In October I am getting 6 moles removed and biopsied to see if I have skin cancer.
This photo is of, Tawny Willoughby, a registered nurse in Alabama who has been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma five times and squamous cell carcinoma once. As this photo circulated around social media it inspired me and many others to get checked for skin cancer.
My interest in protecting myself led me to begin White Girl Sunscreen.
From the age of 15 until 24, I laid in the tanning bed every year except for a brief off period of about 2 years. In total, that’s 7 years of damaging my skin. When I had a tanning membership I would lay 2-4 times a week. So, I knew this day would come. Though I haven’t been diagnosed with skin cancer, and I can only hope I never am, I still can’t help but reflect back on the decisions I made in the past. I told myself to stop lying in the tanning bed, but the truth is- I was addicted to tanning. This is me in 2009, at age 18 in Palos Verdes, California visitng my grandparents, like I did every summer.
I’m not going to throw statistics out there, because we’ve all heard them a million times. What I am going to do is tell you about is the addiction I ignored because I thought it wasn’t a “real” addiction. This is a story about how I recognized my addiction and why I now protect my skin every day.
When I was 15 years old I got a job at a part-time tanning bed in my hometown. Everyone I knew was tanning to look just like the girls on Laguna Beach (this was 2006) so it was “cool” to be associated with the tanning bed. While maybe it doesn’t make sense now, I thought being pale was unattractive so I, too, began using the tanning beds. My part-time job led me to a full-time addiction.
These are the lies I told myself then to continue my addiction:
“A spray tan in a booth plus the tanning bed will even out my skin tone.”
In addition to lying in the tanning bed, I would get spray tans at the same spa. The spray tan wasn’t enough to satisfy me because I thought it made my skin look orange but if I also tanned it would balance out the color. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When I look back at pictures I notice that not only was I orange from the spray tan but the redness from tanning would make it even worse.
This is me at age 24, 6 months after I stopped laying in tanning bed.
“The tanning bed dries out my acne.”
Just thinking about ever saying those words makes me want to slap myself so hard that all my freckles fall off my face. Yes, the tanning bed does dry your skin- I was right about that. But the dryness also makes your glands produce more oil which in turn, leads to more acne.
“Sunscreen makes me look… PALE.”
Even though I knew how important sunscreen is, I didn’t want to wear it because I didn’t want the white sunscreen to make me look pale or less tan. Remember, I had an orange spray tan- I didn’t want to wash it away.
This is what I do now to keep a nice color but without the tanning bed:
I get a spray tan by a professional.
Anytime you’re getting a spray tan in a booth you look orange. The color isn’t evenly applied by a machine. Now I get spray tans done by a professional with a hand-held spray gun. My skin always has a glow, there’s no need to “even” out my color, and it looks so much more natural. Now I don’t look like I dived into a bag of Cheetos.
I buy a tested skincare line.
When I finally stopped lying in the tanning bed I went to Sephora and purchased a new skincare line. I also began to wear White Girl Sunscreen every day.
My skin looks so much better in just two months. Now, I prevent the acne from happening in the first place without damaging my skin. We all know, new regimens take time so don’t be a typical #whitegirl and try to rush it.
I read the ingredients on sunscreen.
This one might be the easiest change of all.
Step 1: Read the ingredients on the back of the damn bottle. I’m also embarrassed to admit that I never knew this and when I started going to my amazing spray tan guru, Lauren at Beautifully Bronzed, she said one word, “ALCOHOL.”
Wearing sunscreen that has alcohol will take away any spray tan or color you have. Now, I read the ingredients on every product, not just sunscreen, to ensure that it’s healthy for my skin and keeps my tan in check. When my business partner, Solongo, and I chose the ingredients for White Girl Sunscreen we made sure that there was NO alcohol so this wouldn’t affect a high maintenance white girl, like me.
Later, I’m sure I will write a post about my results from the biopsies. But that isn’t the topic I want to focus on at the end of this post. I know that no matter what happens, it is meant to be and the man upstairs wouldn’t give me something I couldn’t handle. What I really want is for this message to resonate with every woman who doesn’t realize that the skin you have is all you will ever get.
Skin is the largest organ in the body, it isn’t something you can “remove” and sorry to say, but plastic surgery only does so much. When you damage your skin, you are damaging yourself. You are beautiful no matter what color you are. But if you can’t live without being tan, get a spray tan (by a professional) even if it does make you look orange. Tanning beds and excessive exposure to sun are serious dangers.
And remember, wear sunscreen EVERY DAY because UV/UVA rays ARE REAL and will find you even in the winter. White Girl Sunscreen isn’t just something you apply at the pool or beach. It’s a lifestyle sunscreen formula that protects your skin every day from UV/UVA rays.
My business partner, Solongo and I want sunscreen to become trendy, to be the “cool” thing everyone wants to do. When you get in your car and you feel like you’ve forgotten something, we want it to be your White Girl Sunscreen that you run back inside for. Because your skin matters no matter what ethnicity, race, gender, or political party you are. #givemewhitegirl #notjustforthewhitegirl
No one should ever have to reflect back on their life and think about the times they should’ve stopped. We already have to do that after we've left Vegas and the last thing we need to reflect back on are bad decisions we made for our skin.