When I was 14, I strongly believed that tan and pretty were one in the same. Around this time every year, my friends would claim lounge chairs around my backyard pool and spray on syrupy-looking oil to achieve a golden color. I alternated between the oil and SPF 30 to achieve a slightly-tan-mostly-burned color. I desperately wanted to be tan and look like the rest of the group. I even visited the tanning salon a few times before dances, so I wouldn’t stand out as the pale girl in group photos.
When I was a freshman in high school, my brother, Grady, was diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma, after his best friend noticed a strange mole on his back. You know a mole must look funny when a 17-year-old boy takes notice. He had just started playing college hockey and was the life of every party. Cancer meant that hockey, and life as our family knew it, was put on hold.
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It develops when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. TLDR — the sun damages your skin and makes your cells go crazy. Stage 3 Melanoma means Grady’s cancer spread from his back to the lymph nodes in his neck. After a few years of surgery, shots, and treatments, Grady was thankfully in remission. To this day, he has a scar that zigzags from his neck, over his shoulder, and down his back. The odd thing is that Grady has tan skin, dark hair, and dark eyes like my dad. He doesn’t have fair skin or red hair like me. With my family history and my coloring, I know I’m at a very high risk for developing skin cancer.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I had a few more bad sunburns and took a few more trips to the tanning salon in college. These days, pretty and healthy are one in the same. I embrace my light coloring, visit a dermatologist once per year, and always wear sunscreen. To learn more about safe sun habits, visit here. I’m especially careful about sun protection while running. After returning home with a pink forehead from a few runs early this spring, I knew I needed to step up my sunscreen game. Being an outdoor athlete who sweats a lot makes sun protection difficult. Most formulas either feel uncomfortable or run down my face and into my eyes.
After seeing the new Neutrogena CoolDry Sport formula in a number of fitness magazines, I was thrilled when the team kindly sent me both the spray and lotion (each available in SPF 30 and 70) to put to the test. CoolDry Sport is unique because it features Micromesh™ and photostabilized Helioplex® technologies that deliver excellent broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection that stays in place, even during intense workouts. The Micromesh™ Technology provides breathable protection, so sweat can evaporate off of skin without compromising the SPF, ensuring your skin can cool down while still being protected. While the formula did make my eyes sting a bit (probably got too close), it felt great during my Memorial Day weekend runs. Absolutely no greasy or sticky feeling. I chose the spray formula for running and tried the lotion formula for an afternoon lounging in Sheep Meadow. I’ve been waiting for summer miles for months and now feel confident knowing that my skin is protected while I train for Toronto and Vancouver. Whether you’re headed out for a run or to the beach, please remember to protect your skin. Every afternoon of damage could have a major impact on your health. The tan just isn’t worth it.
Photography by Lydia Hudgins
This post is sponsored by Neutrogena CoolDry Sport.