Facts are facts, Australia—we have one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world. The third most common cancer diagnosed in Australian women, it kills more young people in our country than any other single cancer. Worryingly, though survival has improved, rates of diagnosis are rising.
As members of a generation who grew up hearing ‘80s sun safety icon Sid the Seagull preach a message that captured the changing zeitgeist of the time—Slip, Slop, Slap—we’re committed to ending this deadly disease. Our goal is to encourage you to take the steps necessary to help prevent the 95% of melanomas caused by the sun. We’re talking: Daily application and reapplication of broad-spectrum sunscreen, wearing hats, sunglasses and cover-ups, finding shade during peak sun intensity hours, having regular specialist skin checks, and knowing how to stay alert to changes in your body.
It’s estimated that one person dies every five hours from melanoma in Australia, and that’s not okay. The moment to #CallTimeOnMelanoma has arrived, and we’re blowing the end of game whistle.
Let's talk about something a little unsexy for a minute—sun safety. Specifically, sun safety in relation to melanoma. Before you roll your eyes or click away (why is it so many of us would rather discuss anything else?), allow me to share a few facts. Did you know that melanoma is the most common cancer in young Australians (15 to 39-year-old’s)? How about the fact it represents two percent of all skin cancers but is responsible for a whopping 75 percent of skin cancer deaths? It's the third most common cancer in Australian women. Shocking, right? I wasn’t in the know until recently, and as you’ll discover, the reason I am now educated is quite a sad one.
A few months ago, our beloved editorial intern and my beautiful friend, Natalie Fornasier, shared that she had been diagnosed with stage IV melanoma. It was especially heartbreaking to hear, not least because Natalie is one of the kindest and most thoughtful people you could ever hope to meet, but because this is the second time she has battled melanoma. She is young—just twenty-four—but impossibly brave in the face of something so awful. Natalie is also profoundly selfless. Not only does she hold space for others to feel sorrow and grief on her behalf (how is that for brave?), she is also passionate about spreading awareness around melanoma and how best to prevent it. She knows sun safety has an image problem and she wants to use her voice to make a change.
I put it to Natalie a few weeks ago that if she was willing, we would like to create an editorial initiative across our sites to amplify her message of awareness and prevention. Natalie agreed to put her comfort aside in the interest of helping other young Australian women. She has since shared with me (and by extension, you) her story (check back tomorrow for that one), revealing extremely personal information, and offering a look into what it means to live with melanoma—no holds barred. To round out the campaign we have delved into sunscreen myths with the help of Michelle from @LabMuffinBeautyScience, asked women of all ages to share their skin cancer removal stories (plus images of the resulting scars), and created a beauty shoot where every makeup and hair product used was spiked with SPF—the resulting images from which illustrate this very post. (More on the shoot concept below.)
The images that illustrate this editor's letter were dreamt up as a way to take the notion that sun safety isn't sexy, and turn it on its head. We also wanted to show that being responsible for your skin is important for all Australian women, no matter their colouring or heritage. I hope that by depicting a range of backgrounds, and not just a single blue-eyed fair-skinned woman as many sun safety campaigns do, we will be able to relate this important information to as many people as possible. Because melanoma can happen to anyone. It is important we acknowledge this.
Our secondary intention was to a) show it is possible to find a facial sunscreen that wears well under makeup and doesn't ruin photos, and b) call out brands making SPF-spiked cosmetics. To be clear, we are not saying makeup with sunscreen provides adequate protection against UV radiation—it does not. That said, the idea of layering cosmetics with SPF over your initial sunscreen application for bonus protection is a good one. (Note: Every model featured is wearing a full dose of Dermalogica's Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF50, $104, underneath their makeup—no flashback here.)
It is my hope that the content we have created inspires you to get familiar with the facts of melanoma. I hope you get to know your skin and your body, and that you encourage your friends and family to do the same. I hope you book a skin check today. (Then put it in your calendar for next year, too.) I hope you think twice about sitting out in the sun during peak UV hours. I hope you stop skipping sunscreen and that you buy a hat and a sun shirt to protect yourself. Most of all, I hope you grasp that this type of self-care should never be put off—it can be, and is, lifesaving.
To finish, I would like to acknowledge and extend my sincere appreciation to the people and brands who kindly donated their time and services to enable this editorial initiative to come to life both on and off our sites. Sevak Babakhani, Jasmin Lo, Remington Schulz, Laura Collins, Jordan Shreeve of Inke, Kirsten Carriol of Lanolips, Neutrogena, Matteau, Ray-Ban, Avenue, Lauren Johnstone of @TheCovetCo, Daniel Goh, Amanda Bardas, Stephanie Squadrito, Emily Algar, Lauren Payne, Liana Shaw-Taylor, Michelle Lingham and Ella Jane, your support and generosity has blown me away.
And to Natalie, our inspiration and driving force, thank you for allowing us to create something of consequence.