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.
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
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.
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?