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Lets Talk About Our Skin: Sun Protection and Raising Awareness

While in some countries this time of the year you have a cold weather, cloudy days filled with rain or snow, those kind of days you wish you could stay warm in bed instead of going to work or school, in other parts of the world you may find a clear blue sky, sunny days, and a great excuse to wear your favorite shorts with a tank top and sandals. Wherever you may be at, whether its cold or hot outside, everyday is important to take care of your skin and protect it against the sun. I know you’ve probably have heard this way too many times, but have you actually thought about it?

A few years ago, well, know that I think about it, almost 10 years ago (wow, time does go by so quickly!) I thought that I was invincible. I would listen to my parents telling me to wear sunblock before going outside, but the truth is I thought the most I would get if I didn’t protect myself was a bad sunburn. Not that I wasn’t aware of skin cancer, I just never thought I would get it or at least no one close to me, and yes, this is no excuse, but I hate that sunblock lotion is quite sticky and it feels like it takes forever to get absorbed. 10 years ago, a family member was diagnosed with melanoma. From that point on, my view about protection against the sun changed. 

What do you do to protect yourself from the sun? I don’t really like it when people tell me “don’t go outside, don’t go to the beach or if you do go to the beach, don’t go tanning”. Let’s get real, the probability of sun exposure is too high on daily basis, and yes, even higher if you go to the beach, but you still are going to get some degree of sun exposure wherever you might be at, and yet, most people won’t stop doing their daily activities because of it. Instead of prohibiting activities, we should teach prevention and protection methods that can be applied in our day to day, and most importantly people should be educated. They should learn about the risks, the consequences, about the why of everything. As Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”. Thus, I’ll try to explain two of the most common consequences of sun exposure and how to prevent them.

Freckles and that caramel toned tan…

I have red hair, light skin and, like most redheads, freckles on my face, on my shoulders, and on my chest… pretty much on all sun exposed areas. Some people like freckles, they think they look cute. Others don’t like them, my mom has tried to get me to use one of her facial lotions that helps clear the skin from freckles, but a few people, like me, don’t really pay much attention to them. I used to not care about my freckles until I was in med school. 

Freckles, or ephelides, are small, brown, circular shaped, flat marks or patches located on sun exposed areas of skin (face, neck , shoulders, arms, chest). During summertime they may darken and become more noticeable, but during wintertime they tend to fade or lighten up. They are usually found on fair skin people, blonds and redheads most frequently. 

How do you get them? Well, freckles are our body’s reaction to sun exposure. Once ultraviolet rays come in contact with the skin, it stimulates specialized cells in the epidermis, melanocytes. These melanocytes then increase their production of melanin, a pigment that gives the color of our skin. Usually the melanin is spread across the skin, into other skin cells called keratinocytes, which results in that caramel tone tan that we all love to have when going to the beach. However, other times the melanin is accumulated in certain areas of the skin, forming freckles. 

Why is this important? This pigment, the melanin, is produced with the purpose of reducing the damage that UV rays generate. Think of it this way: every time you go tanning, sun exposure produces lesions to your body. Yet, your body fights this back and tries to protect you. It tries to reduce these lesions by producing that tan, those freckles, that people actually enjoy. Then, the more you get tanned, the more freckles you have, the higher the probability of getting harmed by sun rays. As the World Health Organization states: “any colour change from our natural skin colour is a sign of damage and offers little protection against further damage.”

(This image was taken from : "Sun Protection: A Primary Teaching Resourcen." WHO Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data (2003): n. pag. WHO Library. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.)

When I learned how freckles and suntan were produced, I actually felt guilty. All this time I have been exposing myself to harm, while my body has been working hard to protect me. However, as shocking or scary this might make you feel, will you say no the next time you have the opportunity to travel to an exotic island, go surfing, or just to the beach? Some people will answer yes, that they wouldn’t go, but others, the majority, will think the opposite. It amazed me how my family member even after being diagnosed with skin cancer, even after overcoming this event, he wanted to be able to go to the beach with his friends. Yet, I couldn’t blame him for wanting to have a normal life back. Then, the question is, what can you do in this situation? Acceptance is the key. You can’t expect people to hide from the sun, but you can guide them, modify their lifestyle choices, so that each time they are outside, the risks are less. 

These are the recommendations:

  • Wear sunscreen lotion everyday… yes, everyday. Nowadays, thankfully, sun protection awareness has increased and products with UVA and UVB protection are available to everyone. As a consequence, lotions are no longer sticky or smelly, but more adapted to what the consumer wants and likes. Products may vary from lip balm with SPF, CC creams, makeup foundations, to body lotions with a touch of sunblock. Make sure you protect all sun exposed areas. Apply any product with a minimum of SPF 15 20 minutes before going outside (it needs time to be absorbed), and then reapply every 2-3 hours later and/or after getting out of a swimming pool.
  • Wear hats during the summer and sunglasses while driving during the day, or when going outside.
  • Avoid direct sunlight from 10 am to 4 pm… Seek shade! During this period of time, the sun rays are the strongest because the sun is at its highest point. Remember that the longer you are exposed to the sunlight, the higher the risks of lesions. Therefore, avoid tanning during these hours. If your friends want to go tanning and you know better than doing this, but you don’t want to miss the fun of spending time with your friends, you can always use protective clothing, sit under the shade of an umbrella, and make sure you have sunscreen on all areas of your body that will be exposed to the sun.
  • Avoid sunlamps and sunbeds. These methods of sun tanning use UV radiation that can damage your skin.
  • Maintain a routinely check up with your dermatologist. After observing my family member’s experience with skin cancer, I’ve realized that it is important to go to the doctor even if your aren’t sick, but just for a check up. This way, you have an up to date of your body’s health state and if there is anything wrong with it, it will be discovered at an early stage. This recommendation is more important to those persons with higher risk: fair skin people, redheads and blonds, and people with family members who have had skin cancer. 
  • Last, but no least, create consciousness about the importance of protecting your skin. As this quote states: “…Change comes from within, not from the outside”.  You, and only you, are responsible for your life choices. No matter how many times people are going to tell you do this or do that, you have the changing force. Help spread the word and inform others as well.

Finally, don’t stop here. If you want to learn more about protecting yourself from the sun, here are some useful websites:

"Brown Spots and Freckles." DermNet NZ. New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorporated, 2008. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
"Sun Protection: A Primary Teaching Resourcen." WHO Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data (2003): n. pag. WHO Library. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.

“Protecting Yourself From Sun Exposure.” Nosh Fast Facts. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2010. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.

Makeup of the Day

The other day I had an event at night so I decided to go crazy with my makeup. Let me explain this before you see the photos, or else you are going to think I’m exaggerating haha, because this look, as you’ll see, is quite simple. I usually don’t use much makeup in my everyday (hence why I said I went crazy with the makeup). I’m happy with just a black mascara and a chapstick or lip balm, no foundation, no eyeshadow, no eye liner, only that. When I go out, that’s another story. I dust off my foundation haha, pop open my eye palettes, find my most pigmented lipstick, and try my best to do my makeup as professionally as I can (I’m still learning haha). 

For this look, first I applied a foundation primer since I needed my makeup to stay together for the whole duration of the event. I used Smashbox’s Photo Finish Color Correction. I love this product, it’s super soft and not at all greasy, definitely recommended. Next, I used Diorskin’s Nude Foundation, which is my current go-to foundation. I set the foundation with Clinique’s Blended Face Powder for a matte finish. To contour my face, I used MAC’s Bronzing Powder Refined Golden tone

After I finished with my face, I focused on the eyes, which is my favorite part. First, I used the Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Primer Potion. I must say, I was amazed that at the end of the night, my eyes looked as if I had just painted them. This product is really effective! Then, I applied Urban Decay’s Naked Palette 3 Burnout eyeshadow all over my lid, which is a nice pink color with a bit of shimmer. For the outer half of the lid, I used the copper eyeshadow in the L’Oreal Colour Riche Quads Forever Bronze Eye Palette. This eye palette is incredibly pigmented and has nice rich colors. With a clean blending brush, I carefully blended the copper eyeshadow with the pink eyeshadow. Also, I added a bit of that copper color into the crease. Next, I applied the brown eyeshadow (not the darkest brown) of the same L’Oreal eye palette into the outer “v” of my eye to give it more depth. For the lower lid, I applied the copper eyeshadow, from side to side, and the brown eyeshadow in the outer half. Finally, I used the Maybelline’s Eye Studio Lasting Drama Black Gel Eyeliner to do a small wing. I find that using a gel eyeliner is easier than a pencil eyeliner. I feel that I have more control and that I can reach in-between the eyelashes. 

As for the lips, I used MAC’s Pro Longwear Lipstick in the color Till Tomorrow

*Sorry for the quality of the photos, I tried my best to find a good lighting so that the makeup could be appreciated. Also, excuse the modeling poses haha, I was trying to find the best way to show the eye makeup :P

Our own little space

Sometimes we need a little time on our own, a space to get away from all that’s going on in your life and just enjoy yourself. It’s kind of like recharging your batteries, do you know what I mean?

My little space where I can turn to when I need some “me time” is going to the swimming pool. I love swimming, I love the feeling that I get once I’m in the pool. I feel such a connection with the water: I feel alive and free, I feel at peace. All my thoughts, all my worries, are gone, as if the water just washed them away, and instead, this immense feeling of joy and happiness overwhelms my body. If I’m stressed out or angry/sad, swimming and doing excise helps burn all that.

The pool where I go is an outside swimming pool, surrounded by grass, plants and trees. Although it’s part of a gym, sometimes I like to stop and stare at the view and pretend I’m all by myself, it’s only me and the nature all around me. Specially at night, when the stars and the moon light the pool, I wonder, how can I be so lucky to be alive?

What do you like to do when you need some time off to focus on yourself?

Banana Bread Recipe

One of my all time favorite cakes, although it’s called a bread I don’t know why, is the Banana Bread. Once in a while, there is an overpopulation of bananas at my house (we have a banana tree), so what better way than to use them all for baking a banana bread. Before you go on reading, you must know I’m no chef, I’ve never taken culinary classes, I’ve only watched my mom bake cakes and too much Food Network haha. The following is a recipe I made up and here are the results (pictures included).

4 overripe bananas (you want them to be sweet, so try finding a yellow banana with no green color on its peel) 

1 1/2 cups of flour

1 cup of brown sugar

1 tablespoon of baking powder 

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg 

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup of water (you could use milk instead)

1 stick of butter at room temperature

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract 

1/4 teaspoon of orange zest

1. Preheat your oven at 300˚C. Butter and flour a baking pan and set it aside.

2. With a mechanical whisk, mix together the butter and sugar. I like to take my time doing this step. I like to stir really well until the butter turns a pale yellow color, but is still quite firm. This could take about 5 minutes or more, but don’t do this in a  hurry, take your time.


3. Once you have mixed the butter and sugar, add half of the bananas (that would be two bananas) and let the blender kind of mash the bananas and mix them well with the butter. You’ll notice that the mixture becomes thicker.


4. Add one by one the eggs. Make sure you stir everything well enough before adding the other egg. The mixture will become lighter and fluffy.

5. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla, and stir everything together.

6. Combine the flour and baking powder little by little with the mixture. I usually add part of the flour, stir really well, add part of the water, stir really well, add another part of the flour and so on. 


7. Finally, add the second half of the bananas (two more bananas) and the orange zest. 

8. Bake the banana bread for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean after inserting it in the cake. 

Berry Colored Nails: Foxy by Revlon

It seems that berry color and all similar shades are the color trend for autumn and winter. I love that tone, especially for lips and eyes. It’s the season to rock a cranberry smokey eye paired with nude lips or baby pink lips, and, if you’re in a hurry or you just don’t want to wear too much makeup, you could pull a plum lip with just a black mascara for your eyes, and it would still look great. So, following that trend, I thought I could try a dark berry color for my nails. I used Foxy by Revlon and liked the results. It’s a dark purple, similar to a plum shade, with a metallic undertone. I really liked it because it has a shimmery finish, but if you are a matte nail color kind of girl you can try OPI’s Lost on Lombard, which I was told is similar. 

Which color trends are you most enjoying for autumn and winter?