A former ‘tanorexic’ beauty queen who doused herself in Coca Cola and baby oil while sunbathing to achieve the ‘perfect’ tan now has the skin of an 85-year-old.
Beverley Dodds, once crowned Miss Merseyside, used to lather herself with the sticky mixture so she could get a ‘teak’ tan to show off her body.
Obsessed with sunbeds, she would spend so much time under the ‘blue light’ in her bedroom that her dad would complain about electricity bills.
But now, she covers up everywhere she goes, hiding the body that once won her beauty crowns, after fighting the effects of skin cancer for two decades.
She is encouraging other women to ditch the sunbeds and use fake tan instead.
Beverley, who has battled cancer for 22 years, said: “You only get one skin, they can’t put a new one on. You should really look after it."
The 55-year-old, originally from The Wirral, Merseyside, used to go on sunbeds "all the time".
"It was the done thing," she said.
"I used to model for sunbeds and they asked if I wanted the £80 fee or a £150 sunbed and I said ‘Oh I’ll have the sunbed’ – that’s how much I used them.
“I used to have it over my bed; me and my sister used to use it all the time. I remember my dad used to always go on about the electricity bills.
“There’d be a blue light coming from my bedroom all the time – if I only knew then what I know now about how dangerous they are.”
She added: “I sunbathed as well, I was a bit of a tanorexic to be fair.
“I had a perma tan, like a dark, teak colour which isn’t really a good look actually."
Beverley, said there were little or no warnings about using sunbeds at the time.
"The only warning was that the sunbed had to be six inches from your face," she said.
“I used to wear olive oil and vinegar or baby oil and coca-cola. Or we’d wear factor 2.
“And if you went on holiday and didn’t come back with a tan, people would think, ‘What is wrong with you?’ It was just a different style back then.
"I probably was a bit addicted to the sunbeds, because when you’d lose your tan, you’d think ‘Oh I’m really pale’. But when I look back at the pictures, I’m actually really dark."
However, in 1996, Beverley developed a "burning itch" on her legs which was eventually diagnosed as a type of skin cancer.
"I got these really itchy patches on my legs, they were kind of raised and I thought ‘Oh, I’ve got eczema’.
“I was scratching it so much it would bleed. I went to a specialist and he diagnosed me with Bowen’s disease – it’s like a pre-melanoma but it is a skin cancer.
“I was treated for it but then in 2005, I had to have a skin graft on my leg and the operations are very invasive and they hurt a lot – it’s really painful.
“They take a chunk [of skin] out of you to build you up like a patchwork quilt and the scarring is terrible – I just can’t show my legs now.
“I’m always in absolute agony, my feet take a lot of battering – it hurts to walk."
Beverley, who now lives in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, with her partner Russell Hipkiss, regularly undergoes different treatments to stop the cancer from spreading which she says are ‘incredibly painful’.
“At the moment I’m going through photodynamic therapy where they put acid on your skin and then ironically they put it under light and that blisters terribly," she explained. “It takes all your skin off."
The scars on her legs have left her feeling self-conscious and “unattractive”.
“My legs were always my nice feature and now they’re horrible and I have to cover them as much as possible,” Beverley said.
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“It’s really upsetting to me because I used to love wearing a nice dress and now I feel embarrassed by my legs.
“It does knock your confidence, I sometimes put make-up on to cover the marks if I do wear a dress but it doesn’t really work and is still looks horrible.
“I always have to wear a plaster as well in case they start to bleed – it does take a toll. Thank God for jumpsuits, that’s all I’ll say.”
She is now encouraging women to switch sunbeds for fake tan products.
“If I hadn’t gone on the sunbeds, I’d have had perfect skin and this wouldn’t have happened," she said.
“I never thought I’d get skin cancer, it never entered my mind.
“As I’m getting older, it’s getting worse and worse, I’m 55 now but apparently I have the skin of an 85 year old.
"Hopefully I’ve another 30 years in me but how bad is it going to be then?
“The treatments take all the elasticity out of your skin and it doesn’t heal as quickly when you’ve got problems with it.
Beverley uses the Miiskin app to check for changes in the appearance or number of moles on her skin.
The British Skin Foundation is working with Miiskin to raise awareness of the importance of self-examination as new figures reveal more people in Britain are losing their lives to skin cancer than in Australia.
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