What I Wish I Had Known While I Was Baking In the Sun
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This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Neutrogena®. All opinions are my own.
“I have what?”
This was my response to my dermatologist when my 28-year-old self learned that the flaky spot on my chest was skin cancer.
“It will eventually turn into a tan,” was what I commonly told my mom back when I knew everything as a teen. Of course, I knew that I didn’t need sunscreen.
I remember putting baby oil on my skin and laying out for hours at a time.
There was even the time I laid out with aluminum foil under my head to help get even more sun on my face.
As my 40 something self writes this, my battle with basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) has been a part of my life more than 70 times since that visit to my dermatologist at the young age of 28.
These days, I visit my dermatologist every six months for a complete body check looking for where the cancer has appeared. Never once have I gotten out of there with less than one spot that needed to be removed, and I have the scars on the skin of my chest, my back, my arms, and of course all over my face to prove it.
Some of these spots have been removed right then and there in the office while others have required more extensive surgery at a later date.
Here’s what I so wish I knew when I was baking in the sun.
- I so wish I knew how important it was to put on sunscreen.
- I wish I knew that skin cancer really does happen.
- I wish I knew that skin cancer doesn’t only happen to older people.
- I wish I knew that each and every time that I even went outside without sunscreen, I was putting myself at risk.
- I wish I knew that any kind of a burn or even a tan is not healthy.
- I wish I knew that the choices I made concerning my skin and the sun would be with me for the rest of my life.
- I wish I knew that skin cancer often takes years to start appearing.
- I wish I knew that skin cancer would be the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.
- Mostly, I wish I knew that choosing to be outside without sunscreen would lead to a battle with skin cancer that would be a part of my life for more than 15 years…and counting.
But, since I can’t go back and can only move forward, here’s how my ongoing battle with skin cancer has changed the way I do things in regards to being safe in the sun.
Please learn from my mistakes and make sure you’re doing these things, too.
I never leave my house with plans of being outside for longer than 15 minutes from March through October without sunscreen applied first. Since I live in Michigan and don’t usually spend time outside during the winter, these are the only months that are of concern for me.
I follow the advice of my dermatologist when it comes to sunscreen. I use the brand he recommends, which is Neutrogena, and I reapply it every hour that I’m in the sun as he recommends.
I only use sunscreens that have an SPF of 15 or higher.
I am a skincare fanatic when it comes to protecting my kids’ skin from the sun from the time they are born. I educate them, and I make sure they know how to properly apply sunscreen and how often they should reapply so they can take care of it when I’m not with them.
I keep a variety of sunscreens on hand so there is always something that is convenient to use and that my kids enjoy using. I like using a cream sunscreen like Neutrogena Clear Face liquid-lotion for faces, necks, and ears and also have a spray sunscreen like Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist for quick and consistent coverage of larger body areas.
I keep sunscreen in a variety of places including in each kids’ backpack, in my diaper bag, in the car, in my husband’s car, in my purse, and with the beach toys. This way there is no excuse for not having it available, even if we are outside for an unplanned activity.
I have several bottles of each variety on hand. When one gets lost or left behind, we still have plenty on hand.
I ask my kids’ friends if they have sunscreen on and am more than happy to supply them with some. Of course, I am also more than willing to point out my skin cancer scars to drive the message home. As someone who is passionate about sharing my skin cancer experience to help keep others safe, I love being a walking billboard for what not to do with skin and the sun. It’s the silver lining among all my scars.
I do whatever I can to help make skin cancer a thing of the past. People don’t have to have my scars or risk their own health. Skin cancer is something that can be prevented with the proper preventative measures, like using sunscreen.
For this reason, I am so excited to share with you that CVS and Johnson & Johnson, are teaming up with the American Cancer Society to educate consumers about why proper skin care and sun care matters.
As a sun care leader, Neutrogena wants everyone, including you, to live a sun safe life at a young age and to continue this lifestyle throughout your entire lifetime.
CVS is making it as easy for you as it can be by removing all sun care products with SPF lower than 15 from its shelves. Now, you will only find sunscreen with SPF+/broad spectrum products that either meet or exceed FDA standards including 30 new varieties to choose from.
Even if you don’t have a skin cancer story like mine to help spread the message of skin cancer safety awareness, you can help wipe out skin cancer stories like mine.
Between June 18 and June 24, 2017, you can purchase any Neutrogena or Aveeno product with an SPF 15, and $1 will be donated to the American Cancer Society to help prevent skin cancer until they’ve reached $100,000.
Skin cancer doesn’t have to affect you like it has affected my life. It starts with being smart in the sun, and it continues with helping others be safe in the sun and supporting businesses like CVS and Johnson & Johnson in their fight to make skin cancer a thing of the past.
I so wish I would have done things differently as a teen. But, I am thrilled to share my story in the hopes of helping others rewrite theirs.