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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bye, bye beach babe!

I’ve been a self-proclaimed beach babe for as long as I can remember. Don’t let my title mislead you. I don’t think I’m a babe, but I do love the beach! I’m pretty sure my first word was beach or maybe sunshine. My mother, bless her heart, grew up in northern Ohio where the brutally cold winters left you unable to get warm for months. When she finally escaped to the South at the ripe old age of twenty-two, I think she’d had just about enough of the cold to last her a lifetime. Because of this, mom embraced the warm summers like a child given candy for the first time. She took my brother and myself to the beach every weekend for as far back as I can remember. I have a picture of me at three sitting in the sand in my pink and white polka dot bikini. My blond hair is flapping in the wind, something sticky and red is smeared around my mouth, and my bronze skin is glowing in the sun.

Now mom always made sure I put sunscreen on, but by the time I was old enough to put the sunscreen on myself I applied it without much gusto. I wanted that Coppertone tan. I associated it with good times, sun, surf and the lazy hazy days of summer. In high school, we would mix a little Coca-cola with our number four Banana Boat to achieve the ultimate tan. In college, we would lay out the minute the temperatures hit a balmy 70, so we would have a jumpstart for shorts weather.

If I wasn’t at the beach in the summers, I was at the lake skiing, swimming or socializing in the sun. By the time I graduated from college, I had smartened up and started using spf 15 or higher, and by the time I was around twenty-five I had graduated to spf 30 as my regular go to sunscreen. When my cousin’s wife passed away of skin cancer, she was 32, I had a shock and a reality check. I was thirty-four at the time. I started going to my dermatologist twice a year to get an all over body check.

Occasionally, she would see something and have me put a pre-cancer cream on it, but it was no big deal. This summer, I was thirty-nine, and I had finally learned the sun had to be worshipped as an angry god that could hurt you. I took my kids to the pool, but I wore spf one million on my face. Just joking! I did, however, wear spf 100 and made sure it blocked every ray known to man. I also wore a hat, sunglasses and lathered spf 45 all over my body. Let the good times roll! I put my children in spf swimwear that includes a swim shirt, and I lathered them in spf 100 made for kids. They certainly were not the tannest children at the pool, but I know they’ll thank me later.

I felt pretty proud of myself and gave myself a pat on the back for becoming so smart. Then about a month ago, my dermatologist told me I had some new spots. No big deal. They were just a few precancerous spots but she wanted me to have them removed with the newest technology which is a laser.

I really wasn’t concerned because I completely trust my dermatologist. Last Tuesday, I went in and they lasered my entire face. That has to be some of the worst pain I have ever experienced. For six days my face felt like it was on fire. It cracked, peeled, bled in a few spots and finally settled into a lovely pink shade with just your basic peeling. The peeling is almost done, and the lovely pink shade has disappeared in several areas, but I do still have pink skin on a good deal of the left side of my face. My dermatologist tells me it should go away totally in four weeks.

I’ll tell you what, no tan is worth what my face felt like. The upside of my experience is that my skin is supposed to look awesome when it is totally healed. The other upside is that I am saying goodbye for good to my beach babe status. I am now a beach bunny! We’re smarter! We enjoy the beach with mega sunscreen, hats, and protective clothing. We know the hours of 10-4 are the worst, most harmful time to be in the sun. Beach bunnies understand that sunscreen must be applied with a free hand and the application must be repeated after swimming regardless of what the bottle says. Sunscreen must also be re-applied every two hours to be at its most effective.

If you’re a beach babe, I hope you will consider my little story and become a beach bunny. So far, I consider myself lucky. My folly with the sun has not done fatal damage yet. Here’s crossing my fingers for luck!

Have a great day!

Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem


  1. Oh, Julie. I have to say, I'm glad you've become a beach bunny instead of a beach babe...even if it was after doing yourself some harm!

    I once had a dermatologist tell me that I have the fairest skin he's ever seen (which is scary, coming from a SKIN doctor), and that I should not ever leave the house without a minimum of SPF 45 all over. I took it to heart. Particularly because I burn super easily.

    I have never had a tan. When I was younger, I was jealous of all the kids who could tan, because my skin just wouldn't do it. I either glow in the dark because I'm so pale, or I sometimes freckle, or I splotch, or I burn. That's it. My burns have been 3rd degree burns, before. Not fun.

    Since I turned about twelve or so, I've had a mole or two removed every few years because my doctor was worried it might be cancerous. None have been yet. Thank goodness.

    My siblings all joke about me wearing SPF 1,000,000 and having pasty white skin and being a glow-in-the-dark beacon in dark haunted houses and the like. I don't care. I'd rather have that than skin cancer. (Oh, and one other thing. If you've got tattos, like I do, they look GREAT for years if you keep them out of the sun. I've had mine for a decade or more, but they still look as fresh as a week after getting them.)

    Anyway, I feel for you. I'm sure the laser treatment was no fun...much like having potentially-cancerous moles removed/frozen off/burned off. Still, better to get it taken care of now than wait until it is too late.

  2. Catherine,
    My sentiments exactly on the treatment being better to suffer the pain than wait until it's too late. I haven't met you in person, but from your picture I think I've seen fairer people! LOl! I bet your skin is beautiful since you kept it out of the sun!

  3. I was a teenager (a lifeguard at that) when my beloved grandfather was first diagnosed with skin cancer. I remember going to the dermatologist with him to have spots removed, etc. And I decided long ago that I'd rather be white as a sheet than go through what he did. We'll see if my precautions paid off.

    Hope your face feels better soon, Jules.

  4. You sounded just like most Aussie girls used to be,except about adding coke to sunscreen. Never heard of that one. LOL I was tanned and lax about sunscreen until I married a redhead, and had fair redheaded children who burned at the drop of a hat. It would have been really hypocritical to continue tanning while they were covered from head to toe in sunscreens and shirts and hats. I stay out of the sun now and occassionally worry about when the damage I did to myself as a teenager will show.

  5. I've never cared for tanning. I always wanted that beautiful glow, but I hated all that inactivity and sweating! Plus, I burn and I recently learned I have rosacea. (I think I spelled it wrong.) The sun makes my condition worse and my medicine makes me more susceptible to burns. On the plus side, most people think I'm younger than I am because I haven't worshipped the sun.

  6. Shhh don't tell me that! Just shhh! I love my sun, I worship my sun and I'm totally a water babe. My goal is retire and sail on the ocean in my own house boat. That's how much of a water babe I am. The sun comes with the package. Don't ruin my fantasy!! I use sunscreen but that's about it. Perhaps I'll change my mind at some point but my dream of sailing will probably never go away. I love it! Being out in the middle of the ocean with nothing but God's beauty is something I'll never give up.