In Southern California, Beauty and Sun Do NOT Work Well Together!

ALPERN AT LARGE--Human nature can be a funny and peculiar thing, in that it brings out both the goodness and stupidity in each and every one of us (myself included).  California, particularly Southern California, is so overcrowded in large part because of the sunny weather and the presumed "beauty" that abounds with, and is associated with the sun. 

Yet we're living longer, and we're getting smarter, and more health conscious, and the era of getting sun exposure (or being tan from sun exposure) as a way to achieve health is appropriately being confronted and reversed. 

Enter Kentucky nurse Tawny Willoughby, a great person and a wonderful and brave individual to admit her past mistakes with tanning beds and the impacts it had on her health--by posting a selfie of herself while being treated for sun-induced skin cancer/changes at the ripe old age of 27, she makes the case like few others can, and is impacting behavior.  

It's safe to say that most men and women would objectively consider Ms. Willoughby to be an above-average attractive woman, and presumably above-average intelligence to boot in that she is a nurse, but her selfie and her admission of what her tanning bed exposure and skin cancer treatment shows that she is above-average in her courage and her caring as well.

So let's take a good look at her pretty face, and compare her to Taylor Swift's pretty face as well:

 Both women are beautiful, and much of their beauty lies in their even, white/porcelain skin.  Many women forget big time to protect their chest and the back of their arms (Friend Reader, please look at the back and undersurface of your arms and see the difference...I'll wait). 

Think that it's only for Caucasian women to have their color even?  Think again! 

Halle Berry is also beautiful, and emphasizes that sun protection as well as cleansing and moisturizing is critical to maintain beauty

Notice how the face, neck, and "V" of the chest are all one color?  Whether it's a porcelain, olive, or ebony skin, the "beauty factor" goes way UP when one uses sun protection, and is INDOORS IF AT ALL POSSIBLE between 10 and 3, and/or uses and reuses sunscreen when outdoors on a regular if not daily basis.   

And that means not just the face but the ears, neck and chest and arms/legs, too.  Aaaaaaaand the scalp for those of us male baldies ... and even those females with thinning hair (roughly 50% of the ladies encounter that starting in their late 20's....sorry, my beautiful female friends!).  If need be, spend some bucks and buy a glamorous or cute hat that accessories your awesome looks! 

But back to Ms. Willoughby, the hero in all this.  It appears that either topical/applied chemotherapy and/or laser treatment has been done to the precancerous and invasive cancers of her otherwise beautiful face.  This is all avoidable, and much of it has to do with redefining beauty: 

1) Be who you are--ivory, jade, olive, or ebony--you're beautiful and gorgeous if you're even-toned, and the natural look that Mother Nature gave you.  Ditto for freckles--truly cute--but it does mean that you're more prone to sun damage. 

2) Strong bones yes, skin cancer and wrinkles no: Take 1000 International Units of Vitamin D3 every day to ensure bone health.  There's an explosion of Vitamin D shortage as we spend more time indoors in front our workscreens or devices, but that's no reason to go outdoors for sun-induced Vitamin D formation when a daily vitamin pill will do the trick. 

3) Think you're too dark for skin cancer?  Think again!  Certainly fair-skinned individuals are more prone to it, but Asians and Latinos and even African-Americans are often diagnosed way too late with skin cancer because they presume their ethnicity prevents them from getting skin cancer.  Besides, the blotchy discoloration that brown-colored individuals get from the thank you! 

4) Finally, WHY do you want that tan? Spray tans ARE safe, but not protective from sunburns, but radiation/tanning-bed/sun-induced tans cause damaged skin.  The skin creates more pigment in response to radiation damage to one's skin cells' DNA...which is the same as our feet creating calluses due to excessive shoe rubbing.   

Calluses and sun/radiation-induced tanning are the same, so do you think calluses are attractive? 

Spray tans to the legs to hide veins are understandable, ladies...but you may want to remember that most guys (and many darker skinned men) are outrageously attracted to white legs and white skin. 

That "fair prince" or "fair maiden" that transcends all ethnic and geographic cultures means that being dark isn't always more attractive--unless you're naturally dark, in which case if it's even then Mother Nature made you an ebony beauty. 

So let's remember that health and beauty really do go together.  Let your beautiful skin, your beautiful mind, and your beautiful personality shine as one.


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)