Monday, 21 July 2014

TheTrue Price of a "Good" Tan

What's the real cost of being bronzed to perfection?

So, it’s that time of year again when, if you’re lucky, you’ll be shopping for bikinis and sunglasses and looking forward to chilling out on a beautiful beach or pool-side, returning home in a week or two with that fabulous tan... but at what cost?! 

We all know how good that feels, we’ve worked hard all year round, dealt with the stresses and strains of everyday life... and we fully deserve more than a little R&R!  Lying on a sun lounger, head in a good book with the beautiful sun burning down on our skin... bliss! 

There’s no denying that a bit of a tan makes us look and feel great.  Our limbs look more slender and toned, and our skin has a ‘healthy’ glow, indeed everyone tells us how ‘well’ we look, in turn making us feel fantastic.  And the downside to beautifully bronzed skin?... well, if we’re not careful, and I mean ever so careful, some of the more negative effects of that fabulous tan may well stay with us way beyond the summer season!

On the one hand I feel this post may be a little patronising, I mean who these days doesn’t know about the massive risks of over-doing it in the sun?! Yet on the other hand, the evident naivety and ignorance of some people around sun-safety never ceases to amaze me. “Oh I never wear a sunscreen in this country, only when I’m abroad’”, "I only ever wear factor 6 or 8, well I don’t want to stop the sun getting through altogether do I?’, “I just apply once in the morning, it’s such a nuisance to have to re-apply, that stuff leaves me feeling all sticky and I’ve got better things to do on holiday”, or ... “I’m gonna go have a few sunbeds before my holidays, it’ll get my tan on its way”  Aaagghrrr!!

Despite extensive research, resulting in lots of sensible advice on a range of preventative measures, and an endless choice of really great ‘fake’ options, people continue to take unnecessary risks.  In the short-term, over-doing it in the sun will lead to de-hydration, sun-stroke, sore skin, blisters and horrendously ugly skin-shedding (attractive!).  In the longer term, too much sun will without a doubt lead to leather-like, prematurely aged skin, and can potentially, if you’re really unlucky, lead to much more sinister complications!

As someone who used to, in my younger years, carelessly allow the sun to abuse my skin with its rays (indeed I’d positively encourage the frying of my flesh by applying oil based sun ‘screens’),  I even used to partake in the activity of having the odd sunbed (a method of tanning I now strongly believe should be illegal), and having had four moles removed (almost certainly as a result of sun damage), I feel I am somewhat qualified to write this post, and to say DON’T DO IT!

I do get it, I know having a tan makes us feel great.  It makes us look great too, that is until we reach a certain age and realise that (apart from going under the knife) there is no way we’re going to reverse the effect of that sun damage on our skin – you can spot a forty plus lady who’s enjoyed a little too much sun-bathing over the years a mile off (crinkly cleavage, vertical cheek wrinkles?!)

So why risk it? Aside from the moles, I’m hoping that I ‘saw the light’ just in time – around my mid thirties – and began to take much greater care in the sun, if I hadn’t, my skin may well have started to resemble the hide of an elephant by now!

Of course, when it comes to burning, the darker your natural skin the less at risk you are (although you're by no means immune) - however the ageing effect of the sun on your skin doesn’t discriminate – you dark skinned ladies are as much at risk of premature wrinkles as the rest of us.

There are so many great ‘fakes’ out there – I know, many of you say I’m useless with fake tans, they go all streaky - but if you exfoliate, moisturise and apply carefully (not in a 5 minute rush), you can obtain some really convincing results.  My favourites are Xen-Tan Lotion (although this one’s a bit pricey). A more affordable option but still with great results is St Moriz Lotion – (use a tanning mitt so you don’t end up with orange hand palms!)  Of course, there are the gradual tanners too – the moisturisers with a hint of tan, which are great but just take a bit of building up (I like the Garnier one). And, I guess it has to be acknowledged, that with pretty much all fake tans comes ‘the smell’ – unavoidable I think ladies, however the Xen-Tan and St Moriz mentioned above, are not too bad at all.

If you need something instant, I would highly recommend Soap & Glory’s ‘Glow Getter’.  This spray on, wash off option also has a bit of coverage and is like a foundation for your legs (great if you have a few skin imperfections you like to conceal) - Rimmel do a really good instant too.

Of course, that fake tan is not a sun screen, so your additional high factor screen is still an absolute must if you're out in the sun (I always use at least a factor 30, 50 if it’s really hot) – super cool sunnies and a pretty sun hat are a really good idea too!

There’s loads of information and advice out there but, if you’re still not convinced it’s sensible to go easy in the sun, here are just two useful links you might want to check out:

Stay safe, stay beautiful!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

What a Difference Ten Years Make!

This year is quite a milestone for me in many ways,
and lately, I’ve been doing an awful lot of reflective thinking.

Between 2002 and 2004 my life was quite literally turned upside down, or at least it felt that way at the time.  During those two years my first marriage took a turn for the worst and ended in divorce, I moved house twice, changed jobs twice, began a relationship with my present husband, which outside influences were to make extremely difficult for many years to come, and I lost my dad who died suddenly of a heart-attack aged 70.  I was a single mum of two and an emotional wreck!  My confidence took a real dive and I seriously doubted whether or not I could ever pick myself up from the events of the past few years.

I think most people who knew me through these times would be surprised to hear all this.  I hid it well, and coped... on the surface!  I sorted a new home for myself and my children, successfully applied for and held down a full-time job, painted my slap on each day and faced the world with a smile, it was only those closest to me who knew differently.

Anyhow, the reason for this post is not to dwell on those bad times, but to acknowledge and reflect on how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown as a person, and how good life is feeling right now, 10 years on.  I also hope that any readers who are going through, or have been through similar events, will be able to relate to the post, and perhaps be encouraged that things can get better, given time.

I know many people face tough times, in one way or another, and mine may seem trivial in comparison to some.  However for me the events described above were life-shattering at the time and have had a profound effect on my life this past 10 years and also on the person I have become.

It has been a difficult and emotional 10-12 years for me, with many changes in circumstances, relationships and lifestyle to come to terms with, and it is only this past 12 months or so that I have really turned a corner – that’s not to say I don’t still have some way to go – the 10 year anniversary of my dad’s death this summer set me back a little, a reaction I really hadn't anticipated, I still can’t quite believe he’s gone!

This time last year, unhappy in my work, no prospects of promotion and feeling undervalued (and underpaid!), I decided, after 8 years with the same employer, to explore pastures new.  Turns out to be one of the best decisions I ever made!  My new job is not perfect by any means (is any job?) but I love it anyway, and have recently been promoted way beyond any hopes I may have had 12 months ago – so glad I went for it!

My children, despite being from a ‘broken home’ (something I have felt guilty about since their dad and I split), have turned out to be exemplary young adults, of whom I am so proud I could burst. They seem to be completely unaffected by their parents' divorce, and in fact at times see it as a total positive  (double Christmas and birthday pressies, HUGE extended family and support network etc, etc,) - Seeing what well rounded, adjusted, confident and capable young adults they've become warms my heart, and I am proud beyond belief.

Despite many difficulties, including disapproval and lack of acceptance from some around us, my present husband and I have a strong and happy, albeit sometimes turbulent (we prefer to call it passionate!) marriage.

I have managed and coped with difficult situations, as well as negative, judgemental attitudes over the past 10 years that I never in a million years thought I would have to manage and cope with, and there were times when I quite literally thought I couldn’t cope any longer!

What I didn’t realise at the time was that these events and situations would make me stronger, wiser and ultimately more appreciative of what I have in life now – that is a loving husband, wonderful children, an inspirational 83 years young mum, a cosy comfortable home, a job that I enjoy, creative hobbies including steel pan playing and blogging, a sweet natured cat, a grumpy but loveable dog, and a knowledge that I can cope... with pretty much anything.

I realise that at a mere 46 years of age, life probably has way more challenges and difficulties ahead than I have been through already.  However, I take comfort in the fact that I have lived and learned, and that I feel prepared (and in fact excited) at what life has in store for the future, good and bad – bring it on!

I would also like to add that in addition to all the above, I have, over the past 10 years or so, had great difficulty in coming to terms with my ageing face and body!  Call me vain, but the onslaught of silver hair, beginnings of bingo wings and the appearance of fine lines have caused me almost as much distress as did my divorce all those years ago (that is not to trivialise divorce, but to express the significant effect of ageing on my well-being – wow, that really does sound vain doesn’t it?!)  ;-)

But seriously, what I'm trying to say is that whilst these things did (not so long ago) fill me with horror, the 'more mature me' is something (or someone) else I have actually come to terms with and, dare I say it, am learning to love! Don't get me wrong, I will always try to make an effort to keep healthy and look after myself, but I have accepted that I am what I am, and no longer feel the need to try and achieve a Cheryl-Cole-like body, heaven knows that would involve waaay too much effort and pain!

I realise this post sounds very middle aged, and is a little more deep than my usual blog posts, but realising exactly what you've learned through experience (good and bad) and accepting yourself for who you are today (not what you were in the past) is a real revelation.  As I say, I’ve reached a bit of a milestone this year and I guess I just felt the need to share!

Thanks for reading!