Sunscreen is supposed to shield your skin from the ultimate buzzkills of summer—sunburn, premature aging, and most importantly, a heightened risk of skin cancer. While this is a well-known fact, there are still several people who prioritize a nice golden tan over their own health and well-being. Margaret Murphy was one of them, until she found out her sun exposure had caused actinic keratoses, a skin disorder caused by UV-ray damage. (Read: Is Your Sunscreen Actually Protecting Your Skin?)
The 45-year-old mom from Dublin, Ireland, went to visit her dermatologist less than a month ago. She says she'd noticed patches of extremely dry skin years ago, but only recently had they started to spread enough to cause concern. Her doctor was quick to diagnose her with actinic keratoses and started her on treatment using Efudix, a cream that destroys cancerous and pre-cancerous cells while having little effect on normal cells.
While a cream seemed non-threatening, Murphy quickly realized that it was anything but. Within days her face became red, raw, swollen and incredibly itchy. After noticing her mother's suffering, Murphy's 13-year-old daughter suggested she create a Facebook page to show others the extent to which the sun can damage your skin.
"I thought maybe somebody will pay attention if I do it this way," Murphy told TODAY in an interview. "The sun is not your friend."
Through a serious of daily posts on her Facebook page, Murphy confesses to spending over a decade of her life tanning in an attempt to "look good." For her, sunscreen wasn't a priority and tanning beds were a great way to catch a break from cold Irish winters.
"I'd rather give birth five times than do this again," she says describing the treatment. And after 24 painful days, it has finally come to an end. It will take several weeks for her skin to heal, but her doctors have said it will be much healthier and smoother as a result.
Let this be a reminder to never underestimate the power of the sun and more importantly—to always wear sunscreen.
You can follow Margaret's entire journey and treatment on her Facebook.