Not my nose!
I've always loved the sun. And although growing up in the UK made sunbathing more challenging, I took advantage of every ray of sunshine that came my way. I remember watching the sky and running outside whenever there was a break in the clouds. I even had a job as a dental assistant that allowed me to dash out for a quick hit of the sun between patients. Yes, I was an avid sun-worshiper — and a complete idiot!
photo credit Wix
When I was in my late teens, I left England and became an au pair. (Aka, a nanny with lots of free time to get into trouble!) Greece was the first stop, and then Spain. My workday was spent by the pool with the children I looked after. I thought I had the dream job! While in Madrid, I got married (for the first time) to a US serviceman, and we ended up in beautiful, sunny Arizona.
The downside to all that wonderful sun
My first bout of skin cancer was a basal cell on my forehead in my early thirties. Although it was pretty upsetting, I could flip my bangs (aka fringe) and hide the scar. I remember feeling lucky it happened there — and god-forbid, not on my nose! In my late fifties, I had another basal cell on my forehead. But this tiny one was caught early and was quickly and easily removed.
And then, when I turned sixty, the big one hit me square in the face! I'll be honest and confess that I've always been a little vain about my nose. I don't have beautiful eyes or voluptuous lips, but I did have a cute nose! I knew something was wrong when I noticed a tiny dot on my nose that bled every time I washed my face. When the diagnosis came back positive for basal cell, I wanted to cry because there was no way my hair could cover this one.
The surgery was horrible. Thankfully, I had an excellent surgeon who performed the Mohs procedure (which saves as much healthy tissue as possible). Still, all the cutting and stitching really freaked me out!
I went home with a compression bandage on my nose, terrified of removing the dressing and caring for the stitches. I was instructed to soak the wound with a solution of water and white vinegar, pat the area dry, apply Vaseline, and keep it covered. I did all of this in the bathroom, with the lights off!
The Healing Process
A week later, I went back to have the stitches removed. When I let the nurse know I was incredibly squeamish, she told me I probably shouldn't look at my nose right now. (Yikes, that didn't sound good!) But there was some happy news: After asking if I could do anything to help heal, I was advised to eat protein and greens. Now, I may be a novice when it comes to caring for wounds, but I'm an expert when it comes to downing a green smoothie!
When the stitches were removed, I only had to wash the area and keep it moisturized and covered. And after a week, I was able to use the ScarAway sheets recommended by my surgeon. (These are made from silicone which helps soften and flatten scars.) ScarAway was a game-changer for me; they were easy to apply and remove, and best of all, I no longer had to have a massive gauze pad taped to my face! You can find ScarAway at most drugstores or online here.
After much research, I started taking a supplement called Polypodium leucotomos. Peer-reviewed studies show that Polypodium can help prevent skin cell abnormalities caused by UV radiation. An article from The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology states the following:
"Polypodium leucotomos extract 240 mg taken twice daily for 60 days was a safe and effective means for reducing the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation."
Although a pill won't take the place of sunscreen, polypodium leucotomos (an antioxidant-rich fern from Central America) sounds pretty impressive. If you live in the US, you can find this supplement at Walgreens under the brand name Heliocare. (And I have a link to buy it online here.)
Another supplement worth taking is Nicotinamide (a form of vitamin B). The recommended dose is 500 mg twice a day. You should be able to find Niacinamide anywhere supplements are sold.
Wearing sunscreen is essential (even on cloudy days), and I've finally found a mineral one that doesn't pill or leave me looking like a ghost. A bonus is that it wears beautifully under makeup. This holy grail of sunscreens is Skin Medica's Essential Defense Mineral Shield SPF 35. Unfortunately, it's a bit challenging to find. You can locate a doctor's office or spa that carries it here, and I believe that Dermstore is an authorized dealer. I have no affiliation with this company — I'm just obsessed with this sunscreen!
Another worthy sunscreen is Derma E Scar Cream Protectant SPF 35. This is a lovely mineral sunscreen that almost feels like a primer. Best of all, it's specifically for scars. The only downside for some people is that it has a lot of "cones" in it. You can find it at Ulta or on the Derma E Website.
So here's my nose four months post-surgery. I was terrified it would be misshapen, but I think it's looking pretty good. And I hope this will be encouraging for anyone facing this procedure.
The Importance of a Healthy Diet
We're often asked what we'd like to tell our younger selves. And, of course, mine would be to tell young me to "stay out of the sun!" But thankfully, I did do one thing right — and that's eating the Mediterranean way. This plant-based diet (full of fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil) is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. I believe these foods have helped mitigate the dumb decisions I made. And considering the extreme amount of time I spent baking myself, I'm lucky I didn't turn into a prune!
These sheets can be cut to size and are reusable.
This is an excellent supplement for any sun worshiper.
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References PubMed - Safety and Efficacy of Oral Polypodium leucotomos Extract in Healthy Adult Subjects PubMed - Sun protection in a pill: the photoprotective properties of Polypodium leucotomos extract Synapse - Polypodium leucotomos extract: A nutraceutical with photoprotective properties National Institutes of Health - Oral Nicotinamide Prevents Common Skin Cancers in High-Risk patients, Reduces Costs