Once upon a time, long before the invention of sunbeds and self-tan, having a pale complexion was regarded as the epitome of beauty. It represented nobility and purity and told the story of someone who didn’t have to toil in the fields or work outdoor for a living. To preserve their whiter shade of pale, ladies would often take rather drastic precautions when going outside to protect their skin by wearing wide brimmed hats, long sleeved dresses and even carrying parasols.
Fast forward to the present day and it’s recently been announced that the number of admissions for skin cancer has risen by 41% in just five years. So what happened in the intervening years to create this huge rise?
Whilst it cannot be pinned down to one person, it is often mooted that fashion designer Coco Chanel inadvertently opened the floodgates for the trend in tanning. When she was photographed sporting a tan after a holiday on the Riviera, all of a sudden, bronzed skin was hailed as the height of chic and in turn inspired a generation of women to shun the previously fashionable pallor once favoured.
Of course, many other factors such as practicality (who wants to carry a parasol everywhere?!) and the popularity in more revealing clothing contributed to the penchant for tanned skin as well as the proven health benefits- lack of Vitamin D was found to a common cause of Rickets, something which the sun makes the body produce; and as a result, since coming into Vogue, tanning has never really lost its appeal.
Nowadays the most common reason cited for the preference in a golden glow is the feeling of looking healthier and the belief that it makes you appear slimmer and more toned; and with cheap package holidays, sunbeds and self-tanning lotions readily available, it is now possible to maintain your preferred hue all year around.
But the downside to this ‘healthy glow’ can be very damaging indeed. As well as premature ageing- wrinkles, sun damage and age spots, skin cancer is a very real risk.
More and more often we are being warned that these risks aren’t just reserved for sunbathers and those of us who use sunbeds, this week Michelle Dewberry, former winner of the Apprentice told of her experience with melanoma. Having never really sunbathed or spent much time in the sun; she was shocked to find out that a persistent pimple on her nose was actually basal cell carcinoma, a mild type of skin cancer. Since having it removed, she now religiously applies SPF and avoids excess sun exposure and she cautions others to do the same.
Unfortunately, Michelle’s story is not an uncommon one and even in the often gloomy UK climate it is still important to protect your skin. But despite the stern warnings from Dermatologists it is unlikely to stop the majority of us from enjoying the sun and its afterglow. However, there are ways in which we can still enjoy a tan and at the very least limit the risks. Using a high SPF on exposed areas such as the face and hands -we recommend Dermaquest SunArmor SPF 50- avoiding the sun between 9am and 3pm and using false tan rather than sunbeds are all great ways to start.
If you are worried, look out for any new moles as well as looking for changes in existing moles. These changes can be remembered by the ABCDE rules. That is:
|A – Asymmetry. The shape of the mole is not even or does not match in the 2 halves.B – Border. The edge of the mole is uneven or irregular.C – Colour. Having a variety of different colours within the mole is a sign that it needs to be assessed by an expert. Varying shades of brown, pink, white, red or even blue.D - Diameter. Cancerous moles are usually bigger than 6mm in diameter but they can be smaller so any increase in size should be noted.E – Expert. If in any doubt, seek advice from your doctor. If your GP is concerned, then you will be referred to a dermatologist.|
And in the immortal words of Baz Luhrmann…Wear Sunscreen!