Real Beauty
Tips and tricks for natural body care


Tackle Dry Hair and Scalp Problems with Ayurveda

Are you worried about your dry hair? Dreaming of luxurious, silky hair is common in women of all ages.

Let me explain the top causes of dry hair first.

  • Hair has no natural lubrication. It relies on oils made in the hair root to stay moisturized and looking lustrous. Sometimes, the hair root/scalp will not have enough oil production for making your skin soft and shiny.
  • Each strand of healthy hair has a protective layer called the cuticle. In a healthy cuticle, the layers lie tightly together and keep moisture in. When a cuticle’s layers separate and peel away from hair, its ability to hold moisture is compromised and some oil escapes.
  • Usage of harsh shampoos and hair grooming products
  • Over-use of hair grooming products with chemicals, like hair dyes, relaxers, and perm
  • Using hot tools, such as blow dryers, flat irons, and curling irons
  • Improper diet
  • Over exposure to sun and/or cold

three bottles of natural hair care products
Photo by Adobe Stock/nadisja

Ayurveda for Dry Hair

Ayurveda explains the cause of dry hair as excessive or imbalanced Vata. Excess Vata causes the hair to become dry, frizzy, brittle, and lusterless. It also causes hair to thin, fall out in clumps, become shorter and more difficult to grow out, and present with split ends.

Excessive Vata can also ruin your skin with dryness and eczema-like skin problems. The scalp might also be dry, which leads to hair that has less luster, more frizz, and ends that are not as strong and can split. As we age generally we have predominance of Vata in the body, age is also a factor which can lead to dry scalp and untamed hair.

Is it possible to address these imbalances and get a frizz free beautiful hair? I would say a big yes! 

If you are familiar with Ayurveda, you might know the Ayurveda daily rituals which have been explained in detail in ancient classics, which says that oiling your hair and body before a bath should be a daily routine. If it's not possible to oil your hair and scalp daily, do it thrice a week. Gently massage the scalp and hair roots with your fingertips for 10 minutes and wash off the oil with a mild/herbal shampoo.

Ayurvedic Hair Oil Treatments

What oil should be used? Either you can go for virgin coconut oil or jojoba oil to retain the natural moisture of scalp and hair, or medicated hair oil.

Try making my recipe for Bhringaraj Oil. You can even substitute the Bhringaraj with hibiscus or amla (Indian goose berry)

Here’s another simple hair oil recipe:

Hibiscus Oil: Take some coconut oil and heat it, add the juice extracted from hibiscus. Add mashed basil (Tulsi) leaves in this mixture. Heat the oil, until it starts to boil. Do not boil for too long. Cool the heated oil and filter it to remove the contents from the oil. Apply the warm hibiscus oil to the root of the hair. Massaging the hair regularly with this oil will ensure that the hair is revitalized, and Tulsi ensures the natural hair growth.

During my childhood days instead of using shampoo, hair was washed with hibiscus leaf juice. It acts as a natural conditioner and washes off excess oil from the hair.

Tips for Healthy Hair

Do not blow dry or use heated treatment to your hair much.

Avoid the use of chemical products in your hair, instead go for organic natural hair products.

Eat healthy. Minimize food with Vata aggravating properties. Go for fresh fruits and vegetables. Include plenty of leafy vegetables in diet. Stay hydrated, and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Include aloe juice in diet daily.

Taking Triphala internally can also ensure good hair nourishment and growth. You can either consume in the form of capsules, or 1 tsp Triphala powder at bedtime with warm water is good option.

Apply an herbal hair mask once a week.

Herbal Hair Mask Recipe

Supplies:

• Amla dried powder – 2 tbsp
• Triphala powder – 1 tbsp
• Thick yoghurt – 2 tbsp
• Aloevera juice – 2 tbsp
• Muslin cloth – to wrap the head

Instructions

Mix all the ingredients and make a thick consistency paste. Apply to the scalp and hair follicles and wrap the head with a muslin cloth. Leave for 20 minutes. Wash it off with herbal shampoo or hibiscus leaf juice.

The above remedies can completely help in improving your hair health and can leave a lustrous beautiful hair.

Top 5 Herbs for Beautiful Hair

Ayurveda considers the hair to be a byproduct of bone formation. The tissues which are responsible for forming bones are also responsible for hair growth. Hair loss is considered to be a problem of Pitta dosha in Ayurveda, and excess of Pitta dosha in the body is the chief cause of other hair problems. Explore five of the most popular and accessible herbs for achieving beautiful hair.

herbal hair care
Photo by Shutterstock

1. Bhringaraj - The King of Herbs

During my childhood days, this potent herb was readily available in our surrounding areas. I remember my mother preparing oil of this herb and applying it to our hair before each hair wash. At that time I was unaware of the potent benefits of this herb. The word Bhringaraj itself means the "king of herbs." True to it's name, not only does it help promote hair growth, it also reverses balding. It can be used to prevent premature graying, and is commonly available in powdered form and as an oil.

How to use Bhringaraj for hair growth?

Though the oil is readily available in markets, if you can get a handful of leaves or 5-6 tbsp of Bhringaraj powder, make a thick paste out of it with water. Apply it to your scalp and leave for 20 minutes. Wash it off afterwards with a mild shampoo. Do this three times a week and you can see the wonder in your hair. By doing this, your hair growth will be enhanced and the hair will be thick, smooth, and will not grey for long. It also improves your sleep due to the cooling effects of this herb.

2. Amla - The Indian gooseberry

Amla is good not only for your hair, but it's one of the most powerful rejuvenating herbs mentioned in classical Ayurveda textbooks. It's considered a Rasayana (Rejuvenative) and is effective in blood purification and indigestion. It's one among the constituent of Triphala.

How to use Amla for hair growth?

There is a traditional procedure called Thalapothichil in Ayurveda where a herbal paste is applied over the scalp and then the scalp is covered with plantain leaves. It's practically difficult to perform this procedure oneself with out the assistance of an expert Ayurveda practitioner, so instead what can be done is this: Take 3-4 tbsp of dried amla powder and soak in buttermilk over night. In the morning blend this mixture well and strain through a muslin cloth. Use this mixture for hair wash, once a week. This helps in preventing dandruff and other hair problems like split ends.

3. Neem

Regular use of neem on the scalp improves blood circulation and strengthens the roots which, in turn, promotes hair growth. It also helps in soothing the scalp and prevents burning sensations and dryness.

How to use Neem for hair care?

Neem can be used as a hair conditioner. Take a handful of neem leaves or 5-6 tbsp of neem powder. Boil the neem leaves in water for 15 minutes and then set it aside to cool. Once the solution is cool, strain the liquid. Collect the neem infused water in a jug and set it aside. Wash and condition your hair as usual, then pour the neem-infused water through it as a final rinse. Do this once a week.

4. Methi - Fenugreek

Methi is an excellent remedy for hair loss. It is also one of the best solutions for dandruff and is known for its ability to boost scalp health. In ancient Indian culture, Methi (or fenugreek) is given postpartum to ensure improved milk production and also to prevent postpartum hair loss. 

How to use Methi for dandruff ?

Roast 2 tbsp of methi in a pan and then grind it to get a fine powder. Collect the powder in a bowl and add some water to form a thick paste. Apply this paste to your scalp and hair. Leave it in for 20 minutes, then wash the hair.

5. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is a herb that helps to clean your system from within. It helps to remedy hair loss, boosts scalp health, and promotes hair growth.

How to use Aloe for hair growth?

Take 1/3 cup of Aloe Vera juice internally. Instead of this, you can also take 1 tbsp of Aloe Vera gel with a pinch of cumin three times a day for 3 months for hair loss control.

Alternatively, you can also add 2 tbsp of Aloe Vera gel with 1 tbsp coconut oil. Apply to scalp region and leave for 20 minutes, followed by a thorough rinse. Do this twice a week for wonderful outcome.

Most of the herbs mentioned here are readily available in most areas. Dealing with hair loss is tough, but with these treatments and handy tips, you can restore your hair to its former glory in no time. Consider Ayurveda for hair loss and let me know your thoughts after using these herbs.


All information and resources provided are based on the opinions and experiences of the author, unless otherwise noted. Information is intended to encourage readers to do their own research and come to their own conclusions, and should never substitute or replace the recommendations of a qualified healthcare provider. Always consult your physician before making changes to your diet, exercise, or general wellness plan, even when using holistic methods.

8 Amazing Yoga Asanas for Glowing Skin

Glowing, radiant, and flawless skin is something that most of us desire. Some are blessed with the good genes that create picture-perfect skin, while others must struggle to get beautiful, glowing skin. We can blame our lifestyle, polluted environment, and poor eating and sleeping habits. Many of us spend large sums on cosmetics and salons yet fail to get that desired results. With yoga, you can bring back the lost gleam and lustre back to your skin.

fish pose
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

1. Matsyasana (Fish Pose)

This asana promotes healthy and glowing skin by improving the function of the pineal, thyroid, and pituitary glands, which makes skin firmer and more flexible.

  • Lie straight on the back on the floor and place the hands under your hips.
  • Now lift your back and shoulders off the floor and form an arch-like shape from hip to head.
  • Your head needs to be lifted with the crown of the head gently touching the floor.
  • Breathe normally and stay in the pose for around 30-60 seconds.

extended shoulder stand
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

2. Sarvangasana (Extended Shoulder Stand)

Shoulder stands improve the skin’s texture and quality, reduces acne, blemishes, pimples, dullness, dark spots, and fights the signs of aging.

  • Lie straight on your back on the floor and slowly move the legs off the floor upward.
  • Then move the torso of the body with the support of your hands.
  • Put the body weight on your arms and shoulders, but don’t strain the neck and head.
  • Now breathe slowly and deeply, keeping the eyes closed. Stay in the position for 30 seconds.

plow pose
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

3. Halasana (Plow Pose)

This pose increases blood flow and improves sleep quality, which is required to repair damaged skin making it look vibrant.

  • Lie straight on your back on the floor with the hands beside the body.
  • Now lift the feet and then legs upward to form a 90-degree angle.
  • Support your hips and back with the hands, and slowly move the legs back over the torso and head like a plow.
  • Let the feet touch the ground and put the entire weight of the body on the hands and shoulders.
  • Don’t put a strain on your neck and head. Maintain a steady breath, and stay in the pose for 30-60 seconds.

forward bend
Photo via Flickr

4. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Standing forward bend helps in increasing oxygen supply to the cells of the skin and prevents skin damaging.

  • Stand straight in the position of Tadasana and then raise the hands up.
  • Now bend your torso forward from the hips and try to touch the floor.
  • Keep the legs straight.
  • Let the neck and head hang in the air, but don’t put stress on it. Hold the pose for 1 minute.

triangle pose
Photo via Flickr

5. Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)

Trikonasana increases the oxygen supply to the skin cells that improves the quality and texture of the skin.

  • Stand in the position of Tadasana and then turn the right foot out and stretch out the arms wide open.
  • Now push the right side of your waistline over the left leg and bend it slowly.
  • Keep your back and waist flat. Put the right palm on the floor and stretch the left arm upward.
  • Your vision should also be facing up. Hold the pose for 30 seconds. Release and do the same on the other side.

cobra pose
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

6. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

This pose reduces tension, stress, and fatigue, as well as flushes toxins out of the body in order to get glowing skin.

  • Lie straight on the stomach on the floor, and keep your hands under the shoulders.
  • Now lift the torso upwards with the help of hands. Your body forms a slight back arch with hands straight. Hold the pose for 1 minute.

wind relieving pose
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

7. Pawanmuktasana (Wind Relieving Pose)

A great pose that prevents acne and provides clear, more youthful skin.

  • Lie straight on your back on the floor with the feet together and hands beside the body.
  • Now bring the left knee towards the chest and press the thigh on the abdomen.
  • Hold the knee with the hand wrapped around, then lift the head and chest and try to touch your knee with the chin.
  • Hold the pose there for 30 seconds. Release and do the same on the other side.

camel pose
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

8. Ustrasana (Camel Pose)

This asana balances hormones that are responsible for skin discoloration, pigmentation, acne, and pimples.

  • Sit on the floor on your knees, and then bend your back backward and hold the feet for the support.
  • The asana requires a deep bend, but do not strain your body. Keep the head hanging in the air and hold the pose for 1 minute.

Perform Savasana, or corpse pose, at the end to complete the session. You can take Ayurveda treatment along with practicing these yoga asanas for even more benefits.

Manmohan Singh is a passionate Yogi, Yoga Teacher and a Traveller in India. He provides Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh, India. He loves writing and reading the books related to yoga, health, nature and the Himalayas.


All information and resources provided are based on the opinions and experiences of the author, unless otherwise noted. Information is intended to encourage readers to do their own research and come to their own conclusions, and should never substitute or replace the recommendations of a qualified healthcare provider. Always consult your physician before making changes to your diet, exercise, or general wellness plan, even when using holistic methods.

How to Prepare Homemade Virgin Coconut Oil for Skin

Abhyanga (oil massage) is a traditional Ayurveda practice of applying oil to the skin in order to help slow the aging process, promote relaxation, and it’s said to be good for eye health, and ensures longevity. The oil, which can even be used for babies, for this procedure is virgin coconut oil.

I use virgin coconut oil processed with some medicinal herbs for my 20-month-old daughter. This has been an ancient practice in India. Coconut oil is an edible oil, which is extracted from the kernels of mature coconuts.

Virgin coconut oil differs from the ordinary coconut oil because of the way it is extracted and in terms of its health benefits. The term ‘virgin’ essentially means that either no heat is applied during the process or it is subjected to very low heat. Virgin coconut oil has a strong taste and fragrance, and a higher content of antioxidants, protein, vitamins, and healthy fatty acids which may be lost during the industrial processes that regular coconut oil is subjected to. In Kerala, the oil for skin and hair is usually prepared at home. My mom used to prepare it freshly, and it’s a great beauty ingredient that can help in controlling dandruff and preventing acne.

fresh coconut oil
Photo by Pixabay

How to Prepare Virgin Coconut Oil at Home

Ingredients
• 4 grated coconuts

Method of Preparation

1. Extract the coconut milk from the grated coconut by squeezing it with your hands in a muslin cloth. Keep a bowl below the cloth to collect the liquid. You can add very little hot water to it to make it easy to handle and squeeze out all the milk.

2. After extracting the coconut milk sieve again through a muslin cloth to discard any impurities. Place the coconut milk in a vessel and cook for 2 to 3 hours over low heat. Keep stirring it every now and then till the milk becomes brownish in color. However, be careful that it doesn’t burn as coconut milk has a very delicate texture.

3. Once the milk becomes concentrated, remove it from the heat and let it cool down. Place the cooled, thickened milk in a muslin cloth and squeeze out the oil. Collect it in a bowl and then store it in an airtight glass jar.

This homemade coconut oil can easily last for a year, and a minimum of 8 to 10 months. Though the procedure is quite slow and consumes time, believe me it's worth the effort. This homemade oil can do wonders when compared to the store-bought ones.

Now that you have prepared an amazing oil, let's check out some simple beauty hacks that can be done with this homemade coconut oil.

Facewash: 1 cup coconut oil + 5 tbsp lavender essential oil + 1 tsp baking soda. Store this in an airtight container.

Mask: 1 tsp coconut oil + a pinch of turmeric powder –  Apply over face and wash after 20 minutes. Reduces and prevents sunburn and rashes.

Makeup Remover: Simply take a small amount of coconut oil and gentle rub over skin to remove makeup. It softens the skin and act as an excellent night cream.

Lip Balm: Heal chapped lips with nourishing coconut oil by placing it directly on the lips.

Herbal Scrub: 1 tsp coconut oil + 1 tsp coconut sugar – Apply this once every 2 weeks. Wash with warm water afterwards.

A Holistic Connection Between Skin and Mind

holistic skin care
Photo via Unsplash

We have grown accustomed to the idea of choosing skin-care products based solely on our skin type, and taking care of our emotional and psychological well-being strictly through mental processes such as meditation. However, people with chronic skin conditions, such as psoriasis or eczema, know all too well that these two aspects of our being are deeply intertwined—hence the need to care for our largest organ primarily from within. Skin health is a reflection of our state of mind as well as our overall well-being, so it’s only natural that learning about how this link resulted in the birth of psychodermatology. This discipline is a relatively young one and it aims to give us a deeper insight into how our mind and our skin interact, and what we can do to minimize the effects of stress on our largest organ.

 nourishing foods
Photo via Unsplash

Nourish from Within

It’s common knowledge that our immune system can thrive only when we keep our menus filled with healthy bites, but the right choice of foods also affects our skin health. The nutrients from our daily meals have a profound effect on our hormones, which are responsible for regulating numerous processes in our body, and our moods and emotions are among them. Simply put, what you eat is what you feel, and research has shown that a lack in certain nutrients such as vitamin D can lead to, for example, Seasonal Affective Disorder, while fiber-rich diets are known to help your body produce serotonin, the “feel good” chemical. Our skin needs these same nutrients to maintain its lovely glow, collagen production for elasticity, and ample beauty sleep that comes naturally when your hormones are in balance.

Holistic Skincare

Your beauty kit should be filled with items that are created with these same principles in mind. We have come a long way from picking our products based only on how lovely their fragrance is, or if they will moisturize or exfoliate. Today, we can choose medicine-based skin-care essentials known as cosmeceutical skincare, which is designed to target the underlying cause, and not just take care of the aesthetic consequence. Pick items that will help protect your skin from the sun’s harmful radiation, help boost its collagen production, circulation, and provide complete nourishment that complements your diet. Infused with vitamins, healthy acids, and enzymes, these medicinal beauty sets aim to restore and safeguard your skin’s natural balance.

reduce stress
Photo via Unsplash

Stress Detox

An irreplaceable step in understanding how your skin is affected by your mind is reducing the main culprit of many skin conditions, and that is stress. Chronic or otherwise, many issues stem from the way we handle our everyday challenges, at work, in our personal relationships, and dissatisfaction with ourselves. Self-care starts with restoring your emotional stability, and these long-term processes will eventually help you heal your skin as well. Anything from regular exposure to stress, various forms of depression, and anxiety all harm our health, and our skin only lets those effects rise to the surface. However, treating those conditions only superficially is not the solution, as you need to determine and tackle the cause. Try seeking out help from a certified psychologist and introduce methods such as meditation and writing to soothe your mind—the results may not be immediate, but they sure will outlast any topical cream.

create healthy habits
Photo via Unsplash

Building Healthy Habits

As a life-long process, striving to lead a healthier life is primarily driven by our desire to feel better, improve our figure (hence the decision to ditch sugar), or boost our immune system. Have you ever heard anyone say something along the lines of: “I will definitely cut my sugar intake to help my skin clear” or “I will start working out to boost my skin health”? Unlikely, and yet, these habits are pivotal in maintaining your skin health. Soon, every dermatologist will incorporate “regular exercise” as the key prescription to improving skin tone and restoring youthful radiance, and cutting down on refined sugar for the sake of a plant-based diet that can be beneficial for your complexion.

The bottom line is that we are now shifting towards a more holistic approach in caring for our health and beauty, as we have only scratched the surface of this intricate connection that helps us understand the essence of our well-being. Keep an eye on your skin to understand your mind, and do your best to keep stress at bay for your mind to be at ease.


All information and resources provided are based on the opinions and experiences of the author, unless otherwise noted. Information is intended to encourage readers to do their own research and come to their own conclusions, and should never substitute or replace the recommendations of a qualified healthcare provider. Always consult a qualified healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or general wellness plan, even when using holistic methods.

Healing Your Skin from Within

Now, who doesn’t love flawless, beautiful skin? We all do, but topical treatments or makeup may not give you the results you want. No matter what skin condition you suffer from, whether it’s acne, blemishes, dermatitis or any other kind of skin issue, the only way to treat it and make your skin better is by healing your body from within.

Improving the quality of your skin involves making changes to your diet and a getting a lifestyle makeover. Most of these conditions occur due to hormonal imbalances or lack of nutrition, so the right way to fix your skin is to treat it from within. Especially when there is a shift in seasons, our skin is directly impacted, and that's when our skin needs special care. So, let’s get down to it.

natural skin care nutrients
Photo by Pexels

1. Reduce Sources of Estrogen

Did you know that having an excess amount of estrogen in your body can cause acne? That's right, the dominance of estrogen is the primary cause of hormonal imbalance. Xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens are chemicals that act like estrogen and get attached to estrogen receptors, overburdening the body with their estrogenic effects.

Xenoestrogen can be found in commercially raised meat and dairy products, such as pork, chicken, butter, etc. Any foods containing pesticide residues can also cause estrogenic effects. One more source for xenoestrogen is tap water. When it comes to phytoestrogens, some common sources are soy products, flax seeds, and sesame seeds, and are mostly found in plant sources. Consuming foods high in phytoestrogens can result in drastic acne.

2. Add Zinc to Your Diet

Another agent that enhances the quality of your skin is zinc and a deficiency of zinc has been linked to acne by experts. Hence, it's safe to say that a healthy dosage of this nutrient is necessary to maintain healthy skin. Zinc regulates the collagen in the skin as we age and promotes skin renewal. Zinc also fights other issues that cause the skin to suffer from inflammation.

Zinc can be found in foods like kidney beans, flax seeds, peanuts, egg yolks, salmon, etc. It controls the inflammatory response of the body, as well as boosts the immune system.

3. Build Up Good Bacteria

The reason why your skin is acting up could be due to an underlying yeast issue. Taking a high-quality probiotic can help replenish the good bacteria in your body. It also regulates the growth of yeast, along with the bad bacteria in the gut. You could opt for foods that will encourage the growth of the beneficial yeast and bacteria in the body like yogurt, coconut kefir, and other fermented foods.

Doing this will help to balance your hormones by enhancing your bacterial defense system. If you are suffering from acne or skin inflammations regularly, it could be due to the overgrowth of yeast. Avoiding excess sugars in your diet could be one way to deal with this, as yeast feeds on the sugar and grows. Avoid consuming too much processed foods, refined sugars, and chocolates, and instead focus on low-sugar foods. Over time, you will see that it has improved your skin dramatically.

4. Take Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are necessary for your body, and if your skin is not doing so well, then one of the reasons could be that you have low levels of omega-3. This nutrient is responsible for keeping the skin healthy by reducing inflammation and other skin-related issues by taking care of the skin at the cellular level. In a way, it acts as a moisturizer for the skin—but from within. Omega-3s help in rebalance hormones and encouraging cell regeneration, which result in clearer skin.

You can increase your intake of omega-3 by consuming nutrient-rich foods like ghee, pastured egg yolks, enriched dairy foods, canola oil, etc. With the visible reduction in inflammation, acne, and psoriasis, omega-3 fatty acids can lead to smoother and younger-looking skin.

These are some ways in which you can fix the hormonal imbalance in the body. To heal your skin, you must fix the root problems behind the skin issues with love and care, and it varies from person to person. It all comes down to the foods you consume and their nutritional content. It also helps to consult with a doctor to ensure your body is functioning normally. By following these tips consistently, you will gradually see your skin change for the better.


All information and resources provided are based on the opinions and experiences of the author, unless otherwise noted. Information is intended to encourage readers to do their own research and come to their own conclusions, and should never substitute or replace the recommendations of a qualified healthcare provider. Always consult your physician before making changes to your diet, exercise, or general wellness plan, even when using holistic methods.

The Importance of Sun Protection for Healthy Skin

It started out as the tiniest bump on the right side of my nose. A pimple, I thought, which could be easily covered with makeup. I was in my early forties but getting a zit from time to time was not unheard of. One day while looking in the mirror, it dawned on me that this zit had been on my nose for longer than usual. I reasoned that we get blemishes on our skin as we age. Even my primary care physician said it was “probably nothing to worry about.” So, life got busy and I simply put it out of my mind. When blood would appear from time to time, a vague foreboding voice told me it needed a second look. It was my Mom who bluntly told me during a visit that I needed to see a dermatologist—immediately.

sun over field
Photo by John Steward/Unsplash

One biopsy later my Mom’s fears were confirmed. This little bump was skin cancer. Furthermore, I had let this molehill go on for so long that it had turned into a mountain and now needed something called Mohs surgery. I did get a bit of relatively good news that day, too; it was not melanoma, an aggressive and sometimes deadly skin cancer. Instead, I had a less aggressive form called basal cell carcinoma, a form that rarely metastasizes.

The name of the surgery sounded like some kind of medieval torture. In fact, it has become a standard procedure for nonmelanoma cancers. Using a local anesthetic, this specially-trained surgeon scraped a bit of the skin, sent me to the waiting room, and examined the tissue for cancer cells. Then he repeated a second time and a third until the cancer cells were gone. It was like having multiple biopsies in a single morning. Groundhog’s day in the dermatologist’s office.

kayak and setting sun
Photo by Aaron Burden/Unsplash

That wasn’t the end of it. Because the surgeon had needed to dig somewhat deeply to remove the cancer, I needed one more outpatient surgery. That afternoon a plastic surgeon would remove a small piece of skin from behind my ear and stitch it over the divot on my nose. Following this second surgery, as I was getting dressed in the recovery room, I glanced in the mirror and gasped. A large neon-yellow chunk of gauze was sutured to my nose. Panicking, I ran to find a nurse. “How long will this thing be on my nose?” “Oh, not long,” she replied, “only a week or two.”

Two weeks later, when I finally returned to public, I made a few important changes in my lifestyle.

1. The sun is my friend. But even good friends need boundaries. Each morning regardless of the season, I apply a face lotion with an SPF of at least 15. The drugstore shelf holds many brands; some are heavy or greasy. Neutrogena sells an oil-free SPF 15 lotion that works well for me. It provides protection during those short daily tasks outside like running errands, walking the dog or plucking some vegetables from the garden. During longer periods in the sun, like riding my bike or cross-country skiing, I use heavier armor. Dermatologists recommend a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

2. I bought myself a big floppy hat. The sunscreen provides one line of defense, the hat provides a second. I try to wear it as often as possible when in the direct sun for a period of time such as sitting through my son’s soccer and baseball games or recreating near the water—swimming, canoeing, hanging out at the beach.

woman with big hat in pool
Photo by Anna Demianenko/Unsplash

3. Lips can be damaged from the sun just as skin can. I use a lip balm with an SPF of 30. Anyone who has gone out in the sun with a shiny lip gloss and has ended up with burned or even swollen lips knows just what I mean.

4. I monitor my skin much more closely. Dermatologists warn to watch for new growths or moles that have changed size or shape. Also, anything that bleeds is a red flag. I may be a step or two shy of paranoid, but I do go straight to the dermatologist when I question something new on my skin. (It’s only happened once since the surgery.) Otherwise, I see the dermatologist annually for a checkup.

5. Most importantly, I am making my health a priority. Fortunately, aside from this minor incident, I have been blessed with good health. However, in the future even if one doctor tells me things are fine, but I continue to have doubts, I will take the time to get a second opinion.

One in five people will be diagnosed with skin cancer during their lifetime. We can’t reverse those childhood days in the sun without protection, but we can be smart about skin care in the present. We can pass down our wisdom to our children, too.







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