Summer is especially welcome this year in the northeast after six months of excruciating winter. We’re all looking forward to feeling the sun on our skins. It’s a happy time. But this summer I can’t help thinking about someone we lost last year. Someone who was very special in our community and died of melanoma at the age of 39. Her name was Trinity Raifstanger; she was beautiful and beloved. She was also extraordinarily brave and demonstrated that bravery in her determination to tell her story in the hope that it would help others. These are her words:
“I was young. I loved makeup and hairspray and watched “Who’s the Boss” for Sam’s fashion advice. I also loved a good tan. There was nothing that a little sun-kissed look didn’t help. It made you look… healthy. And living in New England, you were limited to just a few short months of warm weather, so the next best thing was to fake and bake. Just about everyone I knew did it. I even remember going with my mother when I was in high school to get a base for our Florida vacations because having a base would ensure not getting a burn on vacation. Burns were bad, right? And 15 minutes in a tanning booth versus hours of time on the beach surely had to be better for you, right? If only I’d known. Tanning beds are straight UVA rays. (These are the rays that go deeper into the skin than UVB rays.) We were led to believe that UVA was safer because it didn’t burn our skin.
Here I am, a 39-year-old mother of three beautiful children, an incredible husband, and a life filled with love, support and promise. And here I am with Stage IV melanoma cancer in my liver and brain.
Melanoma occurrence has gone up 700% since the 1970’s, the same time tanning beds hit the scene. They now have studies that show 15 minutes in a tanning bed is equivalent to an entire day in the sun. Boy, were we misled.
So, is that golden tan really worth the risk? I have been through treatments that have made me gain 30lbs in a week from capillary leakage. I lost my mind and hallucinated. I’ve lost my hair and I am preparing to lose it again. My skin has been burnt, surgically cut into, and insanely speckled with moles. I’ve had conversations with my children asking me that if I died, “Why can’t we die with you?” Surely, a tan can’t be worth any of that?!
Learn from me. Make my experience worth something. Get an annual full-body scan, a good sunscreen and sign up for a spray tan.
Love to you, Trinity”
Trinity died on November 5, 2014. On a bitterly cold night, hundreds of people waited outside for two hours to pay their respects to her family.
It is so typical of Trinity to want to turn her suffering into something positive. I’m hoping that her words will make a difference especially to those young women who are the most vulnerable to UVA damage. I know that sunscreen language can be confusing and over the years I’ve tried to sort it out for you although it’s a moving target with different rules and language appearing at a dizzying rate. Currently, all sunscreens in the US must protect from UVB and UVA rays. However, unlike the rest of the world, the FDA does not allow an indication of how much UVA protection your sunscreen contains. You will only see the words “broad spectrum.” The SPF rating refers to the amount of UVB protection in your sunscreen. An SPF 15 protects from 93% of UVB rays.
You do not get double protection from an SPF 30. In fact, you only get an extra 4%. UVB rays are at their most potent in the middle of the day. UVA rays have equal intensity throughout the day. The higher the SPF the larger percentage of sunscreen chemicals have to be put in the formula. You will only get the protection that’s advertised if you apply according to the directions and reapply frequently throughout the day.
We don’t use chemical sunscreens. We use physical sunscreens, Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. They lay on the skin like hundreds of thousands of little mirrors reflecting and refracting the sun’s rays. Our sunscreens are also water resistant to 40 minutes. We’ve tested our UVA ratings. All of them have a rating of medium except for Powder-Me SPF which has a rating of high. We all think we look healthier with a tan but a tan is the sign of the body’s attempt to protect itself after the damage has been done. I hope this helps. The main thing to remember is that there is no such thing as a healthy tan.
Talk to you soon,
President and founder of Iredale Mineral Cosmetics