This week marks the start of Skin Cancer Awareness month, and there’s nothing dermatologists want you to know more than the importance of getting an annual skin exam. In Brooke Shields’ case, that visit may have saved her life. Here, the actress shares her personal skin cancer story, and the products she relies on now to stay protected.
How did you discover you had skin cancer?
“It was actually pre-cancer, which was discovered during my annual skin exam. I get annual mole checks and so do my kids and husbands. My doctor noticed something on the top of my upper lip, and because I had been going in annually, she knew the difference and she was able to chart it. I was quite shocked. I had noticed something, but I did not attribute it to skin cancer. I thought my lips were just chapped, but it kept showing itself as a sore almost, and it was persistent.
She biopsied it, and she had to cut into my lip to get all of it, and then we found out it was something called solar keratoses. The biopsy came back benign, so she used liquid nitrogen to carve it off, but it was a bit resistant, so I had to get a second treatment, which fully removed it. It was probably about a month from the time she found it to the time my treatment was over.”
What surprised you most about the whole experience?
“What was surprising to me is that she said it probably came from damage done years and years ago. The way I grew up, you put tinfoil on an LP and then you put baby oil all over you and you went outside and baked in the sun. It wasn’t until I got older that I started religiously using sunscreen. She told me that my pre-cancer must have been from a burn I had that many years ago. As such, the idea of prevention became much more important to me, and now I wear sunscreen every day, not just on vacation or in the summer. I was one of those people who thought I didn’t need sunscreen in the winter, but these things can show up years later. How many times have you burned the tops of your feet or the tips of your ears, or your lips? Those are places we don’t tend to focus on with regards to prevention, but sunscreen is a key factor. Skin cancer is a real threat.”
What are your favorite sunscreens to wear right now?
“After I was diagnosed, my dermatologist recommended I use EltaMD broad-spectrum sunscreens every day. Right now, I’m using their UV Restore and UV Lip Balm. I look at these sunscreens like my beauty treatments; I don’t think of them in terms of sunscreen per se. Once you incorporate them into your daily routine, they do take on another meaning. I think people think, ‘I’ll use my regular beauty treatments, but then I have to put sunscreen on.’ I think there’s a thought change that needs to happen. I look at them as a cosmetic line because they’re rich, moisturizing, they feel good, and you’re getting the benefits of skin-care creams with the added benefit of sun protection.”
Do you prefer tinted or regular versions?
“I use the regular version and tinted version—the regular doesn’t have a white cast and neither one is greasy. When I use the tinted one, it’s so light that it just gives my skin enough coverage to make it look even. I love tinted sunscreen because I don’t like wearing makeup a lot.”
Does the rest of your family like EltaMD too?
“My kids are very fair-skinned and red head with light eyes, and they just burn. For their whole lives, I’ve been running after them and coating them with sunscreen because they just burn; they don’t tan. They get routine checks as well because they have a lot of freckles. They’re also going through puberty, so they won’t wear anything that’s greasy, which is why EltaMD is a good option as well.”