Do not underestimate the power of our body’s fastest growing organ. As living, breathing, human beings, our skin is also the largest organ we have so it is vital that it is cared for. As an actor and model I am constantly being photographed, recorded, and filmed. I may not have always been smart about the sun but being in my mid twenties I am now conscious that I need to take extra precautions to maintain my youthful look. Plus, it always helps to extend my longevity in the film and television business. You may have heard it all before and personally so have I. The tedious list that our parents and teachers shouted still rings in my ears. Wear sunscreen! Don’t forget your hat! Time to reapply! For me, it was not until I saw my complexion analysis report that I realized I needed to invest in some good sunscreen as soon as possible.
After visiting my local spa, I had a complimentary skin analysis done. I did not go into the building thinking I would be sitting in a chair having a machine scan my face, nor did I know how much it would affect me. Twelve months later, my outlook has changed forever. I was able to see firsthand some of the areas of concern that I should be paying particular attention too. For example: sun spots, pore size, premature wrinkles, skin irregularities, and the list continues. Since my personalized report, I have been curious to know how other people’s experiences went. From asking my immediate circle of friends to skimming through countless magazine and newspaper clippings, the consensus was that many spas do a detailed analysis to help sell expensive lotions, products and treatments. Author Abby Ellin agrees as she wrote a critique via the nytimes.com proclaiming that: “while some dermatologists agree that the devices can help prevent future skin damage, others say skin analyzers are nothing more than a scare tactic designed to open wallets” (2007). To some degree, I concur. These business’ are here to make money and if there is ever a time to sell a product it is when the customer is feeling vulnerable. My first reaction to the printouts I was given was utter concern. As if I do not have enough to worry about, now I am in competition with my friends to see who has the least amount of wrinkles. I believe the moment that the ultraviolet light comes on and you get a glimpse at your ‘altered’ reflection that is enough to make any individual feel self-conscious. Furthermore, some articles even mention people becoming stressed out and panicking after witnessing their face so critically analyzed. Stuffboston.com emphasizes that these skin analysis reports are: “going to make people worry unnecessarily and feel badly” (2012). I was simply not prepared to see the various images.
I can relate to all of those individuals as a wave of anxiety overcame me after my initial shock. On the other hand, despite the negativity surrounding these complexion analysis reports, I legitimately believe that these specialized machines are here are educate us. Cheryl Fenton’s article ‘Below the Surface’ makes a valid point: “although seeing the resulting image can be a crushing blow…some consider the exercise an important see-it-to-believe-it lesson with far more impact than a simple glance in the mirror” (2012). In my experience, the report was definitely a shock to my ego and caused me to get my act together. After all, the machine is not going to cater to each individuals feeling’s. It is looking for specific areas of concern and will highlight them accordingly. Once the distress passed, I began to appreciate that I just saw what the naked eye cannot. I also came to the conclusion that I still have plenty of time to make well-informed decisions for the future of my skin. So if you are interested in getting a skin analysis report done, please go in with caution knowing that you may not necessarily like what you see. Moreover, keep in mind what the esthetician recommends but take time to process everything before spending hundreds of dollars. A simple sunscreen may do the trick and can cost you under thirty dollars. Take the experience with a grain of salt and remember that these charts were designed to be helpful. Consequently, if there were one thing I could tell my younger self, it would be to lather up on that sunscreen and to keep it coming.
As people age, you may have noticed brown spots appearing on the surface of the face, hands, chest and other commonly exposed sun areas. When I was growing up I assumed they were freckles just in a larger form. During those days, all I wanted to know was how to avoid those big spots. It was when my mother told me that they were preventable that I let out a sigh of relief. However, even though she told me that these markings were caused by the sun and not wearing sunscreen, the effects still did not register. Therefore, it is important to know the difference between freckles and sun/age spots as they are not the same. Freckles are small, brown spots that arise upon sun-exposed areas. Many people acquire them genetically. Although common on fair skinned people, freckles can appear on anyone despite ethnic background and no amount of sunscreen will take them completely away. Age spots on the other hand are a lot larger and more defined than freckles. Harmful UV rays cause them to manifest on all skin types. Dermatim.net says that: “age spots are darker colored changes in the skin… represent lentigo type freckles and are most commonly seen on the skin of elderly people… The skin is somewhat thinned in the area where they appear and they give of a saggy impression” (2014). We can avoid age spots to an extent, so why not take the necessary precautions by wearing hats, sunglasses, and yes, a lot of sunscreen. Right now I am using Shiseido Ultra Sun Protection Cream for Face SPF 50 and Arbonne’s Water-Resistant Suncreen SPF 30 for the body. Both work really well on my sensitive skin and I can safely vouch for them from my own personal use. Did I mention that sunscreen also helps to reduce the appearance of facial red veins, decrease the chances of skin cancer and blotchiness?
Winter months can be the hardest, especially when living in a colder climate. You simply crave that warm, comforting, blissful sun. Throughout my university days, I used to go tanning once a week during the cold months and always felt better after. I got a little bronzer, warmed myself up and felt like I got the vitamin D that I was missing so desperately… or so I was telling myself. According to womentowomen.com: “most tanning salons regulate their beds to emit approximately 95 percent UVA rays. This calibration maximizes the tanning effects of the booth and minimizes the risk of burning. Unfortunately, it also minimizes the amount of vitamin D that can be used, in proportion to the exposure to damaging UVA rays” (2014). So if you are one of those people out there telling others that you are using tanning beds for your daily vitamin D intake, think again. From doing my own research and asking my family doctor, the consensus is that our bodies should be getting approximately 600-1000 IU of vitamin D a day, which can easily be taken in a capsule or liquid form. Moreover, skincancer.org emphasizes that tanning beds do not provide you with your daily dose of vitamin D: “When you lie in an indoor tanning bed, you are exposed primarily to UVA, which penetrates deep into the surface of the skin, damaging the cells beneath and prematurely aging your skin. But it is UVB (the sun burning rays) — not UVA — which helps the skin make vitamin D, so you are increasing your risk of skin cancer without receiving any benefit!” (2014). If you want to know exactly how much vitamin D you should be taking speak to your doctor to have your vitamin D levels tested. In addition, although this may not shock you skincancer.org also reported a study where they found more cases of skin cancer due to indoor tanning than lung cancer cases due to smoking. Is being bronzed now so vital that we are bargaining with our health? As for me, I am going to stick to spray-on tans when I crave that sun kissed look. We have so many alternatives in our day and age so lets take advantage of the bronzing creams, sprays, cloths, etc. Skin cell damage? Premature aging? No thanks!
One element that I have personally struggled with concerning my skin are my freckles. Although my freckles were inherited they are also a sign of sun damage. I consciously am always watching my skin to make sure they do not change color or shape. With that in mind and my fair skin, dailyskincare.net highlighted that people with these traits are at a higher risk for skin cancer as they are more: “susceptible to the harmful effects of UV radiation” (2011). My mother being freckled herself always stressed the importance of sunscreen. Out of six children in her family, she was the only one who had freckles and passed the gene down to my sister and myself. You can just imagine our excitement when realizing this. As I was growing up I hated them. The look, the color, you name it… I loathed it. I was teased and felt ashamed to have them not only on my face, but lightly on my arms as well. Some of the comments still stick with me today. I went through phases were I stayed away from the sun completely to avoid getting a single freckle more. Then I did the complete opposite, I did not wear any sunscreen and stayed out in the sun as long as possible. I imaged my freckles doubling and tripling to the extent of having them merge together to have one even skin color. I even went to tanning beds. Safe to say, none of those alternatives worked nor would they have given me exactly what I wanted. I put my skin and myself in direct danger not caring about the long-term results. I am just lucky enough to not have had anything harmful result from my insecurities.
When I booked my first modeling job for the mere fact that I had freckles my entire perspective changed. I recognized that I did not need to feel so self-conscious and have learned to embrace the gift I was given. I had an epiphany so to say and I stopped spending so much time trying to modify what I cannot. As time passes, I am beginning to realize that my very own freckles may just be my secret weapon to success. What I thought was ugly and different is now one of my most prized ‘assets’ that I consider beautiful and unique. Very carefully I shield myself on a daily basis by limiting my sun exposure or lathering up with SPF when I cannot avoid the sun. I just wish I took better care of myself beforehand.
I am realizing more and more each day that investing in myself is the smartest option as I am the product in my business. Our skin is everything. From the first thing people see to determining how we feel. Wherever you are located, your appearance is directly related to the condition and health of your skin, so protect it. Who would have thought that my very own freckles were giving me an edge this entire time? After all, you cannot just go out and buy them. I spent so much time trying to fix these ‘flaws’ that I did not think to worry about my skin as a whole organ that needs attention. One of the most common misconceptions in regards to sunscreen is that if one applies an SPF 10 and then an SPF 30 that it would equal a total SPF 40 protection. Unfortunately it does not work that way. Purchase a higher level of sunscreen right away so you can get maximum protection. A good start is to make sure your everyday items contain some built in sunscreen. Whether you purchase a lip balm with SPF or a moisturizer, you will feel good about being proactive and it will be one less thing to think about later. Time and aging are inevitable and I am certain that we all want to promote clear, glowing and healthy skin. When we feel great we can make good choices because every decision that is made in your life is based on how you feel right?
© 2014 Olivia Gudaniec
** http://www.upworthy.com/what-happens-to-your-face-when-you-wear-sunscreen-might-shock-you-it-did-for-these-people?g=2&c=ufb1 -Check out this video on what happens to your face when sunscreen is applied. Amazing! **
Model: Olivia Gudaniec
Photographer: Yasmin Al-Samarrai
Hair Stylist: Maryanne Da Costa