“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty. Life shapes the face you have at thirty. But at fifty you get the face you deserve.” The tongue in cheek quote is attributed to Coco Chanel, the French fashion designer and creator of the ubiquitous fragrance Chanel No. 5. But now that nature is upside down and the planet is warming, maybe by 30 we’ll all get the faces we deserve. Or did we deserve them after all? Industrialization, deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions did increase the likelihood of global warming. But at an individual level, one may feel cheated out of not being able to lie outside and enjoy the warmth of the sun so carelessly as our ancestors used to do.
Sun bathing and sun tanning are actually relatively new fads; instinctively we always avoided the warmest hours of the sun if we could, but in the last century a tanned skin rose as the status symbol of someone that does not need to be locked in a factory or office (a.k.a. work), as opposed of the previous thousands of years when agriculture and farming were worked by hand and having a tan was the sure sign of coming from working class. Now with climate change, such tan is costing even more than work hours: is becoming a health risk.
Members of the population with the fairest skin should be even more careful. According to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety of Northern Ireland, “increased exposure to sunlight outdoors may lead to a rise in skin cancers. Any health effects will depend on the exposures of UVR received by the population, and this will depend on a combination of the levels in the environment and patterns of behaviour. Climate change can be expected to affect both of these. For example, decreases in summer cloud cover would be associated with increases in UVB radiation. This could have a disproportionate impact on outdoor workers who would face increased UVB exposure. Other predicted changes in the climate, such as increases in sunshine, reduction in precipitation, and higher temperatures, would be likely to favor patterns of behavior in the general population involving more outdoor activity, lighter clothing and greater exposure to the sun.” In their Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy and Action Plan 2011-2021 they also highlight the effects of the ozone layer depletion on skin care: “Also as ozone levels are depleted, the atmosph ere loses more and more of its protective filter function and more solar UV radiation reaches the Earth’s surface. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that a 10 per cent decrease in ozone levels will result in an additional 300,000 non-melanoma and 4,500 malignant melanoma skin cancer cases globally each year.” More optimistic scientists at Nasa predict that the ozone layer is stabilizing, but still it would take about more sixty years to fully recover.
The best step for skin care and avoiding dark spots and cancer skin is prevention: avoiding sun in its strongest hours, wearing sunscreen and hats. But if you already have dark spots in your skin, you must watch and observe if such spots change appearance. If so, there’s a risk that they are a sign of skin cancer and should be removed by a doctor. If your dark spots are just bothering you for aesthetic reasons and there’s no immediate cancer risk, there are some home made solutions and doctor prescriptions that can help remove them.
Judith Sakhri writes and teaches yoga in San Francisco. She gives away her recipes at thatbraziliangirl.com and has just finished her first novel, “Catching Red Herring.”