able to receive a free screening in your area!  Please check it out – Road to Healthy Skin Tour.

If you don’t use sun protection, start!  If you have a cream or liquid SPF, when did you open it?  Cream or liquid SPF is only good for one year after opening the container.  Did you leave it in your hot car?  It is probably spoiled.  If this is an issue for you, or if you don’t like to goop stuff on or mess up your makeup, try a dry sun protection.  Jane Iredale makes one I love called Powder Me SPF 30. Reapply your SPF every 60-90 minutes when you are outdoors for prolonged periods, and every time you get out of the water and dry off after swimming.

You’ve still gotta live your life and have fun, but just begin making little changes that can go a long way in achieving healthy skin and preventing sun damage.

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