A lovely dinner at a waterside restaurant in Key West was nearly ruined when a family of towheads took a table next to where I was dining with a friend. I could barely finish my oysters. All six of them were so red it was difficult not to stare, or want to scream in a self-righteous way: “Get yourself to the nearest drug store and buy some sunscreen, man!
I consider myself knowledgeable about very few things, but anything skin-related I could hold my own on Jeopardy. Early in my career, I represented the leading board of dermatologists where I became a semi-expert on the body’s largest organ, and then later helped market a breakthrough drug for skin cancer. I knew about Botox’s age-defying potential before it went mainstream and the ladies on Manhattan’s Upper East Side started drinking it for lunch. Conversely, I can recite the ACBDE’s of melanoma faster than my social security number.
As part of a long running public health campaign, I staged publicity events for Melanoma Monday, the first Monday in May. In public parks in major cities, we offered to take free infrared photos to illustrate the sun’s damaging effects. What’s under the epidermis is pretty ugly stuff.
What did I learn from these experiences? On the list of organs people want to save, the skin is last. You can get people to stop smoking, eating red meat and drinking before tanning. People still associate tanned skin with health when it’s anything but.
The sun and I have never been friends. I look like a big white marshmallow, so when I go to the beach, I dress like a sheik sans camel and then pray it rains.