Summer may officially now be over, but that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down when out in the sun, warns beach-loving Instagram star Caitlyn Paterson.
As the face of Cancer Institute NSW’s latest sun protection campaign, Caitlyn, 25, stars in a harrowing video, playing a young woman with terminal melanoma. The clip below follows her character from birth into early adulthood, touching each of life’s milestones until her time in the sun is cut short.
But in real-life Caitlyn admits she’s also had her share of sun-related scares.
We caught up with the model with 267,000 Instagram followers to find out why the campaign is so close to her heart – and hear her sobering message to other sun-worshipping Australians.
How did your involvement in this sun protection campaign come about?
I like to share positive messages I’m passionate about on my social media.
My grandpa had skin cancer. We weren’t sure if it was melanoma as he died just before getting another skin check in a car accident. I have cataracts in my eyes which I need to get removed soon before they move into the blind spot.
How regularly do you get checked for melanoma?
It’s crazy how much I cared about living for a real tan. My skin doesn’t burn easily so I would spend all day out there getting as dark as I could. My mindset has completely changed and now I wear chemical-free fake tan when I want the look. I am always wearing sunglasses now as it is quite rare for someone my age to get cataracts and I don’t want them to worsen. The doctors have told me that it is due to not wearing sunglasses enough when I was a kid. You can help prevent melanoma if you look after your skin. I get my skin checked every six months just to be sure.
Some may see your beach-themed Instagram shots as being at odds with a sun-smart message. How do you respond?
I have grown up as a beach girl and will always spend a lot of time at the beach and in the water. I’m not going to avoid being in the sun for good, I just make smarter choices now. Instead of sitting at the beach for hours in the sun tanning, not knowing the damage I was doing, I always find shade now when I go to the beach. I also always wearing sunscreen and sunnies.
Has being part of this campaign changed you in any way?
Yes, it definitely has. It was an incredible experience. I remember looking at myself in the mirror once I was out of hair and makeup and it instantly made me feel like it was real. I couldn’t help but feel scared and sad the whole time I was under that makeup. I don’t go tanning anymore. I don’t spend more than half an hour in the sun and I wear sunscreen every day and the makeup I choose contains SPF40. Filming the content really made me feel like I had cancer when the hair and makeup was on. It scared me. I want to live a long healthy life and this is the type of message that we need to all hear and spread to help prevention as much as we can.
Caitlyn’s top 5 tips and products to protect your skin at the beach:
- A wide brim hat, because it blocks out the sun best. You can get stylish ones too 🙂
- An easy spray on sunscreen with less harmful chemicals, I’m using LeTan 50plus invisible spray sport
- An easy beach cotton shirt
- If you set up an umbrella at the beach, you can enjoy and spend more time there
- Sunglasses are so important! make sure they have UV protection