Like most of us, I love a good tan. I used to bask in the sun for hours, just soaking up that golden brown glow. That’s why meeting my friend Hillary Fogelson a few years ago was pretty eye-opening for me. Hillary first battled melanoma when she was only 25 years old, and since then, she’s dedicated much of her life to educating others about sun protection through her PaleGirlSPEAKS campaign. She’s even convinced me to slather on that SPF before I head outside and embrace the self-tanner. It turns out that “healthy glow” isn’t so healthy after all.
I took a few minutes to chat with Hillary (aka PaleGirl) about the easy ways we can protect our skin from the sun, why sun protection is still an issue in the fall, and her favorite bronzing beauty products. You can also find her tweeting everyday @PaleGirlSPEAKS, and keep an eye out for her memoir, “Skin Deep,” in late spring 2012.
Photo: Hillary Fogelson of PaleGirlSPEAKS
I’d say the most common misconception has to do with the notion of “sunburn” vs. “sun damage.” Most people believe that if they’re not getting burned their skin isn’t being damaged. When skin changes color due to UV exposure (indoor or outdoor tanning), it’s being damaged. Even if your skin turns a golden brown in the sun, you’re still putting yourself at risk for skin cancer.
For most people, most days, it’s as simple as using a broad-spectrum sunscreen on anything that isn’t covered by clothing. Remember, sunscreen becomes less effective if it’s stored in the heat, so no more SPF bottles in your glove box! I keep individual sunscreen wipes in my purse and powdered sunscreen in my car for quick touch-ups.
You have to be proactive in your health—in the health of your skin. Once a month, look over your entire body and see if anything new has popped up, take note of changes in moles (size, shape, color and sensation). In addition, it’s vital for everyone to see a dermatologist once a year for a thorough skin check.
Fair-skinned people are at greatest risk, but anyone can get melanoma. Dark skin is like having built-in sunscreen, but it’s not foolproof (Bob Marley actually died of melanoma). The darker your skin, the worse your prognosis is if you get melanoma. The reason being, most people with brown or black skin don’t worry about skin cancer and so they’re diagnosed late or even misdiagnosed.
You bet! Cool weather is deceiving because your skin doesn’t feel hot, but you’re still being exposed to UV rays. UVB rays are less intense during the winter months, but UVA stays relatively consistent throughout the year. I’m not saying you need to slather your face in a thick layer of SPF 50+ if you’re walking outside for five minutes, but it’s good to be aware that the sun is still dangerous even when it’s cold.
Because I’m so fair, the only self-tanners I’ve had luck with are the “gradual” self-tanners (Jergen’s Natural Glow Revitalizing Daily Moisturizer is my favorite). I usually stick with bronzers because I don’t have to worry about messing up and I can instantly adjust the color by layering. Per-fekt Body Perfection Gel—which comes in matte or glimmer—is my go-to.
Pratima Neem Rose Face Sunscreen SPF 30
Clarins UV Plus SPF 40
MD SolarSciences Mineral Screen Tinted Gel 30+
Avene Tinted Compact SPF 50
Tocca Stella SPF 30+ Sunscreen Wipes
Supergoop SPF 30 Box Set
bareMinerals SPF Powder Natural Sunscreen
Physician’s Formula Mineral Wear Loose Powder SPF 30
Vertra (comes in 3 shades)
Smart Girls Who Surf Organic Sunscreen Face Stick