Sun safety

Living the Airstream life means being outside more and enjoying our great outdoors. It also means increased exposure to the natural elements, including sunlight. Having fun in the sun brings immediate happiness, but it can also take a cumulative toll on our skin and bring discoloration, pain, premature aging, wrinkles, lesions, cancer, and sometimes death.


Last year I noticed a few skin lesions on the left side of my face, so I had them checked by my dermatologist. I had limited improvement with hydrocortisone, but they did not go completely away. Last week my biopsy results indicated that the largest lesion is actinic (solar) keratosis (AK), a skin growth caused by exposure to sunlight. This can be the first step in the development of skin cancer and needs to be treated. As I write this, I am on day 2 of a two week course of applying a 2% solution of Fluorouracil (an antimetabolite) directly on the lesion. During this period the lesion will become inflamed leading to a crusty scab that will slough away and be replaced with new, and hopefully, healthy skin.


(The largest lesion is the reddened vertical area about an inch from my mustache; the red spot is the shave biopsy site)

I’ve read that during the treatment phase, I can expect some discomfort and an unattractive face. I’ll spare you the day-by-day pictures, but for those who would like to see the process and one man’s interesting story with photos, click here. (Keep in mind he was using a 5% cream.) I also found this article on actinic keratosis helpful, along with this one.

Our skin plays a wonderful role in protecting our body, and, as you can imagine, I’m quickly learning the importance of protecting my skin. I highly recommend that you take a moment to click on and watch this excellent, You Tube video clip, Sun Safety Tips, which tells how to protect yourself (seek shade, cover up and use sunscreen).  This one, Safe Skin, shows how to recognize skin changes that you should see your doctor about.

I am learning that studies show that sun damage to skin accumulates over time and that 80% is thought to occur before the age of 18. (When I was growing up, we used suntan lotions and oils for that even tanned (well-cooked) look.) I am also learning that ultra violet rays can pass through clouds, and bounce off sand, snow and other surfaces and strike us, even if we are in shade. Thinning of the ozone layer may be allowing more of these rays to reach us. And I am at greater risk because of my fair skin and blue eyes.

So, I will try to avoid a sunburn by applying a good broad-spectrum sunscreen, SPF 30 or higher, during our next scheduled outing at South Carlsbad State Beach, CA, after Labor Day. While living the Airstream life, it’s easy to forget to apply sunscreen, as seen in Rich Luhr’s Tour of America post, “Airstream life on the Sea of Cortez” (but you’ll see in one of the post’s photos, that Rich keeps his hat nearby).

Observing sun safety is one way to continue enjoying living the Airstream life longer. And while I’m wearing this hat, I’d like to introduce a delightful tune, “The Sun Has Got His Hat On”, by the Cafe Society” and another version (Ambrose & his Orchestra, 1932).



  1. Janet says

    Very useful article, and well written, as usual.
    Be sure that your sunscreen is both UVA and UVB resistant, and reapply it lots during the day (I know you know this…) and if it doesn’t have a fairly significant % of zinc or Mexoryl SX (recently approved by FDA for US use, but easily found in Europe–La Roche -Posay has a good one called Anthelios XL Lait, with an SPF of 50) it won’t be effective for both, and it will lose its effectiveness when exposed to the sun…A real glitch for us fair ones!
    Best of luck with speedy healing.

  2. says

    Oh my. I hope everything turns out well…goodness. My father and I have been known to sit at the beach totally dressed, under umbrellas with sunscreen on…ugh, it’s that Irish skin (and light hair and blue eyes myself) I am worried what’s up for me as I’ve lived in AZ more often than not, and sometimes I haven’t worn sunscreen…


  3. Bill D. says

    You’re right, Sadira, we, with our fair, Irish skin, put ourselves more at risk by living in our great Southwest. So, while we love to live here, we also need to be kind to our skin by taking precautions as mentioned above.

    My article above contains numerous links to very informative and useful information for anyone concerned about taking care of their skin. And frankly, from my recent crash course on this subject, we all should be very concerned about the effects of the sun on our skin.

    Thank you so much, for your well-wishes, sharing of your concerns, and continued support by commenting here and on my previous articles… it’s always very much appreciated!

  4. admin says

    I don’t care what anyone says, Bill, you still look as handsome as ever!

    And yes, we did wear sunscreen and hats when exploring the Great Sand Dunes this week.

  5. Bill D. says

    Thanks,admin, but you might not say that after seeing the 2 inch, semi-circular red area on my face with white whiskers growing through (the dermatologist said not to shave over the area).

    The treatment is just about half over and the main discomfort, so far, is looking into the mirror. I may have to resort to wearing that Tiki mask, seen in my letter to the Inbox, pg.8, Airstream Life magazine, Fall 2008 issue.

    And yes, I looked closely, and was pleased to see your family wearing hats as you hiked the dunes.

  6. says

    I always run around with my hats Bill. 🙂 The best part, they’re super stylish. Admit it, you love my Tilly hat!

    Here in AZ you’ve really got to watch it with the sun too.

    Glad you’re doing well. Round up a cool collection of hats!

  7. Bill D. says

    Author’s update

    In 2009, a lesion on the bridge of my nose turned out to be squamous cell carcinoma and was removed by Mohs surgery.
    I have had regular dermatology check ups and this lesion lesion has never returned.