Growing up in Florida and now living in LA I see a whole lot of sunshine. When I was younger I loved to lay out and bake. I wanted to be as tan as my fair skin would let me so I’d slather myself with oil and stay by the pool all day or go to the tanning beds occasionally. I knew it would all catch up with me eventually, but I didn’t think eventually would be at age 27. There I was in stirrups at my annual gynecological exam (as if that day couldn’t get any better) when my Dr. points to a mole over my heart and says “You need to see a Dermatologist about that. If I could take it off right this minute I would.” Great, yet another doctor’s appointment to schedule. Luckily I was motivated by the fact that it was the end of the year and I had already met my high deductible so I went to see my dermatologist (who I was already getting annual skin cancer checks from) to get the mole biopsied. Unfortunately it was Melanoma so I had to go back and get it removed, along with some of the healthy skin around it to ensure the entire thing was gone and would not spread.
It was a pretty small mole and now I have a huge scar I get to look at everyday. Here’s what it looks like today, 16 months later:
I want to point out that I most certainly do not have a tan right now the first picture was in my dermatologists’ office under fluorescent lights and the recent one is in front of my awesome vanity that has super warm lighting. This picture does, however, do a nice job of showing all the irreversible sun damage on my chest from years of tanning. About three months later I came back for another full body scan at my dermatologist’s office and lo-and-behold I had yet another melanoma on my back. Here’s that big old scar about 1 year later (today):
The point of this post beyond sharing my story is to appeal to what I think one of the main factors that influences us to tan is- our vanity. We want to look tan because “everyone looks better with a tan!” or “it covers up all my flaws!” and because we’ve been taught from a young age that tanned skin is more attractive, appealing, or “healthy” looking. I’m here to show you that skin cancer isn’t just something that happens to other people and that tanning does not make you pretty! These scars may be “beautiful” because they are now part of what makes me me, but if I could I’d go back in a heart beat and be Snow White my whole life because it’s just not worth it! Although my genetics predisposed me to this (my dad had melanoma a few months after my last one was removed) I could have done so much better in preventing sun damage to my skin. Think of the wrinkles! While fewer people are getting most types of cancer Melanoma is on the rise! It is the most common cancer among people 25-29 years old.
I’m proud to say now that I am incredibly diligent about protecting myself from the sun. I wear broad spectrum SPF (at least 30, usually 50) every single day now. I cover up with hats and long sleeves and stay in the shade as much as possible. I even went to Palm Springs this past weekend and stayed in the shade covered up the whole time and still had a blast. My current favorite moisturizer with SPF is Paula’s Choice Skincare Resist Youth-Extending Daily Mattifying Broad Spectrum SPF 50 ($29 for 2oz and you can get $10 off your first Paula’s Choice order by using my referral link and don’t forget to activate Ebates for 5% off on top of that!). This stuff is so lightweight it does not feel sticky or greasy or give you a white cast. It works really well as a moisturizer underneath makeup as well. I will say one downside for my super oily skin is that it does not keep me matte all day long, but it is my favorite face sunscreen I’ve ever used.
I don’t want to over-dramatize my experience either because I was lucky that both spots were only Melanoma in situ which means it was only on the top layer of the skin and has a 99% survival rate, but it was still a really good wake-up call. Since I’ve had melanoma I unfortunately have a 5 times higher risk of getting another melanoma (which has already happened) so I now get checked at least every 6 months. My next check up appointment is on Wednesday, wish me luck! And don’t forget to make your appointments and go get checked! When found early and treated, the cure rate is nearly 100%! If you’re looking for a dermatologist in the LA area I would highly recommend mine- Dr. Amir Larian here’s his Yelp. He has excellent counseling skills and always takes the time to answer all of my questions which I really appreciate.
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