Skin Cancer Update + Suncare Favorites 2016
After my post several months ago about my skin cancer ordeal, I’ve been meaning to check back in with a little update. I was overwhelmed with all of the love that was poured out in comments and emails after I posted about the basal cell carcinoma on my face. I was so nervous to show you pictures of my face and try to explain the physical and emotional damage that I felt, but when I did, you responded with such kindness and comfort and support. I’ll never be able to thank you enough for that.
I have been humbled beyond words to read all of your comments and emails that came pouring in and learn about what many of you have gone through personally and with family members/friends who have suffered through skin cancer much, much more serious than what I have dealt with. It allowed, maybe even forced, me to shift my perspective; your courage is inspiring.
Many of you have also emailed me personally and/or commented to let me know that the post prompted/inspired/pushed you to check up on a skin spot/mole that you knew about but had been putting off – I can’t believe the number of people that have found themselves in a nearly identical situation after seeing a dermatologist. While it saddens me that anyone else has to deal with this, I am so grateful (and again, so humbled) that perhaps that post was meant to go out into cyberspace to protect others from more serious cancer growth or damage.
My face is continuing to heal amazingly well. It’s been seven months. I’m no longer putting anything other than facial moisturizer with sunscreen on the scar (no more mederma or essential oils), but I am trying to massage it every morning and night to break up the scar tissue as recommended by my doctor (hurts like the devil). I am seeing my dermatologist every three months for full-body checks to see if there are any other worrisome spots and also to make sure my nose is healing ok (and that the cancer isn’t reoccurring in that area).
My scar is still fairly red and that side of my nose is puffier than the other side…but given the amount of stitches and depth of the surgery, I feel extremely blessed to have healed this well.
I have become, even more than before, a total and complete shade-lover. Thanks to many of your recommendations, I bought several hats from Coolibar (unaffiliated, just absolutely love their stuff), and even bought swim leggings and a long-sleeved swim shirt from there, also. I’m not going to lie, the first time I wore the whole ensemble to the pool with my kids, I felt a bit ridiculous (especially since I got a lot of stares) but by the 2nd outing, I was over it and kind of excited to go, actually. No sunburns and no excessive need for sunscreen (plus the sexy head-to-toe look covers up some of those trouble areas on my not-so-hot mom bod). Awesome.
I know I could just wear sunscreen, but because I’m still pretty nervous about excessive sun exposure, covering up makes the most sense to preserve my sanity (and give me the comfort level to make sure I actually leave the house and teach my kids what a swimming pool is and why people use it). I also bought a lightweight jacket (the Athletic Jacket in Grey Geo Print) from Coolibar that I slip on anytime I’m outside. Even in the hot, hot weather, it’s breathable and perfect (there are lots of companies that sell gear like this online; if you’re interested to learn more google “UPF clothing”).
UPDATE THAT I FORGOT TO ADD: Funny story, yesterday I took my kids to the pool and I was decked out in my Coolibar ensemble with an enormous floppy hat, as usual. It was a really hot day and the sun was blazing down. I was catching Camryn as she came down this little yellow tube slide (over and over and over), and a lady came and crouched down by the side of the pool and kind of motioned to me that she had a question. I walked over, me and my ankle length swim leggings and Camryn hanging on to my arm, and we ended up having a 10-minute conversation about my swim outfit. She has a skin cancer history, too, and knew immediately when she saw me that I probably did as well (apparently dressed like this, I’m a walking advertisement for what to wear after skin cancer – either that or people just think I’m a little eccentric or I get cold easily). She’d been looking everywhere for swim bottoms that covered more and I was happy to let her know that no, I wasn’t wearing yoga pants in the pool – these leggings were meant for swimming!
Someone left a comment in my original post indicating that people (or rather, me) shouldn’t fear the sun – and that I’m creating more of a disservice by influencing people to develop phobias about sun exposure. That is not my intent, I assure you. I firmly believe that some amount of sun exposure is good for all of us – hello, Vitamin D! – but I have to be completely honest that I do fear the sun and the damage it can do if I’m not careful with the intensity of exposure I let myself endure (as well as my kids). So maybe healthy fear? Is that a good way to sum it up?
Many of you have asked…here are the sunscreens we’re using these days:
Disclaimer: all the product recommendations in this post are completely unsponsored and are just products I’ve bought for myself and loved; there are a few Amazon affiliate links; feel free to shop around for the best deal!
Aside from sun-protection clothes, I’ve also tested out about a million different varieties of sunscreen. I don’t want to go down the debate path of mineral-based (zinc oxide) sunscreens vs chemical-based sunscreens (like oxybenzone) here today; do your research and find out what you feel most comfortable with. There are A TON of options out there. Like, too many. I have felt overwhelmed over the years trying to interpret and read between the lines about which sunscreen is best, but I feel really good about the sunscreen(s) we are using this summer.
The sunscreen I’m using almost exclusively on the kids (after trying many different brands) is Babyganics Mineral-based Sunscreen SPF 50+ (keep in mind this is not 100% mineral-based; also contains octisalate). It’s water resistant and lasts a long time before having to reapply and we are liking it a lot. The spray form of this sunscreen is worthless – we tried it and my kids got burned; I don’t feel like it lasts as long or is as effective. We use the kind that comes in the 6-ounce tube and it absorbs well and is easy for my kids to apply themselves (if they have help getting those hard to reach areas).
I’ve been using the above Babyganics on the kids’ faces but I also have this Kiss My Face Face Factor sunscreen (30 SPF) that we sometimes pull out if it’s just a backyard/park activity and water is not involved.
For my own self, I’ve finally found a couple sunscreens that I think I’ll use longterm. Insert major cheering! My issue is I wanted a daily sunscreen that I could use every day as a moisturizer that wasn’t overly greasy, overly smelly, overly white, overly expensive, overly chemically or overly weird. Not too much to ask, right?
This EltaMD UV Daily (40 spf) has become my new daily moisturizer, and I love it! I also use the EltaMD UV Shield (45 spf) for arms/legs/neck if I’m out in the sun without being ultra-covered up. My only disclaimer with the shield version is that it has a slightly stronger fragrance to it that I don’t love – it kind of reminds me of sunless tanner smell (the daily moisturizer is hardly fragrant at all and doesn’t bother me a bit) but it’s minor enough that it isn’t a big issue.
Like I said, I’ve tried many sunscreens and I’m very happy with these ones. I also have Paula’s Choice Resist Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid (50 spf) that is so super lightweight and non-greasy; I love it, but it is more chemical-based than the EltaMD brand, so I use it sparingly (but it’s probably among my favorites in how it feels after applying).
I can’t say it enough (sorry if I sound like I’m nagging or giving too much advice; it’s my only talent) but:
Please stay safe in the sun!
I’ve had some serious sit-down conversations with my kids this summer as they’ve fought me a time or two about putting on sunscreen. Maybe I would have had the same skin cancer issues I do now even if I had worn sunscreen as a kid (which I didn’t wear, ever); I’ll never know. But I don’t want to take the chance with my kids (and whenever they see the pictures of my face again, they are more agreeable), and I want to continue to protect my skin.
Be smart! Be safe! Have fun!
I’m done now.