April 09, 2010

fixation friday: spf-a-holic

"Suntan lotion is good for me. You protect me tee-hee-hee. Oh the sun tries to burn me but you won't let it. Ultra violet rays bad. Lotion goooood!" - Billy Madison

via google

Today in this installment of Fixation Friday, I want to talk about my obsession with SPF protection. Spring is upon us. For most that means getting out in the sun, tanning, and getting a bronze glow. I used to be one of those people. I worked on my tan, like it was my job through most of my preteen and teen years, well into my 20's. My junior year of college I was an employee at a local tanning salon and I was dark! I was completely tanorexic. I never thought I looked that dark and I would tan at least twice a week once I got my all over glow. Stand-up booth? Used it. 15 Minute deep tan through layers of skin - rocked it hardcore. I mean come on, 15 mins, or less in a bed with air conditioning - HELL YES! I'm seriously shocked that one year didn't ruin my skin for life. (And maybe it has, not sure). All the years before that I used tanning beds before prom, or a big trip somewhere. I also worked at a beauty salon with a bed and used that puppy as often as I legally could. As far as natural sunlight goes, while at the beach I was a sun worshiper and a half. Add to that all my preteen and teen years sunning myself by our pool and you've got a person that was completely fixated with having brown skin.

Once I turned 21, I often used the tanning bed as a way to sleep off a good night of partying. I'd go into work hung over (don't practice this at home, I was a trained professional, or at least I thought I was), I would boot n' rally in the women's toilet a few times before lunch, head to the tanning salon sleep it off, grab a really, super greasy lunch and return to work refreshed and ready to finish my day. THIS was a pretty typical Thursday for me at my job. I'm shocked I never got fired. Thankfully most of the time I came in like that it was due to 25 cent draft night at the local bar and most of my co-workers were the ones buying me rounds - needless to say we all came in on Thursday mornings looking death warmed over. A lot of times, my boss was also involved in these nights out, so what could he say at that point, right? Once I started going to school 2 days a week and working 3 jobs that partying was a bit less but I still used the tanning beds to their full potential. I mean come on - that dolphin on my hip from the neat-o stickers wasn't going to refresh itself right?

Fast forward to now, it's been over 5 years since I've been anywhere near a tanning bed. The last time I recall going was before my trip to Costa Rica in 2005. I didn't want to look like a pale ghost while there so I went in for a few visits to get an all over glow. Something different happened while in Costa Rica though. I brought sunblock with me. Yes I said BLOCK. It was October at the time and I wanted to get a tan but I didn't want a burn to ruin my week in paradise. My bestie T and I spent every single day at the pool. Soaking up the sun and the frozen cocktails. I noticed that I was still getting a nice even color without the burn and I then and there became hooked on sunblock protection.  I know I was still damaging my skin by allowing the all over tanning to happen, but I was happy to not be in pain. Once home I realized just how dark I was. T and I went out for drinks with the rest of the girls and the pictures spoke for themselves. It was odd to be THAT tan, in the winter.  That next weekend was when M and I officially started dating - thankfully for me it wasn't the tan that sealed the deal with him, ha!

I moved to Alabama about 6 years ago and tanning is definitely IN here. Between pageants, proms, and girls wanting to look amazingly perfect all year long (it is the Southern Belle way) - tanning is a huge staple in most women's beauty routine in these parts. After all a string of pearls looks better with a tan neck to wear it upon, am I right? When summer comes most girls look amazingly bronzed and beautiful, well before the calendar actually reads, SUMMER. It's funny that in our country tanning is what means beauty, where others thing pale skin is beautiful, because it means you haven't been out in the fields working, and instead have been relaxing indoors. Although here a tan means you have been probably vacationing at the beach - a life of luxury or outdoors for fun.  Being in the land of bronze beauties I have felt the desire to go to the tanning bed a few times when I feel most pale, but I haven't ever gone. Shockingly, I've been afraid to go... read on.

When my mother was diagnosed with cancer many years ago I went into full freak out mode. Not only was I worried about lung cancer (which is what she was diagnosed with), I became worried about all kinds of cancer. Especially skin cancer. It's the one seriously bad habit that would lead to skin cancer and  I knew was an easy change I could make to protect myself. In the past my father had moles and sketchy areas of his skin taken off by laser for the sake of safety and possible cancer. My skin is a mix between my mothers, which tanned perfectly and rarely burned and my father's skin which will turn into a lobster shell if he would let it. I have moles and spots all over me, I always have, and freckles and other sun spots that quite frankly freak me out, and worry me. In the past I got them checked regularly and it's something that's on my long TO DO list of health check-ups I need to make.

Like I said I went into full freak out mode when I moved here. My mother started doing worse with her treatment and it seemed down hill - this really kicked me into high gear with how I was approaching things in my life in regards to preventing cancer. I have never smoked. (Ok, I tried it once as a joke and I hated it). Smoking wasn't an issue, I figured if I was going to get lung cancer it wouldn't be from that, it might be from second hand smoke or inhaling harmful chemicals. At that time I was a manicurist and from then on refused to do fake nails on people. There are too many chemicals and dust. Eventually I let my manicurist license expire - I still kick myself for this it was great money and it was REALLY stupid of me to let it go. I often think about getting it back - but I would hate to spend all that money to take the test again, and possibly a refresher course in manicuring. I started to fear anything I was doing while being a manicurist might hurt me. Like I said full freak out! 

Looking back I probably should have really started thinking about my health in terms of what I shoved in my mouth that could be harmful and cancer causing if over done but honestly that wasn't were my head was. Besides - I probably wouldn't be able to eat anything if I did that.

My mom started to feel better and eventually went into full remission. We were so happy! I kept up with my LACK of sun worshipping. If I went to visit her in North Carolina and wanted to hit the beach I loaded up with sunblock. Usually SPF 15-30. And I stopped going to the tanning bed.

I still practice this sunblock ritual today. M and I do a lot of canoeing and that leaves us out in the sun all day long. I reapply often, and make sure I'm not getting red. He's also gotten in on the action. His skin burns very easily so it wasn't hard to convince him. In over 5 years I have had only one real sunburn that I can remember (my first time at the beach in forever and I forgot to reapply) and I haven't returned to the tanning bed, at all. I can actually see a difference in my skin. Which is awesome. Most of the sunspots have faded off my shoulders and while I hate that my freckles are fading, I realize it's also my skins way of telling me I'm doing something right.

Since I was in middle school I've been using Oil of Olay face lotion. I truly think this has helped me prevent premature wrinkles and fine lines for so many years. I have started to notice the fine lines around my eyes that come with age, recently, BUT they aren't as deep as some people that I've seen that are the same age as me, so that makes me feel like I've been doing something right. Like the old Olay ads always said... "Grow old gracefully? No way, I'm going to fight aging every step of the way!"

I love that I'm in my 30's and still don't get told I look that age. It feels great. It took a while to be OK with being in my 30's but now I am embracing it. Every single time I get carded it makes me smile with glee. Do I miss tanning? Yes, sometimes. Like I said before, it was an excellent hang over cure when I was in my 20's and sick as a dog all AM at work. 20 minutes in the bed and taco bell for lunch and I was back like a champ working my ass off by 1:00 pm! I also enjoyed the benefits it gave my mood on a rainy day or during a long, cold winter in Maryland. But I know I'm better off without it.

I'm not trying to convert all my tanning bed loving peeps that read this blog. I have my own personal reason for fearing tanning, smoking and other things. My mother died from lung cancer, not skin cancer, but it took her diagnosis to make me re-thinking everything I've done in the past. My father is currently having his own battle with cancer, so it runs in my family and the reality is the fear for me will always be there. I figured the little changes I can make, to better my chances in the future and to ensure I won't have to go through this, can't hurt and can only help me personally.

Just the other weekend I received three bottles of FREE tanning bed lotion. I didn't have the heart to tell my friend's mother that I don't tan. Honestly if I went to the beach tomorrow the first thing I would do is park my ass in the sand w/ a drink in my hand and lots of SPF all over my body. I know that I'm still getting damage, because I allow my skin to turn a bit brown, but I know it's not as horrible as it used to be when I would put on tan amplifying gel and soak up the rays all. day. long. I miss the days of lovely brown skin, I always felt more healthy with a tan, how funny is that? I still get a tint of brown these days I just try to be as smart as I can about it. If I looked like the lovely Dita Von Tease, I'd never step foot in the sun and always wear ZINKA from head to toe, but I don't have her lovely skintone.

For me and the sake of my own peace of mind that's what I do. Everyday I have sunblock on my face and bronzer powder in my make-up bag and so far, it works for me. Do you have any fun SPF tips? Favorite brands? Share with us. We all want to look younger and youthful and I've found for me the best way to do that is to take these steps to protect myself, my skin and my future. I've thought about hitting up a spray tan booth, but I have a feeling I'd have an Ross Episode and that wouldn't be fun!

HAPPY CATCHING RAYS LADIES n' GENTS - safely that is! ox

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Cee said...

I went through the tanorexic phase too...although I am so pale my tan is most people's normal. But now there are so many different options for self tans, spray tans etc I don't see the point in potentially hurting your skin! I make sure to always wear my SPF 30 or more when I am out in the sun!

I'm Jane said...

My name is Jane and I am a tanaholic.

And then two things happened. My father was diagnosed with skin cancer and I went to a dermatologist for the first time. My dermatologist took one look at the blonde hair and light eyes and told me that if I ever stepped foot in another tanning bed or went out without SPF30, he would personally bitch-slap me into next year. My father basically said the same thing, except I think he added a "please". So I do the occasional spray tan, wear hats (it's always my head that burns first - closer to the sun?!) and wear spf.

Not as much fun, but definitely smarter.

foxy said...

"tanarexic" - great word. You know, I used to tan a lot as a kid too, but don't do it now. And I've tried the spray on tanner, which really looks like crap on me. So generally I just use the real sun - with sunBLOCK. Yep, me too. Totally does the trick of keeping the brown and repelling the red.

And Oil of Olay does work wonders. I don't go a day without it... and the hubs is hooked now too. Good stuff!

Monique-aka-Surferwife23 said...

Can I just tell you that those pictures on the tanning bottles made my life?!?! Amazing!!

Nina Patricia @ The Adventures of Nina Patricia said...

HAHAHAHA- the Ross episode: "what number are you?...Puertorican! Classic!

Great subject. I am native from an island and surprisingly enough I hate the sun...well not hate but I know the damage that it can cause and have been wearing SPF forever. (we are more aware of it since we get it year round)
I use to wear Oil of Olay but have change to Aveeno (SPF 40) Moisturizer; I really like it.

If you want to have the tan look and none of the damage try this product recommended by Kandee Johnson (she has a video on youtube on how she applies this)


Oh- and don’t forget to protect your ears-top of your feet...we always forget those spots!

HappyJacki said...

Great post! I live in Australia, where being tan is virtually essential. Except I'm pale and freckle in the sun. That goodness for spray tan!

Anonymous said...

You and I are Twinsies on the tanning. I actually DO miss it. But nope. Not going to do it. Don't want the wrinkles and don't want the cancer. Nope. I'll stick with the pale, please. With a side of health.

Lisa said...

I'm a first time visitor and loved this post! As much as it can sometimes be embarrassing to be pasty, it's not worth the risks. My dad just had some skin cancer cells removed last week, so I have a constant reminder that I need to take care of my skin. Thanks for an inspiring post! PALE IS THE NEW TAN!

Lisa - Fine Sweet Life said...

I have a similiar story to yours. I stopped all that in my mid 20's and since then I use block at the beach. I try to never burn, but I do get sun. I want pale for my wedding, and I am so glad I did. My pictures look normal. I hate when people look like someone else in their wedding pics. Unfortunately for us, we will still reap the benefits of the tanning era long into the next decade, since things pop up later on as a result of what we did a long time ago. But hey, we're only human!!!

Cathy said...

I have a cousin who is 29 and just had a cancerous mole removed. She was a tanning bed girl and now shouts from the rooftops "don't do it!"

I've never been much of a tanning bed person, unless I'm heading south(I'm in MN, so everywhere is south!) then I go a few times to get a base so I don't fry. However, I haven't done that since we went to Mexico in 2008(good thing I did too, it was insanely hot/sunny there, it was JUNE!).

I have been using a facial moisturizer with spf since I was a teen and I too am 30 and people don't believe it(though my grey hairs are starting to give me away). Now, I just embrace my white skin and know that when I get much older I'll still look fab because I won't have wrinkles/sunspots.

Great post!

Cathy said...

One more thing. I love Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch sunblock. It's non-greasy(for real!). I love how it feels.

Shana said...

I spent the better part of my teens and twenties tanning regularly. Then J and I went to Antigua...our first big, romantic trip. I had tons of sexy lingerie and big plans for sexy time. I got a horrible burn the very first day and that basically ruined our whole trip. I was freaking miserable. Then I went to the dermatologist and she cut 5 holes in me to test suspicious spots. Ever since then I have used 30 or 45 and I sit under an umbrella when I go to the beach. I do enough swimming and yardwork in the summer that I turn a little brown, but I will never set foot in a tanning bed again.

Jessica said...

yay for no bed tanning and over purchasing of sunblock! you already read my post about the self-tanner, you know I appreciate this :)

preach on!


Dezzy Lou Where Are You said...

Such a wise thing to be into- sun protection and SPF- smart girl =)

Anonymous said...

I worked at a tanning salon for 5 years. I used to tan, tan and tan some more. I also went years without using any SPF. My mother and grandfather have both had numerous minor skin cancer removals. I stopped tanning with my first pregnancy in 2005 and haven't looked back. I also need to get to the doctor to have some moles checked out. I keep putting it off.

Kelly @ Dare to be Domestic said...

I'm so happy to see so many of you on the SPF bandwagon - I knew I wasn't alone but feared I might offend someone. :) ox

bananas. said...

dang. you really are serious about your SPF. that was a loooong post. but i agree...tanning beds = no bueno.

however, that doesn't stop me from going every once in the while to avoid looking like a cullen.

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