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Beautiful skin starts with proper protection

I have come to realize the mirror is indeed magical. What is seen depends on who is looking.

Some will focus on the reflections of fine lines and wrinkles — signs of natural aging. Seek and you shall find the aesthetician, dermatologist or plastic surgeon to guide you to products, sunscreens or treatments that can correct/repair and help you in your search for your fountain of youth. Others see reminders of all the wonderful laughs shared with their spouses, children, family and friends. When many of our mothers look into their beautiful vintage, handheld mirrors, they may see earned “lines of wisdom” and memories of lessons learned. A lifelong spouse always will see his significant other as forever young.

Others may not notice lines or pigment changes at all. Some bear the battle scars of cancer or other illness they fought, and minor imperfections to one woman are a trophy to another. What we all can agree on is that healthy skin is beautiful on everyone. Skin, when analyzed correctly, can tell a story — a story of past and present. It even has a memory.

Take pigment changes for instance. We can bleach topically, laser or chemical peel to lighten, but the first time out without a good sunscreen (30-50 SPF), and those melanocytes will be saying “hello” in your mirror once again. Everyone, starting in youth, should use sunscreen. It costs pennies per day to prevent damage to the skin and will save money — and possibly your life — later.

Walk with me down memory lane to a time many of you can relate to. In the 60s, the peace sign was everywhere, and Woodstock was the concert to experience if you were a musician or an everyday music fan. No makeup and all-natural skin was in; sunscreen was not heard of.

As we went barefoot into the 70s, the Coppertone baby made everyone want to soak up the sun with tropical oils that smelled of fresh coconuts. Many would mix baby oil with iodine and lay their natural, pale skin on the silver tanning blankets, hoping by the end of the day to look as golden as the Coppertone baby. Most would burn, not realizing that every burn would come back to haunt them in later years. I may or may not have been one of the thousands who used iodine and the silver blanket

Then came the 80s, and the increasingly popular indoor tanning beds. Marketing claimed it was safer on the skin to tan this way. Women were especially happy because our skin glistened with youth and beauty — no sweating required.

The 90s came rolling in, and the truth of tanning beds was exposed. The importance of sunscreen became more recognized and promoted by the skin care industry and medical professionals. We began seeing the damage and premature aging we caused our skin due to loss of collagen and overexposure. We suddenly realized we are not, in fact, “forever young” like the Rod Stewart song. Sadly, the words “skin cancer” touched too many individuals simply because we were not educated about the dangers or risks of UVA, UVB and UVC rays.

As we enter summer, I urge you to use broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF. For my patients, I always recommend nothing less than 50 SPF. The sun’s rays are the strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Protect the scalp and face with a wide-brim hat, and have proper sunglasses for all members of the family. If the sun is too bright for you, it is for the children as well. Many local businesses sell UV protectant clothing in all sizes for children and adults. Use this clothing when fishing, boating or enjoying summer outdoor events. Many medications can cause skin to be photo sensitive, so discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist.

If you have a history of overexposure, talk to your dermatologist and see when they recommend you begin regular skin cancer screenings. Be proactive with your skin; after all, it is our first line of defense against infection.

With healthy skin, you will look in that mirror and tell yourself, “Darling you look marvelous!” Be sun safe, and enjoy your summer!

Deborah Meza is a licensed aesthetician, as well as a massage therapist, medical skin care and laser technician and Ideal Protein coach with the Woman’s Clinic P.A. in Gulfport. Reach her at (228) 341- 7879.

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