One Last Sunburn

I’ve been a sun worshipping beach baby for as long as I can remember. I’ve slathered on baby oil and tanning lotion on beaches up and down the West Coast, from Seattle to Newport Beach, and at lakesides from tiny, little Fern Ridge in Oregon to the Great Lakes. And I’ve been sunburned. Oh, how I’ve been sunburned. Never on purpose, of course, but those rays are unforgiving, the water an enemy of sunscreen, and baby oil? Well, we all know what that did to us.

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enetics and good fortune have blessed me with excellent skin. No matter my age, people have told me that I appear younger than my years. Thank you, Momma, Daddy, and Mother Nature.

But, no longer. Recently my husband and I took one more trip, spent a few more days in the sun, once again negligent with our skin care, and burn, baby, burn.

It appears that this sunburn was the burn that destroyed my luck, my good genes, and my skin’s molecular makeup, all in one fell

After my bout with the sun, my skin now looks like the bark of this ancient cedar my spouse and I recently visited.

swoop. My hands now look older than my mother’s. Every crevice and crease is visible. No amount of lotion applied, no amount of water consumed, seems to make a difference. No longer will anyone tell me that I appear younger than my years.

Mother Nature always wins. So why do we keep risking our health and well-being while we’re out and about in nature?

I no longer lie out in the sun intentionally seeking the golden glow of summer, but I won’t deny that I’m happy when my northwest pale starts to disappear. I have a friend who is so averse to our northwest pale that she has a tanning bed in her home. She is slowing turning herself into a piece of brown leather.

Despite the fact that exposure to UV rays leads to skin cancer, tanning beds and salons continue to be popular. Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that 1 in 5 women and more than 6% of men use indoor tanning.[i]

The American Cancer Society reports that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, with melanoma being the most dangerous.[ii] The National Cancer Institute estimates that 9,180 Americans will die of melanoma in the year 2012.[iii]

Even when we’re not deliberately trying to get rid of our winter pale, we often forget to wear clothes, hats, and sunscreen to protect our tender epidermis. Or our eyes.

We may not realize that 90% of the ultraviolet rays can still get through on a cloudy day,[iv] leaving permanent damage. From freckles to moles, wrinkles to keratoses (rough scaly patches on the skin), our skin may never be the same. Eyes can burn, as well, with the damage ultimately causing cataracts. (Marine biologists studying animals in captivity are discovering that orca, seals, and the like are also dying of skin cancer and going blind, because of their constant exposure to the sun, as they are deprived of the darkness of deeper waters and are exposed to the sun’s rays bouncing off of blue walls and other shiny surfaces.)

Those who are blessed with more melanin and a naturally darker complexion are less likely to burn, but burning is still a possibility and eye protection is a necessity. While I don’t burn as quickly as my fair-haired sister, I still need to be careful. And I certainly burn faster than my friend, Wayne, with the deep brown skin, who once laughingly compared suntan lines with me, proud that his were better. Still, we all need our sunscreen, our hats, and our sunglasses with 100% UV protection when we’re on the beach for any length of time.

How Can We Best Protect Ourselves?

Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  I know. Those are the best hours of the day to be out doing wonderful things. So, try to stay in the shade as much as possible.

Slather on That Sunscreen Dermatologists are now recommending an SPF of at LEAST 30. And remember to put it on at least 30 minutes before you go out in the sun. Also, remember that you sweat it off and, if you go in the water, you wash it off, so re-apply frequently.

Trying on hats in Goorin Brothers

Cover Up Big Time Buy that cute hat you’ve been dying for. This is your excuse. It’s protecting your nose AND your eyes. Wear tightly woven clothes. In fact, do your research. There are clothes out there that are made to give protection against the sun’s ultraviolet rays. If you’re going to be spending an extensive amount of time outdoors, it would be worth the expense.

Who’s That Behind those Foster Grants? Put on your movie star best and wear those shades. Even if you’re a glasses wearer and you get tired of switching pairs as you go in and out of buildings. It’s worth the hassle. Be sure to wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection. (You can even get UV protection on your regular glasses. Talk to your optician.)

Always remember that you are beautiful the way God made you. That’s a hard one for me. I still want to be a lovely, Native American Princess. (When we played Cowboys & Indians, when we were little, I was ALWAYS the Indian, and we ALWAYS won!) Alas, my ancestors were born on the wrong side of the pond and I came out of the womb lily-white.

If you have self-esteem issues when it comes to skin tone, as I seem to, you can always resort to the spray tans or the tan in a bottle. Thus far, they seem to be the healthier options. But, really? Isn’t it all a little silly?





[ii] ibid,



By Tamalyn

Still seeking a world of peace & justice, this minister, mate, and mom - an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), finds great happiness and God's presence in many places: from sandy beaches to the top of a Teton, soup kitchens to used bookstores. Tamalyn embraces the philosophy that "Life is Good," but we have much work to do.

27 replies on “One Last Sunburn”

I got my skin tone from the Irish side of my family, not the Italians, so I am a lobster in 5 minutes if I forget my sunblock. I tend to go for the spray-on “sport” kind because it’s easier to get in weird places if you’re alone, it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing anything and it’s supposedly waterproof (though reapply anyway).

Yeah, I’ve had entirely too many nasty sunburns in my life. Also I don’t want my tattoos to fade.

I always thought I was fairly dark complected, when I was a kid. LIttle did I know it was because I was always outside. How distressed I was to grow up and realize I was such a paleface. I may need to try your spray-on stuff. And my only ink is plain black, but I want to protect it, as well.

Thing the first: sunscreen isn’t cumulative, is it? My makeup is spf 15 and my moisturizer is as well, but does that leave me with a double layer of spf 15, or 30? Or spf 15+? Things they don’t teach you in fancy college: common life sense.

Thing the second: darker brown people can get sunburned too, which I learned after 18 hours in a pool at twelve (it had a swim-up bar. I literally only left to pee.). Lesson/things they don’t teach you in fancy middle school: all sunscreen for everyone all the time.

Also – does anyone else wish seals could have sunglasses? Like that one in that movie?

I used to spend a lot of time outside as a child, and got very tan. Then one summer, I fell asleep on a boat dock and burnt my back so bad that I had a criss-cross pattern on my back for years. From then on, I burn quite easily, but I sometimes forget. What has made me much better about slathering on the sunscreen (aside from marrying a red-head) has been my tattoos. I’ve spent a fair amount of money on them, and I’d rather not have to have them redone because of something stupid like a sunburn. I spray up before I go out running or really, to do anything that I could potentially be in the sun for more than 15-20 minutes.

Oh, ouch. My most frequently burned spot has been my chest. I’ve read that’s one area we need to protect the most, as the skin there is most delicate. So, of course, I’ve probably done it the most damage. And yes, protect those tatts. That lovely ink fades all too easily.

I am a sunscreen fanatic. I wear it every day. Wear a hat if I’m going to be in the sun for a long period of time. I’m obsessed with not getting burned. I also am, as the kids say, pasty as hell. I don’t tan. Ever. I just get more freckles. I’ve made peace with my freckles, but I still try to stay out of the sun.

As a Canadian, we often just compare degrees of paleness and assume that anyone with a visible tan has either been tanning intentionally or has just been on vacation to Florida, the lucky dogs. I look forward to achieving new depths of Snow-White-itude in my upcoming move to a place where they only have 4 hours of sunlight in the winter.

Canadians: Weirder than you might expect.

I’m in the waaaay NW corner of the US, just a few miles from the Canadian border. I see and match your pale! Although you’ll soon have me beat with your loooooooong winters and dark nights. Much snuggle in blanket & read books time guaranteed.

I just want to add that in my six months of chemo (lymphoma, not skin cancer) I very, very rarely saw people my age (31) or younger in the oncology ward. I do recall one time when there were three young women (20s/30s) and all of them were there for skin cancer treatment. Not sure exactly what kind but it was a little sobering. They all talked about how much they had loved tanning beds and sunbathing. I’ve never been a sun-loving kinda gal but it gave me pause. I grew up in LA and turn brown as a nut when given enough sun. I worry now about the damage that all those years did to me without protection. Mostly though just avoid sun now and use sun-screen if I know I’ll be out in it for more than a few minutes.

I rarely wore sunscreen growing up, which was probably very, very bad since I lived close to the equator and played outside as much as I could. I still really like that nice bronze I can get with a tan, but I’m more than content to be white if it means avoiding skin cancer. I’ll have to try to find a hat for this summer.

I have never tanned.  I burn then freckle.  I had many bad sunburns as a child and am cautious when I am out and about now.  I am amazed at those people that never burn.  But I learned even if you have beautiful olive toned skin like my spouse and children…they get it from him…you can still burn.  Bring on the sunscreen!

I am so envious of those people that never burn. SOOOOO envious. Or, at least they seem not to burn as easily. My skin used to seem so much tougher. (Of course, it’s slightly compromised by medication, these days.) But, we are what we are. So, you’re right. Bring on the sunscreen!

I am a shadow walker. I will never tan and I had to horrible sun burn experiences and yeah ..I have SPF 30 with me pretty much all the time. And a lovely sun hat (I feel so ~bohemian~ with it). But maybe being a pasty ginger makes it much easier for me to say no to sunshine.

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