Why half of my grandmother’s face looks 20 years older than the other half..

iscrepancy that makes the image so startling — while one side of his face looks relatively normal (if not good), the other side is so wrinkled it looks like his skin is melting off his face.

The shocking picture of a truck driver?s face went viral a couple of years ago, and the drastic differences between the 2-sides of his face made the point quite clearly: you are getting sun even when you don?t realize it. YES, even when you?re ?inside? a car.

As a huge (obsessive? Cult-like devotion? Addicted?) sun-screen user, I assumed that everyone had seen this article and photo in 2012, and obviously everyone had learned the lesson from it. But then, after an eye-opening experience with my grand-mother, I realized that like any good parable — it bears constant and frequent repeating.

My grand-mother has always hated the sun. Even though sun-screen wasn?t around for her to use during her child-hood, she was never out in the sun anyway so it didn’t rightly matter. During the summer when her grand-children were little and always on the beach, my grand-mother was the weirdo dressed head-to-toe clothing, sitting under an umbrella with a huge hat and equally large sunglasses on. Covered up this way, she could take pleasure in watching her little grand-kids enjoy the beach, without having to feel the uncomfortable burning sensation of the sun.

Even though she avoided the sun like the plague? it got her anyway.

She popped in the office the other day, and was sitting in a chair talking about something grandmother-random (some friend?s grand-child was getting remarried? A new way to freeze chicken soup? Something along those lines…) when I noticed it for the first time. This is a face that I have lovingly looked at my entire life, and it wasn?t until last week that I saw the distinct difference between the two sides of her face. The one side was beautiful and great looking for an 87-year old, and the other side was the complete opposite and it’s wrinkles had wrinkles.

grandmother face sun damageIt didn?t matter that she had avoided the sun for her whole life. Due to the fact that the damage was on the right-side of her face, I chalked this advanced aging up to the many decades she spent sitting in the passenger side of the car (she always let my grand-father drive). After 50-years of marriage, and countless cross-country car-trips, the incremental sun exposure had caught up to her.

Although her situation is the opposite of the truck-driver featured (his sun-induced aging was from decades of sitting on the driver?s side, while hers was from sitting on the passenger side) it reminded me exactly of his story.

Here are two people who probably never got noticeably ?burned? while in the car, and didn?t spend a lot of time outside purposely tanning, and yet they still bore the sign of excessive sun exposure due to innocently having unprotected skin in a vehicle. ??

?(This isn?t even touching upon the large, black, moldy-looking spot on my grand-mother?s head I also saw during the same visit. Seems ridiculous that the person who hates the sun bears the mark of drastic sun-caused aging AND melanoma.)

Seeing my grand-mother?s skin, and then re-reading the story of the truck-driver below, made me want to scream the importance of sunscreen off the roof-top of every building. Just because you are not purposely outside sun-bathing does NOT mean you?re impervious to the sun?s harm, and whether you realize it now or later ? you can?t avoid it, and all those little bits of sun damage are going to catch up with you.

New to her skin care regimen (again, sunscreen wasn’t around when she first started taking care of her skin) she?s been quickly converted into devoutly applying SPF-50 to her face, hands and neck every-time she steps foot outside of her apartment. Although sunscreen now can’t erase or undo the accrued damage from the past, it can help make sure that she is safe for now, and the future.

The Truck Driver?s Story (from the Huffington Post, truck driver pictured at top of this post.)

We are used to seeing photo damage by the sun, photo aging, every day, but I was taken aback when I saw how one-sided this was,” said Dr. Jennifer Gordon, a dermatology expert who treated McElligott, in The Daily Telegraph.

Driving has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer due to sun exposure through the windows, which do not filter UVA rays. A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology concluded more cases involved the left arm and left side of the face, according to the CBC.

McElligott’s photo surfaces as Sun Awareness Week heats up in Canada, throwing the spotlight on the dangers of UV damage and indoor tanning, particularly for minors. The Canadian Dermatology Association estimates 5,800 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year, causing 970 deaths, the CBC says.

The doctor’s orders for McElligott? Sun protection, topical retinoids, and skin cancer monitoring. Car windows can also be tinted to protect against harmful UV rays, although each province in Canada has its own regulations.

Christine Janus, executive director of the Canadian Skin Patient Alliance (CSPA), also suggests prevention is essential. For more sun damage prevention tips, check out the tips below.

Wear Sunscreen — ALL THE TIME
“Wear sunscreen constantly,” says Christine Janus, executive director of the Canadian Skin Patient Alliance (CSPA), an organization that provides support for those with skin conditions. Janus recommends wearing about three quarters of a shot glass full or as much as you need to cover exposed skin. She also says we should reapply the lotion every four to six hours if you’re going in the water or working out.

Don’t Take Risks — With Your Skin
“If your skin looks or feels different, rough like sandpaper for example, get it checked — don’t wait,” Janus says. Treatments for skin cancers exist, but the the more you expose your skin, the higher your risks are, she says.

Limit Exposure
“Limit your time outdoors and during peak hours when the sun is up,” Janus says.
Make sure when you’re outside you wear a hat. “Men should be wearing hat as well. The top spots for skin cancer for men is on their head and back,” Janus says.

Try UV Clothing Or Umbrellas
Ultraviolet clothing is also another level of protection, Janus says. There are now companies that manufacture specialized items that have a built-in UV layer. She also recommends an umbrella.