One of the greatest determiners of a woman's age is sun damage. And while we may think bronzing our skin makes us look better in the short term, the long term effects are not so pretty.
This year, at just 31, I was diagnosed with Basal Cell Carcinoma, a common and treatable form of skin cancer. Though my treatment was relatively quick and painless, my dermatologist did warn me that because I've had one skin cancer incident, I'm at a higher risk for more, including the dreaded malignant Melanoma.
To protect myself from future sun damage and to keep my skin looking as young as it can for as long as it can, my dermatologist recommended the following precautionary tips.
Ditch the tanning booth. The first question she asked me upon diagnosing my skin cancer was whether or not I had used tanning booths in the past. My answer? Yes, but not since my wedding six years ago. Doesn't matter. Even one bad burn - not to mention repeated exposure to tanning - can spell trouble down the line. According to her, using tanning booths is the number one way to increase your risk of skin cancer.
Use moisturizer or foundation with built-in SPF. She was adamant on this point: I must use products with built-in SPF of 20 or higher, even during the cloudy winter months. And contrary to what we've come to believe, a little does not go a long way. She recommends slathering at least two quarter-sized pumps of moisturizer or foundation on my face every day. Any less, and the sun just may win the battle.
Protect your skin while driving. We rarely think about the sun damage that can occur while driving. We are, after all, safely inside our vehicles. Unfortunately, the sun can and does come through our windows, damaging our skin. My grandmother had to have pieces of her left arm and face removed because they were cancerous. Her dermatologist informed her that this was most likely the result of sun damage acquired while driving to and from work all those years. Play it safe, and wear protective clothing in addition to applying SPF 20 or higher to your hands, ears, neck, and any other areas exposed while driving.
Wear sunglasses. Wearing sunglasses with sun protection will not only protect your eyes; it will also reduce the prevalence of fine lines and wrinkles around the eye area. Much like sun spots, crow's feet are an instant indicator of age. Sunglasses help keep these bad boys at bay by reducing those that result from repeated squinting.
Don a hat. Thanks to Kate Middleton, hats are back and cuter than ever. Wearing one, especially at the beach or on particularly sunny days, helps your SPF work overtime, giving your skin the added protection it needs.
Sun damage isn't pretty, and neither is the resulting skin cancer that can follow it. The good news is, there are easy ways to prevent most sun damage. By following these sun shielding tips, you can save face and look great for years to come.