Raising Awareness on Skin Cancer During Skin Cancer Awareness Month with Jackie Smith

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We sat down with Caci Co-Founder and Director Jackie Smith in honour of Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

Skin cancers are terrifyingly common, with Sun Smart reporting that more New Zealanders die from melanoma than die on our roads. But what is perhaps most tragic about these skin cancer statistics is that, for the most part, they are largely preventable, and if caught early, they are also usually curable.

The equation for your likelihood of developing one of these cancers is actually alarmingly simple, the more time spent outdoors with no precautions (applying SPF) the more likely you are to encounter one in your lifetime. So what can we do to prevent these stats from worsening? That is just one of the reasons that Caci Co-Founder and Director Jackie Smith started Caci Clinic in the first place, to open up the forum about skin health in a way that’s both simple and accessible.

For anyone who’s been on their own skin journey in any capacity, you’ll know that the road to perfect skin is wrought with many trials and tribulations. Conflicting evidence, overly-complicated jargon and the rise of social media have all contributed to making getting reputable skin advice a LOT more challenging than it needs to be. This was one of the barriers that prompted Jackie to take the leap in 1994, opening the country's first Caci Clinic in Newmarket.

Since then, the brand has gone from strength to strength, helping an immeasurable number of women reach their skin care goals and feel confident in their skin. One of the main priorities for all Caci Clinic employees is to share the message far and wide about the importance of having sufficient protection from sun exposure. Often women will put themselves last when it comes to household expenditure, something Jackie likens to what is known as ‘burnt chop syndrome’ when women serve the rest of the family the good chops and eat the burnt ones themselves. This can lead to them not only neglecting their skin but can also have more severe implications when it comes to cancers.

Caci boasts a comprehensive list of SPF products for sale, with something to suit all skin types. And if you’ve ever visited one of the clinics, you’ll know that this is one of the brand's most passionate ideals. Everyone should be protecting their skin with a high-quality SPF, every day, no matter what.

We sat down with Jackie to discuss her journey and the importance that sunscreen and skin knowledge plays in the prevention of skin cancer.

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Tell us a little bit about how Caci Clinic helps people to protect themselves against preventable cancers.

At Caci we are all about creating Skin Confidence. Skin Confidence is why we exist. This means that we are highly interested in doing what we can to reduce the impact of skin cancer, because in addition to the significant health impacts, it is a major compromise to skin confidence. This is why we say that “if you can only use one skin care product , you should make that product a sunscreen”. It is core to everything we do.

What would you say the main risk factors for developing skin cancer in New Zealand are, and how do you personally combat these in your day-to-day life?

New Zealand’s physical position on our world with respect to the sun, makes us all at higher risk of skin cancer, because we are exposed to more UV light than many other countries. There are 2 parts to sun (or UV) exposure that contribute to skin cancer. The first is how frequently you are burned by UV light and the second is your total exposure to UV light. Most people are aware that sunburn increases the risk of skin cancer, but they are not aware that daylight itself is a contributor too. So the more exposure you have, the more you are at risk of skin cancer. Farmers, sailors, roading crew are all exposed to high total UV over a life time.

What are your main recommendations for preventing skin cancer?

Effective protection methods are well established. Wear sunscreen on your exposed skin all year round. Cover up (hats and clothing) and choose the shaded option when you can.

If someone has a blemish, mole or bump on their skin, what would your recommended course of action be?

If in doubt you should always consult your doctor, especially if the mark is new or has changed in any way.

What’s your go-to SPF product and why?

I’m pretty pedantic about sunscreen, so I keep a tube or a bottle, in my kitchen, in my car, in my desk – everywhere I can think of, so that I don’t get caught out. And so that I have it at hand to pass on to others. In the morning I use a moisturiser with SPF and then apply a sunscreen. It is always best to layer sun protection because most people don’t apply a generous enough amount.

Our Sunscreen Picks:

Skinsmiths Daily Antioxidant Defence SPF30
This sunscreen has a completely sheer coverage that doubles as a day moisturiser with multi-layer hydration to plump and smooth skin while providing protection against UVA/UVB rays without leaving a white cast on the skin.

Murad City Skin Broad Spectrum SPF 50 PA++++
This ultra-light, 100% mineral sunscreen shields your skin against UVA/UVB damage. The formula absorbs quickly with no ashy residue and leaves a luminous, pearlised finish on the skin.

When you started Caci Clinic, did you have a clear idea of the main messaging you wanted to get across in regards to skin health? How did sun exposure come into these?

I am a registered nurse so the health impact of what we offer at Caci is always top of mind. This dictates our approach to skin care in general and our message that all skin care starts with sun protection. There is no point in spending money on other products or treatments unless you learn to sun protect.

What is the best piece of sun-smart advice you’ve ever received?

Find a great brimmed hat that makes you feel terrific when you wear it. Hats are like jeans – you have to try on an awful lot to find the one that works for you. Keep trying and don’t give up! When you find that hat – make sure you wear it!

What’s one thing you wish everyone knew when it comes to skin health?

Your skin is a really important part of your immune system. So UV light doesn’t just affect the surface and look of your skin, but it compromises your body’s immune system.

What has been the most rewarding part of your Caci Clinic journey?

Skin problems can be surprisingly confidence sapping, yet our society often tells us that caring about skin is superficial. We know that it is not superficial. Every day we get stories from our network about how what we do changes the trajectory of customer’s lives in a good way. We love those stories! They are incredibly rewarding. So for women in particular a regular skincare ritual can become a little piece of self-love in a world where they put everyone else first.

When you see a facialist regularly and they know your skin well, does this help in identifying abnormalities that we may not notice on ourselves?

Indeed it can. Fresh eyes are always good, because we get so used to seeing ourselves. It also pays to remember that skin cancers can appear in the most unlikely places, not just sun exposed skin. Look for lesions or marks everywhere on your skin - on the soles of your feet, between your toes, in your hair, under finger nails, even on genitals.

A quick guide to hormones
In this article we will cover:

Be SunSmart

New Zealand can have strong levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Learn more on how to keep safe while still living life in the sun.

Learn more

Be SunSmart

New Zealand can have strong levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Learn more from sunsmart.org.nz on how to keep safe while still living life in the sun.

Learn more

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