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Monday Essay - Sunshine Separation; how Back to You has Helped - examples from our first monday live hub, and plant based menus in the news!
20 July 2014

Deb in the shade, July 2014 Deb in the shade, July 2014

What a lovely sunny week it’s been! Which has made me think it’s time to explain what I mean when I say I’ve got photosensitive skin – we’ve all got something, right? And mine’s just a way of life, not a whinge or a ‘feel sorry for me’ plea, but something I’ve been promising to explain for a while now, so see the Monday Essay below – life with photosensitive skin!

Back to You live hub launch!

Monday’s 8-9pm till September we are asking everyone on Back to You to come log in on facebook and join us for a live online chat – the Back to You Live hub! It’s just a nice bit of banter – and last week the lovely and knowledgeable Marlene Watson Tara joined us to chat about ‘food the problem, food the cure’ – and very good it was too! I asked how Back to You had helped people and here are some of the replies! See the bottom of this blog for links to the groups.

How back to you has helped people - Results of Monday hub 

Sam Green The group has kept me thinking healthy even if not achieved it yet. Most yrs I give up my change of lifestyle by March lol but this year I'm still thinking it, and who knows - could be nearer the change I want. Always someone to advise, support or just listen. It's so special x

Margo Rimmer I am more happy that if I have a bad time I can pick myself up, dust myself off and start over. Before I would just carry on eating rubbish and give up xx

Cath Purple Oh yes, it helps! I don't contribute a lot, but read all the inspiring posts. There were some people who had managed to achieve so much and I thought if they can do it so can I! Xx  ps I also got some amazing support from some Facebook friends! X

Elizabeth Gray Lost the weight without thinking about food - when following diets I tend to obsess about food. Now I find if I stick to the motto ‘eat what I want when I want when I am hungry,’ it works – ie Freedom Eating as in Till the Fat Lady Slims book.

Monday 21st – Gill Gauntlett joining in

Monday 28th – Bruce Bodyblade tbc

Monday 4th August – Craig Rowe and Keeley from Elemis tbc

Join us tonight!


Other news –

-       Jessica Simpson’s Wedding Preparation Included a Plant Based Diet Well, there’s a turn up! Marlene discussed on last Monday’s hub how a ‘plant based, whole food’ diet is the best – now it’s made a wedding menu! Good – the more the merrier! Click here to read about it.

-       Rheumatoid Arthritis – David Gillespie’s take on how to avoid it and help stop your kids getting it too – click here to read more.

-       USA 2nd biggest cigarette producer to pay widow of chain smoker $13.8billion.- I wonder if one day we’ll start to see companies suing the sugar producers too? Check back in thirty years’ time…! Click here to see the article.

 Ps If anyone reading this column for the first time, has not yet come across all the amazing info about how nutrition can change your health, your illness, & your future, then do take a look at all the archive Back to You blogs, at the left on this page. There you’ll see regular articles explaining why it’s imperative for most people (according to the World Health Organisation) - to examine your nutrition first and foremost, if you’re poorly. Much more info and many links from members are also regularly posted on our facebook groups – do go join up!

Till then I’ll continue on my little campaign, and if you can pass on the word too – especially about sugar being toxic, all well and good.


Joining In

-          Don’t forget if you’re a member of Back to You QVC Group or of the closed group Break the Habit BTU, to give us your Monday update on facebook and join in with our weekly live online chat session on facebook on the Back to You QVC group, 8-9pm till September, (when Back to You show returns to QVC on 4 Mondays too!)

-          Go here to read the Back to You QVC Group updates and to join.

-          Go here to request to join the sister group – it’s a CLOSED group - Break the Habit – BTU.

-          And for more info about Freedom Eating – click here for Till the Fat Lady Slims (2002) on Amazon. !



This week I thought I'd enlighten those of you who wondered, about what it means to have photosensitive skin. OK, you could probably guess some of the headings, but with this recent sunny weather and following my recent holiday, I came up against my old adversary once more, so thought I'd mention it.

For those who have it, for whatever reason, you'll know what I mean. For those who have never had a problem in the sun at all, this may seem alien. 

My family don't have this issue at all. As the eldest of five, I spent family holidays tucked away out of the sun, whilst everyone else had fun together. When I was about one and a half, mum said I was found standing on the steps at Margate beach crying saying my skin hurt.

Deb aged about 18 months

After that summers were a bit fraught for me – and included everything from getting full blown sunstroke on my first every adult hol in the Med in Corfu, to having to have a ring cut off my swollen fingers after a severe swelling reaction one summer when I was working in Manchester in my early 20’s having stupidly  gone on a couple of sunbeds (well, we didn’t know back then did we?!). When I went on a skiing hol with my husband-to-be, the bit around the eyes not covered up by the balaclava got sun exposure and swelled up so I looked really weird.  And for most of my adult life, sunshine has meant a whole set of challenges which don’t even occur to those who have no problem in the sun.

When I did some self-analysis in the early 2000's, the theme of separation came up, being different from the rest etc. and it traced back to those early years. One summer aged about 11, I remember being left behind in somebody's tent, whilst the others went out, as my skin had 'started' and I couldn't face the sun. Sullen and resentful, I was left with a pile of comics, and found myself seeking some sort of cool surface to put my burning hot hands on - the metal tent poles eventually bringing the best solace. I spoke about this - briefly - with mum, whilst on the recent cruise hol - and her memories were that I was absolutely fine therefore it was ok to leave me. ‘You were all right,’ she said. And yes, I was – because I had no choice - and therefore I always made the best of it. No summer sun holiday ever included an activity where Debbie’s interests were put first – the family just got on with it, I just got left out, and I learned that my interests were secondary but that I could opt out of things if I needed to – or rather, find another way to amuse myself. Or find a nice bit of shade to sit in or hide in.

hiding behind a deckchair on the beach, Hastings c1973

Hence every sun hol has to have some solitary time for me, now – it’s kind of ingrained. Hard for those close to me to get used to – in fact only last week, I had a debate with daughter Lauren about why I was sitting in the shade and wouldn’t – couldn’t – go with her and her boyfriend in 27 degree heat for a walk in a nearby village.

I don't ever recall having an argument about being left out when I was young, it was just assumed that Debbie would sit it out. It wasn’t like I didn’t get involved with everything else, sure I did - and there are other pics of me on the beach with the others, even if that night I ended up in agony with burning up skin on my hands, feet and face. They only had Uvistat spf 4 or 8 in those days - how antiquated! I tried to stay out of the sun when I could, but in the days before factor 30 or 50, once the sun shone hard, I acted differently to everyone else. Perhaps in some small way as a direct result of this, not being scared to be different is what has helped me to become the person I am today - I have no doubt that it is, actually - so every cloud, and all that.

However, I'm only telling you this now, because it came up recently - I never usually talk about it because I don't need to - in my mind I'm the same as everyone else. But at the same time, I've always had a sense of being different. But, in the last six months on Back to You group on Facebook, and Break the Habit sister group (links below) we have ended up discussing many topics including various illnesses and conditions which some people have to endure - some are far worse than others. In general, every single one is what I consider to be 'worse' than mine. But we all have something, and that's my point. It’s how we deal with it that defines us, not the illness itself and it’s sad that some people are drowned by their condition. I don’t mean serious conditions that you cannot possibly avoid, and I’m not saying you can think yourself out of an illness. Far from it. BUT to hear day after day from others in far worse positions than I am, putting a brave face on their situation and coming across cheery and as positive as can be in the circumstances, well it’s a humbling experience and makes you realise how lucky you are, really. A person who's had an awful childhood may still be healthy, may choose to make their brain as strong as possible and therefore end up winning through adversity, whilst another in an almost identical position may spend the rest of their life under the cloud of that experience, letting it define them and unable - or unequipped - to rise above it.

I take my hat off to the many ladies I've met who rise way above it - who continue with their lives as best they can, determined to battle through and not to be needy or perpetually talking about their 'condition/illness/situation/life.' It's difficult to have anything but sympathy for those who don't, too, mind you - there but for the grace of god, go I. But I admire and hold in highest esteem, the ones who fight, battle, remain determined and - even though they have their down periods (don't we all) they're willing to change, to take charge and to not go under. Nor to be a pain in the neck to those around them. That's their own disposition, and sure some people just can't - or are too ill to fight. As I said, I feel for those people - but it would be a fabulous world if everyone refused to give in and be defined by their illness or situation.

I don't usually moan about mine. There's always someone worse off, right? But this week after a long drive to Devon, my hands had been in the windscreen sun for many more hours than they could stand and had it had taken its toll – my skin had 'started.' Now this means if I then go back in the sun it feels like stinging nettles. Often my skin puffs up like michelin man. My hands, for instance, don't visually show redness or sunburn - but it feels like that underneath. Everything is heightened, so after that hot is boiling, cold is freezing, a knock feels like a hammer blow, and it takes about three days of staying out of the sun for it to completely disappear again. Once it starts, nothing – NOTHING – takes it away. I can only put soothing creams and things on it and stay in a breeze to keep it cool. In the waning periods, when it’s on its way out again, I get the itches, nightmarishly irritating - like prickly heat I guess, if I knew for certain what that felt like.

It's something genetic - something's missing from my skin, that is in other people's skin. Or something is in my skin which others don’t have. Happily I'm not too extreme and there are others far more affected than I am – I’m not a vampire, altho I’ve always been a night owl! I CAN go in the sun somewhat and in fact, I love gentle sunshine. And I can sunbathe, with full protection. The problems come with over exposure.

So what's full protection?

Nowadays I use Ultrasun's wonderful once a day protection factor 50 in brightest sun or when my skin has started a little bit. I feel the difference when wearing that as when I step outside, there are no stinging nettles jabbing at my hands or feet. ( Plus I use their spf30Face on the back of my hands nearly every day from early spring to late Autumn).

Second, I use tan accelerators - just look at the ones on the QVC website ( - Gatineau, Decleor, Elemis, Leighton Denny etc - and read the reviews for some idea as to why these pre-sun exposure preparation lotions work - but basically, it's to do with preparing the melanin in your skin to better deal with the sun when it comes, using tyrosinine, a derivative of L-Tyrosine, which is a naturally occuring amino acid. Perhaps that's what my skin is missing?

Finally, with that in mind, I also now take L-Tyrosine tablets daily for most of the year - google it and you'll find out how it helps – you can find it in Tan Tablets but I prefer the purer form – from Holland & Barrett believe it or not. I explain the tablets’ action as though they are doing 'from the inside out' what tan accelerators do 'from the outside in.' But still, having done all of that this year, even that routine wasn’t enough for my hands after three hours under the windscreen. There's clearly something else missing as well - or perhaps it's that something in my skin that is changed by something I eat.

The reason I say that it might be diet-related, is because there was one sun holiday, summer 2001, it didn't happen. It was after I'd been vegan following a Tony Robbins seminar challenge in the preceding autumn/winter, and then continued to eat mostly veggie after that. And for the very first time, I was able to play with my kids in the swimming pool in 32 degree heat, having never ever been able to do that before - Bradley was 14 and Lauren was 11. I'd not long got divorced and we were all in Cyprus for my brother's wedding, and I recall that time with amazement and wonder that for the first time in my life I was ok in the sun. I took a jubilant pic of me and my two in the pool.

 me Brad and Lauren, Cyprus 2001 - rare occasion

BUT it didn't last. A couple of years later the sensitivity was noticeable again. What was it that made the difference? I don't know. Email me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any ideas, but please note NOTHING topical has ever made a massive difference over and above what I've mentioned above.

So when mum wanted to go swimming in the sea on day 4 of our cruise, earlier this month - on a beach in Bourgas, Bulgaria, ten minutes walk from the ship - I sat there watching her disappear into the waves, her pet heaven, and I shuddered from the safety of my big umbrella. Memories of being up in the caves on the beach at Brixham, aged 11, watching the others go out to the floating platform, playing around the rocks, having lots of fun together whilst I was in the cool reading comics, came flooding back. Funny huh? Or having to go to the harbour and being less than pleased about it as it meant traipsing along out in the sun, covering up my hands as best I could.

Brixham Bay, c1972

Brixham Bay, c1972, me second from left. NB those old fashioned cameras! Dad didn't know poor little Del-boy was cut off at the bottom! lol!


At that time my nose used to scab over every summer - funny how that ingrained memory has just returned - I'd forgotten that bit! Maybe in the sun it itched so I scratched it and took the skin off, who knows. But the last thing I could do now for pleasure, would be swim in the sea! It would be my idea of hell! I think next time we go on a cruise, we'll go with someone who loves the sun as much as mum so she doesn't miss out. 

My sister Linda is a sun worshipper, my brothers Glenn and David have similar tough, olive skin, as my son Bradley does. My other brother Derek is a bit more like me, but doesn’t have what I have, Dad didn't either, and my daughter Lauren is lighter skinned still, but can tan no problem.

I'd like to waterski, properly, I'd like to scuba dive, ride elephants in Thailand and go on safari but all these places require being out in an exposed place possibly without any shade handy nearby to which I can escape when I need to. Walking anywhere is a pain once my skin has 'started' as I hop from tree shadow to wall shadow, and even last week, my journey home from Devon included holding my arm bowed as I drove, so that my hand and lower arm stayed mainly in the shade of the strut at the edge of the windscreen. White gloves and hat, mum always used to say - and probably that's the answer! Or an SPF brolly!

However, for all the reasons above, it's made me who I am today, benefits and disadvantages, and it's just me, it's who I am and what I do. Like so many people (many with worse ailments) who just accept it and deal with it, cheerily, and keeping the agony of it to themselves most of the time. And it shouldn’t really affect me, either – I never really talk about it – in fact, this is the first time I’ve discussed it in this depth. So, as long as I don't get (another) sun worshipper as my next husband (eternally optimistic that I'll find someone eh!) and the person understands that if I get a bit tetchy it’s because of the brilliant 25+ degree heat, no-one ever need know there's something missing in my skin that makes me different from most other people.

And it could be a hell of a lot worse! I don’t get hay-fever and Glenn and Linda and David do, like mum does - weird eh? I know what I'd rather have - especially since staying out of the ageing rays all my life has meant my skin has stayed pretty good! No-one usually thinks I'm anywhere near my 52 years! And my idea of 'sanctuary' - like in those meditations you have to do sometimes - is a place high up somewhere with a cool breeze. Probably why Mykonos was my favourite part of the recent trip - hot but with a beautiful, life-saving breeze! It was a fab holiday and of course with a cruise, I was never more than ten paces away from shade. So I think I've found my favourite type of holiday. Ever! lol.

One day maybe they'll discover what it is that makes it happen, what's missing, or what I can take/do/rub in that will make a difference but for now, that’s me. There you go, now you know - life with photosensitive skin. And the source of my separation anxiety, abandonment issues and pioneering spirit that has helped me achieve everything I've achieved in my life so far. Roll on the next 52 years! 



ps if you have any comments, do email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - or you can leave a comment below - you need to be signed in to do so - sign up for regular newsletters (including news about my steamy novels) too.

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  • Comment Link Chris 25 July 2014 posted by Chris

    I am not photosensitive in the way you are Debbie, but I do get prickly heat and I swell up in the heat (which is partly cos of BP tablets) and I can get heat stroke very quickly. So, although I love the sun always wear ultrasun SPF30 in the UK (sometimes the glimmer too) or SPF50 abroad. I also make sure I wear a hat, loose clothing and nothing that rubs.

    I find that my prickly heat usually kicks in on the 3rd or 4th day when I'm in Spain, so I take antihistamines for the week before my hols and all through it to help keep the itching down. I have noticed that if I go swimming and then sit in the sun - even for 10 mins - the prickly heat erupts very quickly. I always have the Magicool sprays with me, the one for keeping cool and the one that helps cool and sooth prickly heat.

    I hate sunbathing (although I did it when I was younger) and love to sit in the shade with a cold (non alcoholic) drink and people watch or read a book.

    Sometimes people think I'm making too much of it, but having had sun/heat stroke a couple of times in my life I really don't want to go there again.

    You're right about one thing though Debbie! Keeping out of the sun is what keeps your skin looking younger LOL! I'm 62 and think my skin is good for my age because I'm careful in the sun.

    Loving the blog by the way, its lovely that you felt able to share your life with everyone. xxx

  • Comment Link debbie 22 July 2014 posted by debbie

    Lucy -
    i feel for you hon. But well done for keeping the chin firmly elevated and so glad you have a fab hubby too. Thanks for the comment - appreciated.
    Mary -
    So true - you do indeed never know. Re sugar - Why not start by reducing by quarter of a teaspoon a week in tea and coffee, and gradually remove some of the things you rely on? we're able to adapt, but do it slow and it's not so scary! Health wise, your body will thank you for it - truly! Heehe - well you mentioned it! lol.
    Jane - every cloud eh?! When i met you I definitely wouldnt have said you were 59 so well done! x

  • Comment Link Jane Dunkley 21 July 2014 posted by Jane Dunkley

    I have never been a sun worshipper. That and an oily skin means that, although I am 59, I have no wrinkles and am told that I look nowhere near a pensionable age!! LOL. Hope fully my two girls have inherited it too as my nearly 36 year old gets asked for ID all the time!

  • Comment Link Mary Brazil 21 July 2014 posted by Mary Brazil

    Really interesting article Debbie. Reminds you that you never know what other people are having to put up with.
    I really enjoy reading your stuff,even though I'm now painfully aware of my sugar abuse!

  • Comment Link Lucy Dorling 21 July 2014 posted by Lucy Dorling

    Hi Debbie,

    Living with medical conditions is never easy, but generally I am in the same camp as you. I live with chronic pain for nearly 6 years, the pain you get used to but the hardest thing for me is that people don't understand how easily I get tired and don't always want to go out. I do think sometimes I project a positive additude (even though I lost my job due to my condition which was devastating) and I try and let them see "me" rather than poorly me. I am very lucky to have a wonderful caring and understanding partner who looks after me though so it's not all bad! Things are what they are so no matter how much weeping and teeth gnashing you do won't change it (so why waste your energy!!) I have got an appt with my pain clinic tomorrow which I am looking forward to to try and find a way of getting more comfortable. In that way, I'm open to try anything which may help.

    We do have these things that try us, but like you I try and be as cheerful and positive as you can. I'm sure there are people who are a lot worse than me!

    Lovely to read your blog Debbie, keep the posts coming

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