‘My skin was years older than I was'
Woman's Own Lifestyle Special|Issue 6 2020
Melanie Jackson, 53, was shocked to see how much sun exposure had aged her skin. Was there anything she could do?
FRANCES LEATE/RACHEL TOMPKINS

Pulling my top over my head, I winced as I felt a burning sensation on my cheeks and forehead.

Walking over to the mirror, sure enough, I could see my face was badly sunburnt. It was the summer of 2005 and I’d just arrived in Koh Samui, Thailand, and met up with my best friend, Corinna, then 36.

Corinna was an old friend, I hadn’t seen her in more than two years and we had so much to catch up on, we’d ended up lying under an umbrella by the hotel pool chatting for hours. I’d lost track of time, and forgot all about the sun cream in my bag. Only now, I was paying the price.

As I rubbed huge handfuls of aloe vera cream on my red and sore skin, I couldn’t help but see the irony. With an Irish background – with pale, sensitive skin – I was always the first of my friends to reach for the SPF 50, making sure I was properly covered.

I moved to Singapore with my husband, Alan, then 41, a few years earlier with our two young children, Amelia and Matthew, and I’d avoid the humid 32 degree heat during the day and always wore a hat and t-shirt. But here I was now, my face like a tomato, red and sore and already blistering, and although, as the days went on, my skin eventually went back to normal, I was left with a tiny red little spot on my forehead.

Just a few millimetres wide, it didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t healing either.

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