London: Growing up in Australia under the searing Antipodean sun, we had just one mantra: brown is beautiful. Nothing was more glamorous than a golden tan. And the quickest way to darken a pale skin was to stretch out in the sun and burn. With the first rays of summer, we’d be in our bikinis on the beach, based in Johnson’s baby oil and turning every 30 minutes.
The process was not unlike roasting a chicken. It’s hard to believe now, but we were totally clueless about the devastating effect the sun was having on our skin. In fact, we were told the sunshine was good for us.
1 Drop on FRECKLES, MELASMA, PIGMENTATION
I sailed along getting tanned for decades, until, in my 40s, the damage started to emerge. I’m far from the only one: I have sun-worshipping friends, some younger than me, with skin like crumpled brown paper bags.
Like many women, I had sun spots and dry skin patches that wouldn’t go away however much I moisturized. What I didn’t know then was that these can turn into basal cell carcinomas or skin cancer. They’re not malignant but still need to be cut out, leaving scars.
I’ve had six cuts off my face, one leaving a 3in scar down the side of my nose. Thankfully, they were not melanomas, which can be fatal. I was lucky, but having learned my lesson the hard way, I became a bit of a sun protection zealot.
I still love holidays and have one planned for next week (a Martini as the sun sets over the Majorcan mountains — pure bliss). I will relish every second of sitting on the terrace, basking in the heat, but I’ll do so in a hat and sunscreen. These days I don’t even go out in London without my factor 50.
While the skin cancers have been removed from my face, the cosmetic skin damage has not. Like any woman who spent her youth basting her face, I have areas of pigmentation that won’t budge. I can cover them with foundation and powder, but it’s a patch-up job. The problem remains beneath my make-up.
Solar lentigo is the scientific name, but most of us know them as ‘sunspots’. As you might expect, the most commonly develop on areas of the body most exposed to the sun; in other words — and rather annoyingly — the face and the backs of your hands. They can also appear across the decolletage and shoulders.
The spot is created when the sun’s rays damage skin cells responsible for the production of melanin, which is the pigment that darkens our skin as we tan.