I don't want you to think that I'm hung up on skin in this Preview of Coming Distractions, but hey, skin is the largest organ in the human body. Here in California, we show a lot of it, not that there's anything wrong with that. But that means you'll need to take into account two things: sunscreen and hats.
I didn't use sunscreen when I was younger. There wasn't sunscreen, except the white zinc oxide used only by lifeguards. As a result, the sun -- that big, bright, beautiful ball of radiation -- did a number on my skin that I'm now seeing in my later years. Small, reddish spots appear on my hide, or rough patches. My dermatologist tells me that these are keratoses: -- sun damage that, if left untreated, could turn into something more serious, like cancer. So twice a year she zaps my fair Teutonic skin with what looks like the kind of blowtorch that chefs use to brown creme brulee. Actually, the blowtorch contains liquid nitrogen. It freezes my keratoses off. Not all that pleasant while it's happening, but necessary.
And now I wear sunscreen, of course. So should you -- at least SPF 40 or above, I'm told. It should prevent any further damage to your tender epidermis. Doesn't do a thing for the damage already done, unfortunately. It's cumulative. The keratoses will continue to appear, like reminders of good times gone bad.
Sometimes, the spots turn out to be basal cell carcinoma. That's actual cancer. It requires surgery to remove, but dermatologists and plastic surgeons today are very good at that. I show no scars, nor should you.
The worst kind of skin cancer is melanoma. Hope you never get it. Use that sunscreen. Have all suspicious spots looked at by a pro.
And hats. You may be noticing that the hair on your head isn't as thick as it once was. If it's there at all. Wearing hats outdoors will keep the sun off that pate of yours. Wide-brimmed hats keep the sun off your ears, too, which are often overlooked targets for sun damage (as are the backs of your hands). Wearing baseball-style caps the right way keeps the sun off your face, at least. Wearing them backwards does nothing except make you look somewhat dim.
And I mentioned in a previous post that I wished I'd invested 10 years ago in a company that would make body lotion for men's dry skin. Missed that window of opportunity. But today I'd like to suggest someone invent a leave-in hair conditioner that has a 40 SPF. Rub it on your head, it makes your hair behave and keeps your scalp safe from the sun without a hat. I'd invest in that. Let's get rich together.
Preview of Your Coming Attractions
When I retired after 40 years of writing columns for the San Jose Mercury News, I figured I'd said about all I could say. Wrong. I've realized that at age 76, I'm about 10 years older than the oldest baby boomers, who are now turning 66. My very average body has had a lot of experiences in those 10 years. I've learned a lot that could be helpful to people just starting on that same path -- what to do, what to avoid, what to keep an eye on.. Consider me your canary-in-the-coalmine for the boomer generation. Tune in regularly for the heads-up advice.