Protect Yourself


Just because it's Labor Day weekend and we're diving into back-to-school season does not mean you should retire your SPF. Ellie Campagna [2], a 26-year-old London-based stylist, emailed us with a story about her own brush with melanoma, and the products she now uses to cover up. As all of us at ITG have, we suggest you take note. 

"It’s a familiar scene: new friends or colleagues watch me reach for my pocket-sized Nivea Sun Kids SPF 50 High Protection, cover up with my trusty blazer/cotton cardigan/long-sleeved blouse, or opt for the shady side of the street, and they just assume that I’m being fastidiously English (“belt-and-braces” proper about my sun protection!). But the truth is sunbathing, for me, is out of the question. I had skin cancer.

People always ask: how did I notice? How did I know? In truth, I didn’t. I was extremely lucky: brushing away what appeared to be a piece of lint from my foot after a morning shower, I discovered a new, black mole. Eight weeks later—after dermatologist, diagnosis, consultant, surgery, and a skin graft—treatment was over. I was extremely fortunate. Although mine was the most life-threatening form of skin cancer, the melanoma that appeared on my left ankle [3] was detected and removed early.

Thanks to good genes, I’d always been able to get away with a simple skincare routine, but my shocking diagnosis changed the game: I wanted to take better care of myself, I needed to. (I'd rarely spent time in direct sun as it was, and certainly not tanning.) It may have been easily treatable at Stage 1—a “thin” melanoma—but cancer is cancer. It didn’t feel “easily” anything. In our twenties, we feel largely invincible; youth is on our side, we’ve got time, we bounce back...

After my treatment and some soul-searching, my doctors encouraged me to get on with living; I mustn’t be burdened by the fear of being exposed to the sun. And it’s taken some trial-and-error, seeking the right sun-protection products in a crowded market, but I’ve found a few steadfast favorites. Finding a good face lotion with SPF proved hardest and it was only late last year that I found the one for me: Clarins UV PLUS HP oil-free SPF 40 Day Screen High Protection (now modified to include cantaloupe-melon extract, which lends the fluid a delicate peachy tint). I wear it every day over my moisturizer and before makeup. Now, two years in, sun care feels no different than any other part of my daily routine."

—Ellie Campagna

Some of the products Ellie recommends: 

Clarins UV PLUS HP oil free SPF 40 Day Screen High Protection

Lancôme Bienfait Aqua Vital (also available in SPF 30)

Dior Diorskin Nude Natural Glow Crème-Gel Makeup, SPF 20 in 020 Light Beige

Clarins Daily Energizer Lotion SPF 15 (I use this when I travel and apply just before getting off the plane)

Nivea A Kiss of Protection Lip Care SPF 30 (I wear this when the sun is strong like a block, over my everyday lip balm)

Eve Lom Hand Cream SPF 10

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Paulina Bilda

    This story should make many of people think about REALLY using sunscreens. Cause melanoma not only happens in elderly age...

  • katemossdaily

    Proper SPF is super important. No one wants to go back to school looking like a lobster!

  • VotreAmie

    Wow. Major reality check. Thanks for sharing this story.

  • kate

    While cancer is no joke that is one cool looking scar,it looks like the moon!

  • Katie

    can someone CC Snookie on this?

  • Josef Šlaich

    Really touching story. I got few moles removed few years ago. I was lucky enough it wasn't cancer but you never know. I never leave the house without SPF 50 now.

  • Dianna

    Wow - major reality check. I always include SPF in my routine but I know myself of slacking off - not re-applying, not applying enough, etc. In terms of favorite products... For me it is without a doubt Josie Maran's Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF 40 - only the physical barriers (Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide), complemented with Argan Oil, Pomegranate Oil, and Jojoba Oil. No chemicals, feels great and oils actually get pretty absorbed into a normal type of skin.

  • Ash

    Great article! I always, always slather on SPF when outdoors for this very reason.
    Side note: Ellie, your lip color is divine- would you mind sharing what it is?

  • Andrea

    ahh i am obsessed with sun protection..i would never leave the house without one!

  • Donnarino

    I, personally have known three people with skin cancer, one of whom died as a result, and in all three cases the moles/lesions were found on their legs. And while I apply sunblock daily to my face, arms, chest and back (I bike to work everyday often in tanks and summer dresses) I have to admit I rarely apply it to my legs and feet.

  • Kathy

    Thank you SO much for this post! I am vigilant about my sunscreen application, but unfortunately I cannot say the same thing about my friends! Will definitely be emailing this post around...

  • Mimi

    I feel like I was reading many of my own words in this post. I too had stage 1 melanoma in my 20's and it scared the hell out of me. I think its crazy that sooooo many people brush it off when i tell them what I had, and say "oh yeah, my aunt/uncle/grandma has those things removed from his/her face all the time, no big deal." What they dont know is what their aunt has removed so often is basil or squamous cell carcinoma and, yeah, those aren't so life threatening. Melanoma is not so forgiving and I can't believe that with all the info about it floating around in magazines every summer, that a large majority of people STILL don't really know what it is or the severity of it. Thanks for posting, hopefully more and more people will start realizing that skin cancer (especially melanoma) is serious.

  • charlotte bentley

    This is a great post. I can't tell you how many of my friends and girls around my age think that if they don't have a tan, they aren't "hot". Addicted to tanning beds, sitting in the sun sans block, etc. It is scary when they already have age spots at 21! As a makeup artist, I tell everyone how important it is to apply in the morning to hands and face (and chest, any other exposed areas) before makeup (that also should have SPF, if possible). A lot of people complain about the texture, but Josie Marans SPF 40+ has no weird residue and smells absolutely gorgeous. It's not to say that a little color doesn't look great (that you get after wearing AT LEAST SPF 30 for a week on the beach), and I do agree that a little vitamin D is a great thing, but you can still get a little color wearing sunblock, and so many girls just are so ignorant because UBER TAN has become the norm. I do think the societal view of tans is changing, and the tootsie-roll color is going out of style. But this is a great word of warning.
    Enough of my rant! I love her dark lipstick and gorgeous hair color and texture.


  • Ari

    I've got incredibly oily skin and live in a humid environment (so I have to powder my face multiple times during the day). My skin is also incredibly sensitive, so even non-comedogenic creams and lotions cause me to break out. Any suggests for powders that contain SPF? Or maybe refreshing facial sprays that might have some sun protection?

  • Beautyidealist

    This is a great post, and very fitting for Labor Day weekend when many folks will be out under the sun to enjoy the last bit of summer. I use a antioxidant + SPF combo as I read SPF alone doesn't prevent all damage. Right now my combo duo is Sunday Riley Cashmere SPF 30 + YULI Liquid Courage Antioxidant Serum layered under which keeps my sensitive skin from irritation, redness, and sun damage.

  • freudianslippers

    marie veronique organics has the best face sunscreen, hands down, in my opinion. and i've used quite a few (and have extremely picky skin). it's expensive, but it's tinted and sooo worth it.

  • Lola

    Thank you so much for posting this - I suffer exactly the same "English" jokes every time I put on a huge hat, sunglasses and factor 50 in the UK, but especially with fair English skin (mine is a delicate shade of blue and very freckled) it can only take a minute or two to burn and as for 'tanning', forget it. I can't wait for the current trend for tanning to pass and I love that ITG features so many pale and lovely girls. Ellie I'm so glad you managed to catch your melanoma in time and thank you for sharing your story.

    As far as sun screens go - I use Jason Family factor 45 on my body (nice natural ingredients and smells divine), La Roche Posay Anthelios factor 50 on my face abroad (particularly good as it helps with photosensitivity as well) and Lush's British Nanny (factor 30) in the UK on cloudy days (so, pretty much every day!) as well as keeping a hyper-vigilant check on my many thousands of moles and freckles.

  • Tania

    I too had melanoma at 25. It took me completely by surprise as I was always cautious when in the sun and was not into tanning beds. It just goes to show that you can never be too careful. If you have a mole that looks any bit suspicious do take the time to get it checked. I was lucky enough to have it caught at a stage two. And unlike common areas it was on the back of my arm. Unfortunately I wasn't left with a cool scar like someone mentioned about Campagna. :(