Learning to Love and Protect My Skin
I should have known that as a pale girl growing up in South Florida, sun damage would be a major health concern in my life. However, my youthful ignorance combined with afternoons spent playing tennis in the blazing heat with nothing but a haphazard waft of SPF 30 misted across my face resulted in long-term damage that reared its ugly head when I became an adult. I want to share my experience with skin cancer and some of my favorite products so that you can keep yourself safe from sun damage.
When I first started learning about skin cancer, I was shocked at how prevalent it is in the United States. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation:
1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.
More than 2 people die of skin cancer in the U.S. every hour.
More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined.
While sun damage might be something that people associate with old age, damaging sun exposure can happen early on. My body first raised the alarm when I was in college. A little red spot on my face kept getting more and more irritated, becoming sore to the touch and even bleeding if I scratched my face the wrong way. I finally went to see a dermatologist, who quickly diagnosed the spot as a basal cell. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, and most often occurs when DNA damage from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light triggers changes in basal cells in the skin. Luckily, basal cells are easily treated when caught early.
There are some easy ways of preventing sun damage (staying in the shade, wearing UPF clothing), but the key is do not get sunburned. It’s not always possible to avoid the sun, but it is so easy to avoid sun damage on a daily basis through my absolute favorite skincare product – SUNSCREEN! I have a few requirements for any sunscreen I buy: it needs to be broad spectrum (providing protection from both UVA and UVB damage), it needs to have an SPF of 30 or higher, and it needs to be nice enough to use on a daily basis. That last point may seem obvious, but a bottle of thick and gloopy SPF 80 isn’t doing any good on your shelf if you never want to put it on. The general rule is 1 ounce (about a shot glass) of sunscreen for your entire body, and don't forget to reapply.
I typically buy sunscreen with the expectation that they will work all year round, not just in the hot summer months. The only adjustment I make is to wear a slightly higher SPF and reapply more often when I'm in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time. I also prefer mineral sunscreens that immediately block UV damage, as opposed to 'chemical' sunscreens that take a little longer to protect your skin. Here are some of my favorites:
Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream SPF 30 - This sunscreen sits beautifully under makeup and acts almost like a moisturizer and a primer. The zinc oxide does leave a slight white cast, but I mix this in with a little foundation so it's the perfect shade.
Suntegrity Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 - This is the closest to what you might think of as a traditional sunscreen. The creamy formula works just as well on the face as it does on the body, and the scent of orange creamsicles is absolutely divine.
Stream2Sea Tinted Sport Sunscreen SPF 30 - Any medicine cabinet should be stocked with a sweat-resistant sport sunscreen that is also reef safe for trips to the beach. Stream2Sea makes a great variety of reef-safe sunscreens in tubes made from recycled sugarcane resin.
Supergoop Everyday Sunscreen SPF 50 - Last up is my time-tested, slather everywhere, get-it-done sunscreen from Supergoop. This has the lightweight feel of a body moisturizer and a beautiful scent of citrus and basil. I use my FSA to buy a whopping 18 oz. bottle to use liberally throughout the year.
I hope you've learned some helpful tips about keeping yourself safe from sun damage. If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend Episode 169 of the Fat Mascara Podcast (“This Podcast May Save Your Life”) featuring Dr. Deborah Sarnoff, the dermatologist and president of the Skin Cancer Foundation. Osmia Organics also has a fantastic series of posts about the different types of sunscreens and what they mean (check them out here and here). Find a dermatologist for an annual checkup and take care of your skin - it will thank you later!
Wishing you lots of (safe) sunshine!
If you’d like to reach out to Maggie you follow her on @greenbeautyguide or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org