Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Beauty diaries: Red hot

Yours truly rockin' her bright red lipstick.
When I was in college, I had an obsession with "the smokey eye." For whatever reason, when I attempted aforementioned smokey eye, it didn't look sexy like I intended it to. I looked more like a little girl playing with her mother's makeup than Christina Aguilera in Dirty. When I tanned--and my skin morphed from fairly light to medium beige--I was magically able to pull it off. On  nights out with my friends, I rimmed my eyes with blackest black kohl liner and loaded up on Maybelline mascara.

The one beauty look I never dared to try, no matter how dark my tan, was the bright red lip. Naturally, I was quite surprised to be called out at a makeover/fundraiser/event last year: "You with the fair skin, we're going to try red lipstick on you! It's so hot right now!"

After they'd powdered my nose and glossed my lips, I actually liked what I saw. I ended up buying a tube of richly pigmented red lip gloss and a matching pencil to help the color stick. Since then, I've dabbed on the gloss for special events--or for nights out when I've been feeling frisky. More and more, I've been seeing the bright red lip, not just on fashion models, but on real women walking down the street.

And now, some inspiration. You so don't need a tan to pull this one off.

Image: YSL
Image: Pinterest
Image: Behind the Scenes Makeup

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Why did we ever use tanning beds in high school?

I  love it when my friends sent me notes like this!

My friend Debbie sent me this text the other day. She just had to have her fourth mole removed. As a teenager, neither of us though we'd regret tanning until we were older. Who would have thought that "older" meant "in our 20s?"

When Debbie and I met up for happy hour over the weekend, she let me snap a picture of her stitches. Ouch! Fortunately, all of Debbie's moles have been either benign or precancerous, so the procedure to remove them is less invasive than with a melanoma. Still, removing even a benign spot can be uncomfortable, and it can leave a pretty nasty scar. Plus, what would you rather spend your hard-earned cash on: a new pair of Frye boots or a biopsy because you spent too much time in the sun? I'll take the boots, please.

Stitches from my friend's most recent skin biopsy. It's
about one-third the size of my melanoma scar.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Melanoma and Mommyhood Pt. 2

A fair-haired kiddo wearing UV Skinz.
Image: ABC's and Garden Peas
While I look forward to having kids (someday), I also dread the inevitable: Mom, can I borrow the car? Mom, can I get my nose pierced? Mom, can I go spend the night at Rachel's house? And the one I fear the most: Mom, can I go tanning?

I dread having the "tan talk" just as much as some parents must dread the birds and the bees. Since I've had a melanoma, my offspring as more likely to develop one, too. Plus, one study I found suggested that children of women who've had skin cancer are just as likely to use tanning beds than those whose moms hadn't. Ack!

After Cher forwarded me that email about tanning during pregnancy, I decided to ask her a few questions about being both a mommy and a melanoma survivor. Here's what she had to say:

You were diagnosed with melanoma as a young adult--now you're a parent. How has that experience impacted the way you think about sun safety and your family?
I was still pretty casual about my sun protection for the first six years post diagnosis. Young and dumb! But, I slowly started being more realistic and actually using the sunscreen I bought. As I look at my choices as a kid and young adult, I realize those choices left many scars on my body. Physical scars that everyone can see. Mostly biopsy scars, but also my melanoma scar. Looking at these scars, I realize that I don't want my kids to have scars like these on their bodies, marring their perfect skin, so we developed a ritual before we go out that I help my daughter put on sunscreen and she helps me put my sunscreen on. Makes it a fun time and now she asks for sunscreen before we leave the house!

How do you protect your family from the sun?
Our primary protection is, at minimum, SPF30. And it gets applied several times a day, especially when playing in or near the water. I also make sure we are covered up well with shirts and shorts before leaving the house. Now that my daughter is closing in on 3, she does better with sunglasses and will request them to help her from the sun. (And by this I mean she doesn't continually take them off and see just how far they bend until they break!) I laugh because she always tells me the sun is too bright without her sunglasses! I also like to seek out shade to sit in while outside. I know that this is not great sun protection, but it helps me not feel quite so overwhelmed by the heat/sun.

You're also expecting another baby. Are there any special precautions you take being pregnant and having a history of skin cancer? 
No special precautions. Unless you count the times I check my freckles and moles myself compared to not being pregnant. Since the hormones in my system can increase the chances of changes, I have paid closer attention to my freckles and moles to make sure and catch anything that may be changing. I just learned as well, from my new dermatologist, that they prefer to have women not get pregnant within the first 3 years after a melanoma diagnosis as the treatments and testing they may do can be harmful to a fetus.

How do you think you'll protect your children from sunburns and from using tanning beds even as they become teens and young adults?
I hope to use my own experience as a kid/teen that refused sunscreen, even with my family history of skin cancer, as a basis. I'm sure that vinegar baths as a threat are not going to work! I hope that I can remember what I thought during my "rebellious" and "immortal, nothing like that will happen to me" phase that I can use as proof that we are not immortal and this does happen to young people. One of my thoughts was always, "I'll think about that when I'm old!" Well, old turned out to be 23. Or, not so old… So, hopefully I can relay the "use sunscreen" talk in a way that doesn't sound like the mom forcing their kid to do things their way. My greatest wish is that tanning bed businesses go out of commission long before I have to have this talk. I doubt that will happen… I'm not really sure what to say about tanning beds overall especially since I was never into tanning salons and didn't have friends that were either. I won't be turning a blind eye to them, but will need to find the battle that will work for me if that comes up.

Other parents out there--feel free to chime in. I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Melanoma and mommyhood: Is it safe to tan when pregant?

Even Snooki gave up tanning beds while
she was pregnant. Image: Twitter.

Last week, my friend Cher, a melanoma buddy and expecting mom, forwarded me her weekly pregnancy update: 
"Is it safe to use self-tanning lotions or tanning beds during pregnancy? Expert answer: Sandra Johnson, dermatologist: If you're not feeling attractive during pregnancy, the look of sun-kissed skin may do wonders for your self-esteem. The good news is that the ingredients in self-tanners are harmless, so it's fine to use them during pregnancy. These lotions and sprays are basically dyes that stay on the surface of your skin and won't harm your developing baby. Best of all, self-tanners have improved dramatically over the past few years, so you don't have to worry about looking like an extra from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Tanning beds are a different story. There's no conclusive evidence that they're harmful to a developing fetus, but there's plenty of proof that they're dangerous to you. Tanning beds pose the same dangers as the sun: They emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which causes skin cancer. Don't believe anyone who tells you that because tanning booths emit only UVA rays, they're not hazardous to your health. One study suggests that visiting a tanning booth ten times in a year can double your chances of developing melanoma – one of the most deadly types of cancer. Melanoma is the only type of cancer that spreads to the placenta, which could be disastrous for both you and your baby. Lying in a tanning bed can also raise your body temperature to a level that may be hazardous to your baby, particularly during your first trimester. Having an elevated body temperature during pregnancy – that is, above 102 degrees Fahrenheit, which can happen in a tanning bed, hot tub, or sauna – has been associated with spinal malformations in developing babies. And then there's the concern that lying on your back too long could restrict blood flow to your heart and thus to your baby as well. (If this happens, you'll feel lightheaded.) Finally, yet one more downside to tanning: Pregnant women with sensitive skin who expose themselves to UV rays – whether from tanning beds or the sun – may be more prone to chloasma, those dark splotches that can appear on the face and occasionally the arms during pregnancy."
I was just as shocked as Cher to read this email. Do women really care that much about maintaining their tan that they'll continue using tanning beds throughout their pregnancy? On the same website, I did a quick search for "tanning," which pulled up a discussion board thread on the same topic. Some of the responses were quite remarkable.
smckeever371 said: "I work for a tanning salon and i am also pregnant. you do not want to over heat yourself when you are pregnant, however if you choose a tanning bed (lay-down or stand-up) with good fans there is no way for the uv light to cause any harm to your baby because it only penetrates the first two layers of your skin. If you feel that it is too hot in a tanning bed you can always use a spray tan. There is nothing wrong with tanning while pregnant. I wouldn't reccomend over-doing it. But all pregnant women like to feel beautiful and if that means hitting the tannng salon then by all means ladies go tanning! I have been tanning through my entire pregnancy using the stand up tanning bed and the spray tan once a week every week alternating and my baby boy is doing just fine and docs say he is healthy inside the womb waiting to come out."
cottonlily said: "My dr didn't say anything about tanning. However you must not overheat your own body whether from sun tanning, bed tanning, saunas, hot tubs, workouts, etc. He says (not specificially about tanning) that the baby is very well protected in the womb, inside your tissue, inside your skin. That's why you can continue to exercise, have sex, etc. We're not the delicate little flowers that some people believe we are while pregnant! While tanning may not be the healthiest thing to do for yourself, I challenge someone to find any medical evidence indicating it causes miscarriages. You can find someone in the world who would tell you anything - from raising your arms above your head to taking a bath - causes a remote chance of harming your baby... I'm choosing not to live out my pregnancy in a bunker afraid of the entire world and I'll be enjoying my tanning this summer!"
Daniellevi said: "I asked the same thing when I found out I was pregnant (with my first) and my Dr. said NO. Because you are still in the early first trimester, right now is a crucial developing time for the baby. Things like tanning beds or hot tubs are something you really want to avoid durring pregnancy. You'll hear of women who do tan in tanning beds (I know I did), but I really dont think a tan would be worth the potentially loosing your baby"
Amandatj1 said: "I'm so sick of seeing these questions and reading an answer like the one from bucalovsme. Some women don't lock themselves in a vault for nine months because they are expecting, I started tanning at 20 weeks, yes I did wait til after the danger zone, plus I wear a cover up over my belly just in case. Really if taming harmed a baby the it would harm our intestines, lungs, pancreas, stomach, heart etc. there are the normal doctor says no because of skin and we all know those issues. But come on, don't put us mothers down that feel more beautiful tanning, it has always made me feel better and trust me my husband likes me in a better mood. So if u have a crappy opinion keep it to yourself. This was an honest to goodness question. She didn't ask if she could take heroin."

Clearly I've been living in the dark. I didn't realize tanning bed use was such a hot topic among mothers-to-be. Heath issues aside, it really concerns me is this blasé attitude about tanning beds in general. If your more concerned about how you look during pregnancy, is that maybe some indication of how you'll take care of your child? Will you insist that your kids wear sunscreen, or will you let them burn their shoulders on vacation and drive them to the tanning salon before prom? What kind of example are you setting for your kids?

Stay tuned. Melanoma and Mommyhood Part 2 coming later this week!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A historian's take on sunscreen

Who knew that hippos were so
sun savvy? Image: Wildlife Photos
Did you know that hippos produce a natural "sweat" that protects them from the sun? Or that on an episode of Man vs. Wild, my man Bear Grylls uses mushroom coral mucus as a sunscreen? Thank goodness for Sarah Angleton, a writer/historian/blogger who I met at a conference earlier this summer. Sarah recently wrote a post on the history of sunscreen that's loaded with interesting facts like these. Here's a snippet:
"Historians think the Ancient Greeks used sand and oil to protect their skin from sun damage as early as 400 BC and quite a few years later, sun block gets another blurb when Christopher Columbus journals about the paint the natives use to protect their skin from the sun.
The first widely used chemical sunscreen was invented by Benjamin Green, whose 'Red Vet Pet' was worn by soldiers in the Pacific during WWII. Green’s early attempt would later become a Coppertone product. A handful of others invented basic sunscreens around the same time and they all had one thing in common: They didn’t work particularly well."
Read the full article