THE BLOG
08/07/2013 12:19 pm ET Updated Oct 07, 2013

Avoiding Sun Spots Over 50

Laurie Ember

It's 102 degrees out and I'm wearing a long-sleeved shirt. I don't want to be wearing a long-sleeved shirt, but it's also relentlessly sunny in Los Angeles and, according to the dermatologist, I should be staying out of the sun.

I don't want to stay out of the sun. It's not like I'm bathing on the beach with a reflector and baby oil. It's not as though I lie out in the backyard in my bikini, unsnapping the top so there will be no tan line.

No, I like to be outside because it makes me happy. Can I help it if the outside comes with sun?

When I took my teenage daughter to the dermatologist, he was quick to point out that if she used the products he prescribed as a daily regimen, her skin would clear up and also, she would not have the sun damage that he sees so frequently in his older patients. He said this looking at me.

He then walked over and scrutinized my face and my arms.

"You need to be careful how much sun you get," he warned. "Even sitting in your car, you get a good deal of exposure to UV rays," he said.

I'm getting skin damage while driving? I don't even have a convertible. WTF?

"I have so many patients in their 80's and 90's whose skin is now paper thin," he continued. "Sun damage. But you can avoid that by limiting your exposure," he said.

If I live to be 80 or 90, I think that paper-thin skin will be the least of my worries.

He lifted my forearm and inspected it, for my benefit or for the benefit of making his point, I am not sure.

"See this?" he motioned my daughter over. They both peered at my arm. I peered at it, too.

"See these blotches?" he consulted with my daughter, his newfound colleague. She nods, unsure whom to support here.

"Sun spots," he confirmed, sharing his disappointment in me with my daughter.

"You really should cover up when you are outside. A wide-brimmed hat and long sleeves. Like this," he said, moving his doctor's coat aside and showing me that he was, indeed, wearing long sleeves in the record-breaking heat.

Only a man would suggest to a 50-year old woman that she wear long sleeves on a hot day. There seems to be a severe disconnect in his understanding of the female metabolism. But he is a dermatologist and cares only about the skin. Hormones are for a braver man.

"Don't you get hot?" I asked him. Who the hell wears long sleeves during a heat wave?

"You can get these great long-sleeved shirts that aren't hot," he told me.

I looked at him incredulously.

"These days," I explained, "My temperature regulation isn't exactly normal. I can't imagine wearing long sleeves in this weather."

"Well, then limit your time in the sun and only go outside before 8 a.m. or after 4 p.m.," he said.

Are you kidding me? Spend the whole day inside? I looked at my daughter for support. It's summer and she's not even awake before 8 a.m.. She commiserated with me.

"Not my preferred times to exercise," I said. "Doesn't really work with my schedule," I added, in defense of my poorly-planned days.

"Then go to the gym," he said.

"I like exercising outdoors," I told him.

"Then cover up and use a zinc-based sunscreen. I have it here. That will help to keep the damage from accelerating," he said. And off he went to write something in his chart.

When I got home, I scrutinized my face and body in front of the mirror.

Thanks for the pep talk.

I was stubborn for a while. I wore sleeveless tops when I walked and sleeveless tops when I ran and I put on the store-bought, non-zinc-based sunscreen I had always used. I didn't need his unsolicited advice.

But within a week or two of the intense summer sun, I began to notice that my arms and face were gathering more red and brown spots and that the skin on my breastplate was starting to... wrinkle? Was it wrinkling?

I got depressed. I wore a hat. I slathered myself in the zinc-based sunscreen. But I was busy and didn't have time to buy the cool-in-temperature-but-not-in-appearance long-sleeved shirts.

Enter my husband.

"Look," he said to me one day, after I had been complaining about how the dermatologist had made me feel guilty about going outside. "They have these great shirts that are supposed to be comfortable. You can order them online."

I followed the link he sent me and put a few shirts in my cart. On checking out, though, I saw that shipping was $15. $15? I'd just wait and someday get to the store.

A week went by. Then two. Exercising outdoors had been my stress relief. Now it was causing me anxiety.

"I'm ordering them for you," my husband finally said.

"But the shipping cost!" I whined.

"Worth it," he said, pressing SUBMIT on the checkout page.

A week later the shirts came. I tried them on and they were comfortable and not at all bad looking.

"I got them in colors I knew you would like," he said, smiling.

He was right. I did like the cheerful purple, berry, lavender, and sea breeze.

"I also got you some more zinc-based sunscreen," he said.

I liked that, too. It was all very romantic, when you think about it. I guess he didn't want me to end up looking like a shriveled prune. I found joy in the realization that he still thought about my looks and that he intended to be with me 30 or 40 years from now.

So, it's 102 degrees, and I'm walking my dogs in a wide-brimmed hat and a colorful long-sleeved shirt.

"Aren't you hot?" my neighbors each ask me as I pass them on the street.

Yes, I am.