Notes on sun exposure and my dermatologist visit

I finally had my in person dermatologist visit yesterday. Earlier this summer I had a video appt. to discuss my skin issues + acne, which was extremely helpful. (See my post on my current skincare regimen here.) But I still wanted to get in for an in-person visit so I could have a full skin check done.

We talked about two things: skin cancer and skin care.

  1. Skin Cancer Check

I have no history of skin cancer, BUT, I have a lot of various moles all over my body (ok, that sounded gross to me when I typed that. Most are just small, pretty inoffensive moles. lol. But still, there are quite a few of them.). I also do have a pretty solid history of sun exposure from my teen years.

From grades 9-12, I went on a Caribbean cruise every year for spring break with one of my best friend’s family. Each year, before the trip, we would “prep” by…. going tanning! (in a tanning bed, because it’s freezing in Wisconsin in March.) During the trip, we would lather up Hawaiian Tropics tanning oil or maybe an SPF 4. I naturally have skin that tans up pretty nicely and I am not too burn prone at all, but I still would get probably WAY too tan and of course, I did burn sometimes.

We also had a pool at home, and I would lay out for hours. Plus, we took frequent family Florida beach trips where I also would proceed to get super duper tan (leading to some burning and/or peeling….).

Since then, I have used tanning beds only very sporadically over the years, and not recently at all. I no longer have many opportunities to bake in the sun, and I’m older and wiser and more aware of the risks associated with sun damage at this point. Oh, and I’m also a REGISTERED NURSE now who should know about these things.

Given my history (plus all the moles…), I’m always a little paranoid about skin cancer now though. I try to keep an eye on my moles for any changes. I personally know two parents in their early 40’s from our swim team community who both got melanoma in the past few years!! One had to have a significant reconstructive neck surgery to remove it, because it had spread…. omg.

I actually find the whole topic to be quite depressing, because I love to be tan. 😦 I would totally still bake in the sun if I could. (In my case, though, I now have this melasma issue on my forehead which is exacerbated greatly by sun exposure. So I have to be extra careful now about keeping sunscreen on and my face out of the sun, or dark spots will explode all over my forehead. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise??)

Anyway, getting long winded here, but my skin exam was ALL CLEAR! Woohoo! I do have one (very dark) mole on my stomach I wanted them to take a closer look at, but she said it was okay.

I snapped a picture of this sign:

YIKES. A 75% increased risk of melanoma is huge. Also, the second stat is pretty alarming too- more people develop skin cancer from tanning beds than develop lung cancer from smoking!

At some point I’d like to explore some of those self-tanner lotions. I do spray tans occasionally before vacation, but I’ve heard those self-tanner lotions have come a LONG way these days. Might be a nice option, if I could find a good one.

2. Skin Care

We also reviewed my skin care regimen, which I’m very happy with on the whole re: my acne issues.

I also asked her, “While I have you here, what do you think about all of the million different skin care products out there nowadays?? Acne aside, what do YOU recommend women do if they are primarily looking to combat aging?”

She said, emphatically, “SIMPLIFY.”

She went on to say that while there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with all the creams and serums, etc., most of them really aren’t necessary and are just really expensive. She said her key, must-have ingredients to prevent aging would be:

  • a GENTLE cleanser (avoid harsh products)
  • daily sunscreen
  • Tretinoin (prescription strength Retinoid)
  • a gentle moisturizer at night
  • a healthy diet low in sugar
  • lots and lots of water
  • don’t smoke

I was happy to hear this, because this is basically my routine (+ a Clindamycin ointment to prevent acne and Hydroquinone for my melasma.) I had been spending a small fortune on various products before this and am actually getting much better results now with only a few items! YAY.

Daily Gratitude:

I am grateful for this black stretchy hairband that I use to hold my hair back every day when I wash my face. I use it both morning and night, and while it’s a simple item, it is extremely useful. So, I need to express gratitude for it. 🙂

P.S. Go check your moles and/or schedule a skin check!! 🙂

7 thoughts on “Notes on sun exposure and my dermatologist visit”

  1. I really should go in for a skin cancer check, too. I have a similar history to yours – I laid out a lot at the lake, wore that greasy stuff that attracted the sun, and just wasn’t diligent about sunscreen. I used tanning beds a few times in college but HATED the smell so that prevented me from using them. But I do remember girls going to tanning beds before prom! I think we have pretty similar skin tones. I tan very very easily and rarely burn. I’ve gotten much better about wearing sunscreen, though, and I pretty much always wear a hat when running out outdoors w/ the kids. But I messed up and did not put on sunscreen when I kayaked across the lake while Phil swam across the lake in August. It was around 3pm so I thought surely I will not get burned. But I ended up getting a very minor burn on my neck area.

    I do not have an elaborate skin care regimen either… I could probably up my game there but I have the lowest motivation at night so all I do is wash my face if I have worn make-up. I like the beauty counter products I have. I’m more focused on buying “clean” products now that I have kids. For sunscreen, I like the beauty counter face sunscreen. It’s very light and not at all greasy. And then I use the kids’ sunscreen because it’s just easiest to use the same stuff!

    I wish I was less freckly but there is nothing I can do about that. Neither of my boys have freckles yet but I read an article about how they don’t show up for some time. I think if either gets them, it will be Will because his skin tone is more similar to mine but we’ll see!


  2. I have never been to a tanning bed! I’m always surprised when I hear people my own age talking about tanning because it just wasn’t on my radar at all when I was younger (or, now obviously). Also, I don’t tan well, so I always thought it would be a waste of time. I’m glad you went to go get checked out – it’s probably a great weight off your mind!

    I’ve read good things about the Isle of Paradise drops for tanning, but haven’t tried it myself. I think people really like that you control exactly how much you use.


  3. I am super-light skinned and I don’t tan easily, so I am diligent about sun screen when I am outdoors (esp. since moving to California), but yeah, I probably have sun exposure from my early years (although my parents were also good about using sun screen) and I still burned occasionally (despite sun screen). I also have a lot of moles (if that makes you feel better LOL).
    My last screening was two years ago and all was clear – but both my sister and mom got a couple of moles removed. It’s always good to get them checked!

    I love the advice from your dermatologist re: skincare – I also think ” less is more” in most cases. I try to stick with products that don’t make me break out and that are gentle on the skin. Daily sun screen is a must. I remember you mentioned the Tretinoin – do you get a prescription for that from your dermatologist?


  4. Oh wow, that tanning bed stat is crazy! I found it interesting to read your options vs the tanning bed. How about nothing? It saves money and time, haha. I come from Asia where we stay AWAY from the sun, and still hard for me to understand why people bake themselves despite the stats! People here in Europe also love sunbathing.


  5. Hi! I have seen your name on various blogs and this is my first time reading! Hi! I wanted to comment about this as my dad has had a lot of skin cancer taken off of his face. He was (as he is in his 70s) poor about sunscreen in his youth, and actually into middle age. It has really come back to haunt him. I have never been one to tan – I’m vain and I think I look better without a tan – so I have always used a lot of sunscreen. But what I wanted to say is good for you for getting things checked out because it’s really awful, what my dad has gone through. I used a self-tanner on my legs about 25 years ago and I was not eager to repeat the experience – super orange/ brown knees was one result. I think they are WAY better now though!


    1. Hello! Thanks for stopping by and for the comment! That’s so scary about your dad and all the skin cancers… I hope that he is doing well now that they have been removed. It’s one of those things that it’s really easy to ignore when you’re young, but as you said, can really come back to haunt you… I am the opposite of you and feel like I look SO much better when I’m tan!! I just feel like I look washed out and totally blah without any tan (which is my usual state, really, living in Wisconsin). I do tan up naturally easily and many people on my dad’s side have more olive type skin tones, which tan nicely, so that’s probably why I feel that way. I had a bad experience years and years ago with self-tanner too, but I have seen people online seem to have great results now… just seems like a messy hassle though, so I haven’t been to quick to try it either.


  6. I am your Traditional Pasty White Midwesterner, to be honest, and I’ve always been this way. I burn, and my parents always, always used sunscreen on us as kids. Even now, I wear 50+ daily on my face, and use sunscreen on my arms, at least, every day in the summer (I never wear shorts, long story…). So I am thrilled that you got checked out, that all is well. And you know what, you can’t undo what you did with the tanning beds etc. It was the way things were. But you can change things – and you did. Good on you. 🙂


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