I try to keep this a place where you can come to get advice on the latest, best, most reliable, or most innovative beauty products around. Today, however, I’m going to share something very personal with you. You see, like I’ve mentioned in the past, and as you can see from my photo, I’m very fair skinned. I often preach about sun safety, and I practice what I preach, religiously. I stay inside between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, just to be on the safe side. When I do go outside, I use Badger Balm sunscreen, which I either buy online or I pick it up from Dave’s Homebrewing in Belleville, near my home.I reapply as directed. I do the same with my kids, even if they roll their eyes at me. They don’t understand all my reasons behind my rules, but I do.
For the last 15 years, I’ve felt like skin cancer waiting to happen. You see, I not only have fair skin, I also have blue eyes, freckles, and blonde hair (under the dye, yes, it’s blonde). Strike, strike, strike. And, as a child, I lived in the Mojave Desert and received more sunburns than I can count. Strike, strike, strike. Although to my knowledge it is not genetic, my dad had several dermatofibrosarcomas removed from his back. That puts another level of fear in my heart.
Still, when a scaly red spot popped up on my ear, I ignored the tingling in my heart. It was just a dry spot thanks to the dry winter air. It gets like that here. It crusted over, it bled, but it would go away. December came and went. It crusted over, it bled, repeat, repeat, repeat. Occasionally it would almost heal over, and I’d stop worrying, until it would do it all over again. I finally made an appointment in April to see a dermatologist. The appointment wasn’t until May. I didn’t want to go all the way out to West County. I wanted to go to Barnes, which was nearer to my home, and I was willing to wait.
Unfortunately, a scheduling conflict led to my having to cancel, and I never rescheduled. I didn’t reschedule because, finally, it looked like it was finally, finally healing over. Maybe, after all, it really was the cold winter air causing it. Then, it started again. Scaling, then crusting over, then bleeding and peeling, and then, I happened to scratch my neck, and what on earth was that? A hugely swollen lymph node. The chill in my heart became ice. It dropped to my stomach. I immediately called and rescheduled my appointment.
You see, no matter how sun-safe you are now, your childhood matters. The damage adds up. And one day, you may pay for damage you never knew you received or can’t remember receiving. Please, do monthly skin checks. Pay attention to what your body tells you. If anything is off, please call your dermatologist or primary care physician. You may feel silly, like I did and still do, and you may feel like you are overreacting. But it’s not worth your life or unnecessary worry. An ignored spot can turn ugly in a heartbeat.
If you don’t already, please practice safe sun. Only 20 percent of your sun exposure happens before the age of 18, so even if you had a childhood of bad burns, like I did, if you begin practicing safe sun habits in your adult years, you do have a reduced risk of developing skin cancer. Use a sun block or sun screen, wear a broad brimmed hat and sunglasses, loose clothing, and — why not? — add a parasol at the beach.
I prefer Badger Balm, because it’s a very healthy, natural sun block that’s good for your skin, but there are so many varieties of sunscreen and sunblock available now there is simply no excuse to go without. Your natural skin hue, whether pale, pink, bronze, brown, or mahogany, is gorgeous just as it is, and it does not need any extra help from the sun to be any more beautiful. Keep it healthy by giving it only small doses of sun at a time and avoiding tans and burns entirely. If you absolutely feel that it must have more color, use a self-tanner or visit a tanning salon for a spray-tan treatment.
And yes, this time, I am willing to go to West County.