Sun And Skin
Did you ever have one of those “Ah Ha Moments?” Working with cancer patients, you would think that we would be all about testing to make sure that we are healthy, but as with most of us, we would prefer to bury our heads in the sand and hope that the day never comes where we have to deal with cancer ourselves. At work last week, the hospital set up a table outside of the cafeteria where employees could see if their skin has been damaged by the sun. There was a machine on the table where you placed your face inside and the special lights showed where your face has damage from the sun. They also had brochures that tell your risk for sun damage based upon your hair color, eye color and whether you have freckles or not. And they were giving away free packs of sunscreen, so it was all good. Until you put your face into the machine. And that is when the “Ah Ha” turned into “Oh S@#t!!”
As I was waiting for my turn, I was listening to the nurse describe the damage of the people ahead of me. Several of the men work both inside and outside the buildings, so they were asked if they wear sunscreen when they are outside and none of them said they did when working. They admitted to using sunscreen when boating or fishing. The guy who was blond, had blue eyes and freckles was told that he was at the top of the list for damage from the sun. Listening, I realized that I had two out of three, those being blue eyes and freckles. My brown hair brought me down one notch. I am someone who burns easily and for the past several years, I have been on a medication that has a side effect that makes me susceptible to sun and heat. I turn very red and break out in a hive-like rash, so I limit my time in the sun and try to stay indoors when it is hot out.
I thought I’d be good to go. Nope. I put my face in the machine and she asked if I see the areas in purple around my face. Yes, I did. And then she said that those were the areas that were showing the damage from the sun. I was stunned. It showed areas of purple on my forehead, cheeks, nose, chin and area around my eyes. She said that I should wear a moisturizer with sunscreen every day. Later, reading over the brochures she gave us, I learned that most of the sun damage to our skin happens before age 20. I didn’t even vacation in Mexico until I was 25 and I went to the tanning salon for a week prior to my trip so I didn’t burn. That was the last time I went to a beach. Looking back at the pictures, I had a great tan, but now, years later, a machine showed what damage had been done up to this point. I also learned that if you work inside, if there is a window that lets sun in, you are still being exposed to sun and should protect yourself from exposure.
The good news is that it isn’t too late to start protecting your skin. I tried a sunscreen made specifically for the face, but after two days, my skin was drying out, so I will switch to a moisturizer with an SPF of 15 or 30. Any sunscreen that you choose should have Broad Spectrum in its name, which means it protects from UVA and UVB rays. I also bought a hat and I’m not a hat person, but if it means I’ll be protected a little more, I don’t care how goofy I look.
If you would like to learn more, you can visit one of the sites below. And if you don’t use a sunscreen everyday, it’s not too late to start.