Skin Cancer Update + My Go-To Sun Care Products {Clothing, Hats, Sunscreen}

After almost two years of some quiet on the skin cancer front, I figured it was time for a quick update (some new skin cancer news + recent skin care/sun care recommendations). If you are wondering how and why skin cancer fits into this food blog, take a quick rewind to 2015 when my world was somewhat rocked after a small, innocent looking spot on my nose turned out to be basal cell carcinoma. I wrote about the experience in a lot more detail here (warning: there are some graphic post-op pictures in that post).

Over the last 3 1/2 years I have received hundreds of comments and emails from others who decided to get a spot checked after reading that post (many of whom have also ended up with basal cell carcinoma and Mohs surgery), and many others have stumbled on that skin cancer post while searching online for answers and comfort after undergoing a similar surgery/procedure. 

What I am constantly learning: skin cancer does not discriminate. 

Although the first days, weeks and months after the surgery were unpleasant, to say the least, looking back over the last several years, I am amazed and humbled at how my face has healed. The human body is remarkable! 

Does my face look like it used to? Yes and no. Has it healed perfectly? No. Do I still have visible scars? Yes.

But considering I went from this (1st pic was day of surgery and 2nd pic was about a week after surgery)…

…to now this (3 1/2 years post surgery)…

…well, I am grateful on the daily that I have healed so well.

Speaking honestly, there are still times that vanity sneaks in, and I feel a little bummed that my nose looks patchy and puffy and that the jagged scar line running from the middle of my eyes to the bottom of my nose is red and visible. I hate how when I smile, the left side of my nose puckers up in kind of a funky pattern.  

But those feelings are usually fleeting. All it takes is me glancing at the pictures from the surgery (or more often, hearing of someone else’s much more traumatic and devastating life experience), and I am instantly put in my place with gratitude.

Enough about the past. What’s happening now? 

I’ve been pretty diligent on seeing my dermatologist for skin checkups every six months. I was just there last week, in fact! There have been a few minor instances over the last few years where I’ve needed a spot/mole removed, but everything has always checked out.

Last week my doctor spotted a small area on the side of one toe, of all places, and he’s not excited about how it looks. In his words “I’ve been doing this a long time and I am 100% sure that’s a problem.” Oh wow. Ok, thanks. 🙂

It is most likely a dysplastic nevus (I had one removed on my back a couple months before the basal cell carcinoma on my nose – they are non-cancerous but can be a precursor to melanoma). But it could be something more serious, too, so the safest action is to have it removed and sent to the lab. That’s scheduled for mid-June as well as a laser treatment to hopefully reduce a bit of redness around the scar on my nose.

I am very diligent (read: obsessed) about covering up in the sun. It probably borders on ridiculous, but I make no apologies for it, and I’ve gotten used to the looks and comments (at the pool and beach and waterpark, mostly). I know that the skin cancer issues I’m dealing with with are largely from the extensive sun exposure and sunburns in my youth.

Covering up now isn’t likely to make a huge difference in regards to whether more skin cancer will show up on my body or not. But it also can’t hurt, either. And bonus! It definitely will help my skin age better, so I’m all about protecting my skin – and my family’s skin – against sun damage. 

Sun Care Recommendations

I’ve mentioned some of the recommendations below in past posts, but for those who don’t want to search through the archives, here are my best recommendations for upf/spf clothing, hats and sunscreen all in one place.

As a sidenote, clothing made specifically for upf/spf protection is not always super cheap. I totally understand that the price tag, in some cases, may seem higher than shopping for a swimsuit at, say, Old Navy. For me (and the anxiety I’ve dealt with after skin cancer entered my life), finding specific clothing that’s been created especially for sun protection has been a huge blessing. It means that instead of hiding away from the sun which is my first reaction out of fear, I’m still able to enjoy time with my family outside (which is a huge part of our every day lives) without stressing or making life miserable for everyone. 

Clothing:

*I’ve ordered specific upf/spf protection clothing from each of these companies and highly recommend the products I’ve linked to below. 

  • Coolibar: most of my swim gear is from Coolibar; it’s the company that gave me hope for the future after my Mohs surgery. I have this short sleeve rash guard in aqua (I wear a swim top underneath), this convertible swim shirt, these swim tights in navy, and these black skirted swim tights.
  • UV Skinz: I have this hooded beach coverup and these swim shorts, Brian has this long sleeve swim shirt and several of my kids have their swim shirts + shorts/skirts (that Costco usually carries in our area in spring/early summer!).
  • Tuga: my 10-year old has this swim short/shirt combo (going on two years strong – he’s loved it! I’ll buy him another here when he outgrows the one he has)
  • Solbari: I’ve been looking forever for a jacket to replace one that I’ve worn almost daily (bought it from Coolibar years ago and they no longer sell it); I just ordered this one from Solbari. So excited to see if it’s what I’ve been dreaming of! I also have the arm sleeves from here (which I know might seem a little over the top and most normal people wouldn’t want/need them, but we do so much outside work in our yard and on our property that I love having an arm coverup option that doesn’t add heat/bulk like a jacket does on 95+ degree days)

Believe it or not, I don’t always wear long sleeve, ankle length swim gear. 🙂 For indoor swimming adventures, this is my favorite, super flattering for all figures, swimsuit from Target.

Hats:

*I’m a believer in hats! And yes, they are even worth the subsequent hat hair. After wearing hats for years and years, my preference is either a great baseball cap or a non-floppy brimmed hat (I used to wear floppy brimmed hats constantly but the brim would block my eyes more often than not, so now I prefer sturdier hat rims).

  • Zappos: I bought this trucker/baseball cap years ago and wear it all.the.time. I also have a couple random baseball caps from random places that I wear randomly. 
  • Coolibar: I wore a discontinued floppy brimmed hat from Coolibar for years until floppy brims started driving me insane. Now I have this hat in natural brown and I keep it in my car because you just never know when you’ll need to put on a hat. Am I right? I also have this hat from Sunday Afternoons (it’s the one I’m wearing in the picture above – bonus, looks like it is on sale right now!), and I really, really like it. I also have this one; it travels in a suitcase or smashed into a chaotic car of kid-infested road trippers super well. 
  • Kid Hats: My boys and Brian mostly wear cowboy hats when working outside, but Cam has this sun hat and it is awesome, especially since it has a handy dandy area in the back for pony tails (brilliant). 

Sunscreen: 

*I’ve recommended a lot of favorite sunscreens over the years. For the most part, I’m still sticking with the same ones (love, love EltaMD) with a few new winners I’ve found recently. I’ll also list several that many of you recommended in my last Friday Thoughts post (haven’t tried them yet myself).

Where possible my family and I try to use physical/mineral sunscreen rather than chemical sunscreens. You can read more about the differences on sites like ewg.org – do your own research to see what you feel comfortable with. Disclaimer: Amazon affiliate links included below for products I’ve bought there.

  • My kids use Blue Lizard SPF 30+ FACE and Blue Lizard SPF 30+ SPORT (waterproof) daily for outside work/play
  • We also all use EltaMD SPF50 UV Sport when spending longer periods of time outside (at the lake, pool, etc)
  • I use EltaMD UV Daily SPF 40 on my face if I’m going to be outside without a hat for a longer period of time; it is super lightweight and non-greasy and the perfect facial sunscreen, in my opinion (I have the non-tinted one). There’s also EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen, which I love equally and is great for acne-prone skin.
  • I recently recommended this supergoop unseen sunscreen in a Friday Thoughts post; I’ve been using it daily as a moisturizer + sunscreen. I’m also looking forward to trying the supergoop physical/mineral facial sunscreens.

Here are some sunscreens some of you have recommended: {affiliate links for Amazon products}:

  

I feel very strongly (my family would say obsessively so) about wearing sunscreen and covering up in the sun. I know it’s not everyone’s lifestyle, and I also know I can’t 100% prevent my kids from getting skin cancer some day and going through what I’ve gone through, but every little bit of prevention while they are young helps. Right??

For now, I’m the one over there on the soccer field holding an umbrella for some self-imposed shade while everyone else is basking in the gorgeous sun and wearing full body swimsuits and wide brimmed hats everywhere. It’s part of my identity now, and I’m going with it!

Thanks for letting me have this moment to share some of my skin cancer and sun care thoughts with you guys! I hope your summer is looking to be very fun and very sun safe. 🙂

I would love to hear any recommendations YOU have for staying safe and having fun in the sun. Favorite hats? Best-ever sunscreen? Tell me below in the comments!