Gillian Robson admits that she was a sun worshiper who loved to have a tan and was a regular user of sunbeds.
But when she discovered a suspicious mole on the back of her leg the alarm bells started to ring.
“The mole appeared suddenly and was very dark and irregular,” explains Gillian who ran her own beauty and hair business for 24 years.
“Because of my business I knew what to look. I’d always been a sun-worshipper and thought nothing of lying on the sun lounger for hours with a book or magazine. And I admit I used sunbeds, too. I went to my doctor who immediately referred me to a specialist and I was seen within a coupe of days.”
Gillian had the mole removed and her worst fears were realised when she was told it was a melanoma, skin cancer.
“When I saw the Macmillan nurse, I knew it was bad news, then my dermatologist told me that I had very aggressive skin cancer. I felt instantly sick and didn’t know how I would tell my husband Shaun and son Andre. It was the most horrific moment of my life and I felt totally out of control.”
“I was lucky that I didn’t have to under go any chemotherapy but they were worried at one point that it might have spread to my bones but scans revealed that it was clear.”
The 49-year-old mother of one from Easingwold gave up work to concentrate on getting well.
But a year after her operation Gillian started to look for a product that would protect her from the sun’s harmful rays yet give her a sunkissed look.
“I asked around a lot of my contacts in the beauty industry as I felt sure there must be something out there but all the tanning creams we found had no SPF and so I ended up wearing loads of different creams.”
Gillian realised there was a gap in the market and realised there was a need for a product what would act as a fake tan, but would also give sun protection.
“At first I thought if it wasn’t out there then may be it couldn’t be done,” says Gillian from Easingwold.
She had run her idea past friend and business development specialist Katy Foxcroft who agreed to join her and together they talked to a scientist about whether Gillian’s idea was possible.
They have been advised by sun care expert Dr Jack Ferguson and chemist Jo Warren.
“We have had to come up with a very inventive formula as another of my stipulations was that I didn’t want it to be gloopy which is a problem with a lot of SPF 50 products,” she says.
“I also didn’t want to it to smell like a lot of the tanning products on the market, I think I was quite demanding.”
After three years of product development and testing last week Tancream eventually hit the shelves.
Tancream, which is SPF50 and 5* UV protection, has been developed using a unique formula of sunscreen and sunless tanning agents to create an innovative product to help reduce the rise in skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the UK and most common in women between the ages of 15 and 35.
It claims nearly 2,000 lives every year in the UK and more than 55,000 worldwide. Wearing sun cream helps reduce your risk of premature ageing and skin cancer.
“We went to see the first batch coming out of production and it was really quite emotional. My son Andre who is 16 and at boarding school sent me a beautiful message saying he was proud of what I had achieved.”
Gillian and Katy wanted to launched Tancream to coincide with Melanoma Awareness Month in May and Sun Awareness Week ( May 8 to 14.)
And they wanted to launch their unique product in Yorkshire.
“We chose Browns of York to launch Tancream because we are both Yorkshire woman and it just felt the right place. They have also been incredibly supportive in getting involved with Sun Awareness Week.”
Tancream is also available on line.
“I did not hesitate when Gillian asked me to help her to develop her initial idea to a shelf ready product,” says Katy.
“It has not been an easy journey but it has been the most challenging and rewarding project I have ever worked on. We have never lost our enthusiasm or excitement to see the end result as our unique sun care product.”
As well as a commercial venture, they are already in talks with retailers in Australia, Gillian is determined that Tancream will help spread to safe sun message.
“I just wish I had known years ago what I know now,” she says. “You talk to teenagers today and they still want to have a tan and despite the known dangers of getting sunburnt they still have the same mentality that I had years ago.
“Or they wear fake tan and presume they are protected when they aren’t. You never think it is going to be you .
“I really want to spread the word that you have to protect your skin but you can still look tanned. I have become obsessed about my skin and constantly monitor it.
More than one in three (35 per cent) people in the UK have been sunburnt in the last year while on at home, and of those 28 per cent were sunburnt three or more times, according to a survey carried out by the British Association of Dermatologists to mark Sun Awareness Week (8th-14th May).
Brits are even more likely to be sunburnt abroad, with almost half of people who have been abroad in the last 12 months getting sunburnt whilst away (46 per cent).
This high rate of sunburn is despite the fact that 88 per cent of Brits believe that sun awareness messaging is relevant to their skin type. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and rates have been climbing since the 1960s. Every year over 250,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) – the most common type – are diagnosed in the UK. In addition to NMSC, there are over 15,400 new cases of melanoma every year, resulting in around 2,459 UK deaths annually. BAD has teamed up with Macmillan for this years campaign
Tancream retails at £39.99 for 100ml and is available at Browns of York or from tancream.co.uk