If you used the term “lay out” as an action verb in your youth, then you are likely starting to see for yourself why our great grandmothers never left the house without a hat and gloves. How well I remember friends mixing iodine with baby oil and actively seeking a St. Tropez tan – a miserable and futile pursuit for someone of my pale caucasian descent, let me tell you.
It was liberating to give up the desire to tan, although it took many torments to get the message. Many a youthful beach trip ended with a tub of Noxema, a tube of aloe and a bottle of aspirin. Even with the religious use of creams and lotions as an adult, the effects of that early sun damage have come back as skin issues. A few years ago I had what’s called a Mohs surgery, in which an area of skin is removed in microscopic steps until all the margins appear clear. Because the surgery was on my nose, I had a plastic surgeon do the honors (shout out to Dr. Clement Cotter) and you honestly can’t tell anything was done.
I imagine our kids will look at the old misguided efforts to tan in the same way we view the women of the 50′s who smoked while pregnant. We now know without a doubt that sun damage is a major cause of skin cancer, and that childhood sunburns are a risk factor. Near the water, we moms buy sunscreen in multi-packs and keeping the kids lubed up is a major responsibility.
With sunscreen is the active ingredient in so many cosmetics and sunscreen is prominent in every drugstore, people are getting the message that sun exposure causes – horror – “premature aging”. What more do you need to know? Although we should be impressed with the seriousness of skin cancers like melanoma, it’s probably vanity that gets most of us to apply sunscreen.
So take this as a reminder to go in for your full body check (Yep, this is #3 on the list of awkward exams, right after pap smear and mamogram. But it has to be done, because skin cancer can develop even in places that never see the light of day). And smear sunscreen on the kids even when they aren’t headed outside for water play or sports. It’s just too easy nowadays to protect their skin from the sun, and in 50 years, the younger they look, the younger people will assume you must be.