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Woman looking in a mirror while getting dressed for a wedding

Getting Dressed Up Complicated By Spots On My Skin

I knew which dresses I wanted to wear to back-to-back spring and summer weddings, but I wasn’t sure what to do about my skin. For starters, both dresses were short-sleeved and scoop-necked, and to paraphrase the late Nora Ephron, I’m not happy about my neck.

Our faces are lies

In the title essay of her book, “I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman,” she writes that at 65, she and her friends often dress like “a white ladies’ version of the Joy Luck Club.” (Meaning their clothes hide their necks.) “Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth. You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn’t if it had a neck,” she said.

My skin is mottled

I’m just about the same age as she was when she wrote that. In addition, the skin on my neck is mottled due to sun damage and skin color changes resulting from the chemotherapy I got during my leukemia treatment. On top of that, my dermatologist had zapped a precancerous spot right in the middle of my chest. This left a red bump like the pimple you got on your nose in high school right before an important date or dance.

I don’t wear much makeup, but I do have a concealer stick that is roughly the color of my skin. I applied it to the spot. Inconveniently, she had also done one on the side of my nose, but conveniently, I had the makeup stick.

Another squamous cell spot

A stubborn scaly patch on my left cheek also needed attention. It had been hanging in there for months. My dermatologist froze it, but it did not go away. She biopsied it, and the results showed a squamous cell cancer on the skin. It did not need surgery, but it did need three weeks worth of Efudex. As users of the chemo cream know all too well, Efudex (fluorouracil) will make a spot turn red and sometimes oozy. I used the touchup stick on that too and applied a tinted sunscreen overall.

My legs are also spotty

If I thought I had a problem with my neck, I really had one with my legs. I haven’t shaved much since my leg hair barely grew back after chemotherapy. But I’d be fooling myself if I thought they looked good. When I went to the beach with a friend a couple of years ago, she told me point blank that for the good of my relationship with my boyfriend, I better shave those legs. (The relationship was pretty new then and guess what, he doesn’t care.)

Shaving my legs is a challenge. They’re a minefield of actinic and seborrheic keratoses. When I shave, I almost always nick the top off one or two or catch the razor on a rough edge, leading to a trickle of blood. I asked my acupuncturist if I should do it. She said something along the lines of “No, of course not, you’re in the Pioneer Valley,” referring to Western Massachusetts, where I live, and its reputation for being casual.

To shave or not to shave

Before the wedding, when I was talking to a cousin in New York, she gave me the opposite point of view: either shave or wear tights or stockings.

Now we all know that at weddings, all eyes are on the bride, but guests wouldn’t dress up if it wasn’t important for them to look decent.

I took the shaving cream out, wet one leg, and applied a thin layer so I could see what I was doing. Using a light touch, I got the leg done without running into a problem. The other leg went smoothly too. Voilà! I was happy with my work. I can’t say I’m going to make a habit of it, but I did feel better put together when I put on my nice dresses.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.