California Here I Come, Worrying About My Skin

When I got invited to a wedding across the country in California, I thought about how much fun it would be, I thought about what I would wear, and I was worried about the appearance of my skin. I got a pair of sandals to wear with the dress I had in mind. Then I thought about how bad my bare legs would look. I haven’t shaved them in a while. Actinic keratoses – the result of sun exposure – dot my calves like landmines that bleed when the razor nicks them.

Decisions about using self tanner

My legs haven’t seen the light of day since the summer. And even then, when I played tennis or jogged outside, I either wore leggings or slathered on sunscreen. So they were pale. I never would go to a tanning booth. In the 1970s we put on Coppertone’s QT lotion. The “quick tan” turned your skin orange. I thought of maybe applying some other kind of sunless tanning lotion. And so I worried whether the newer sunless tanning products are safe.

I asked my cousin what she was wearing. She said tights and boots. The wedding was in Northern California, where, unlike in sunny Southern California, it is cool. DUH. It didn’t occur to me. Obviously, in a state as big as California, you’re going to have different weather zones. I just didn’t think it through. But at least I had done the research on sunless tanning products if it ever occurred to me to use them in the future.

Worried about treatment before travel

At my latest dermatologist visit, I learned that I would need to treat my face and neck with three weeks of Efudex. As users of the chemotherapy cream know, it turns your skin red and raw. My dermatologist had identified about 10 tiny squamous cell cancers. They grow slowly. She said I could wait until after the wedding to treat them. To get the process started, she performed cryosurgery on them one by one. (I call it zapping but I thought I’d use the medical term.)

At first, I was concerned about holding off on the Efudex. I didn’t want to sacrifice my health for better-looking skin at a wedding. But it was only a few weeks away, she said it was OK, and I went with it. The “little guys,” as she calls my spots, weren’t as red as they would have been if I applied Efudex. But they didn’t look great. I got a tinted moisturizer and a cover-up stick to disguise them. And I made sure that the moisturizer had sunscreen in it. Then I was able to focus on what really mattered, getting together with friends and family to celebrate a joyful occasion.

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