The Tricky Sun

It’s summer, which means sun, which also means sunburns, and they are never a good thing. For some of us they will fade to a lovely tan, but for a lot of us (like me) they don’t.

Yesterday I was the victim of an accidental sunburn. My friend Emily came over for a visit and we went to the beach. I then forgot the cardinal rule of sun protection—even when it’s cloudy you will get burned. I also had a beach chair with a canopy, so I was lured into a false sense of security, alas all the canopy did was give me a patchy, lopsided, sunburn across my arms and chest.

Gorgeous isn’t it? I think it’s a great new look for summer. I especially like the way my sloth necklace has now left a permanent impression on my chest, it’s just so flattering. What a great idea, you don’t have to worry about accessories when they’re permanently emblazoned around your neck!

But seriously, what’s wrong with me? Why the heck didn’t I put on sunscreen? I rubbed some on my legs because they were out in the sun (update: even the legs got burned), I really thought I was safe under a flimsy beach chair awning, but no, the sun’s power stretches far beyond the protection of cheap nylon. And besides, it was cloudy, right? I guess there are no excuses, I now have the punishment of a humorously unattractive, painful, burn that will soon peel, and later turn into a blotchy and uneven skin-tone, all while I panic about whether it will even-out before my wedding.

Why do we continue not to wear sunscreen? It shouldn’t be so hard right? Is it the texture of it? The way it gets in your eyes and mouth, or how it makes magazines melt leaving you with unwanted, accidental tattoos of models faces on your legs (that happens to other people right?).

Sunscreen can be unpleasant, the spray bottles always leave you with patchy spots, and the creamy ones stick in every crevice. It is goopy, and sloppy, and it makes sand stick to your body, and if you wear contacts, when it gets in your eyes it can be potentially blinding. But, of course, we need to wear it. I know I certainly do, and usually I’m really good about it, sometimes though, you make a stupid mistake. At least it happened early in the summer and reminded me that I need to be more careful, and now I can also remind all of you!

Seriously, skin cancer is awful, and all that sunburns do in the long run (even if they might fade to a nice healthy tan for a little while) is leave your skin blotchy and uneven. I now pay way too much money to buy creams that even-out the skin on my face due to damage I suffered as a teenager. It’s so often the case that something we do to make us feel beautiful backfires and makes us feel ugly, and then we spend more money to bring us back to our original state.

I don’t know why we are all so resistant to something that seems so logical, maybe there is some collective need to worship the sun and let it transform our bodies in some way. I really don’t know, but if that is the case then the sun really is a tricksy devil, and I’m not very happy with him. More likely we just forget, or we’re lazy, or maybe it feels good, or we think it makes us look better. We usually also know that it could cause us great pain, both immediately and in the future from melanoma.

Now in case you’re thinking to yourself, “I’ll just stay inside” well, that could give you cancer too. Recently there has been new evidence that tells us how badly we need Vitamin D to prevent all sorts of other diseases that could kill us, and the sun is really the only way to get enough of it—but don’t burn, stay out just long enough to get what you need, then cover up.

According to most dermatologists you are supposed to get 15-30 minutes of unprotected time in the sun, and no more. I think we’re all learning the key to good health overall is “everything in moderation” fat, alcohol, salt, sun, coffee, chocolate. All these things that are constantly volleyed back and forth over the line from healthy to hazardous, are in part good for us, but only in small doses. So that’s the hard part then, knowing when to stop.

Coincidentally, there was a great article about Vitamin D and sun exposure in The Huffington Post yesterday by Dr. Frank Lipman. He clears up a lot of things, including that Vitamin D isn’t really a vitamin, but functions more like a hormone, and that it is nearly impossible to get enough of it through food. We need the sun. Unfortunately he also points out that sunburns are always really bad for you, but we all knew that already. So, maybe someone will invent a sunscreen that doesn’t kick in for half an hour and then lasts all day, that would be perfect wouldn’t it? Until that happens, I’ll be setting the alarm on my cell phone the next time I go to the beach, and then I’ll slather on one of these sunscreens:

I’ve been trying this one on every time I go to CVS, they have a special relationship with this company and are always promoting it, they’ve almost got me too. It seems to work pretty well, not cheap though.

La Roche Posay Anthelios SPF 40, $32.00

This is my standard sunscreen for body, I always have some, It works very well, it is goopy yes, but it isn’t runny. They also sell it in bulk at Costco, so of course that is a big bonus for me.

Neutrogena Ultra sheer Dry-touch SPF 30 sunscreen, $9.99

This is one is a splurge, I have a sample of it and it’s pretty good, smells nice, dries matte, and isn’t greasy, not sure if I can afford it yet though.

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream SPF 55, $35.oo

My go-to sunblock for face, it is slightly tinted, which for me is good since it’s pretty close to my skin-tone. The one down side is that it isn’t so great under makeup.

Clinique Super City Block Oil-Free Daily Face Protector SPF 40, $17.50

Luckily the M.A.C. concealer I’ve been wearing for years now has an SPF of 35, so I can cover up my brown spots while also protecting my face from future damage.

Studio Finish Concealer SPF 35, $16.50

So don’t forget to go out and play in the sun, it’s for your own good!—just don’t forget to set that alarm so you don’t get burned.

Anyone else have sunscreen suggestions, what products do you use to keep yourself protected?



Filed under health

15 responses to “The Tricky Sun

  1. Alison

    Poor thing! It actually looks as though your sloth necklace caused the burn..the burn pattern looks like the sun reflected from him! I have a pair of metal ray bans that reflect sun and cause weird Burns on my forehead and cheeks if I wear them at the beach…
    So far this spring/summer I have been pretty good with using my sunscreen…I like the spray ones a lot! I apply the goopy ones at home,then reapply with the spray at the beach…….as for your sunburn it will be only a memory when you are in your wedding dress!

    • Alison, you and your brother both have beautiful olive toned skin that turns golden in the sun, my burn however looks awful and will stick around for months, I might have to try to even it out, or use make up to fix it!

      • alison

        yes justine, we do get nice tans but when we are old we will resemble leather boots if worship the sun without sunscreen, and you will have to look at us!

  2. Megan

    Only SPF 30 on the Neutrogena, ha! I just bought SPF 100. I also just bought an Nivea chapstick that is SPF 35. I’m pretty diligent about wearing sunscreen but never have anything to put on my lips ’cause I hate the taste. So far this one smells a little weird but doesn’t taste too bad. I can endure the smell in order to avoid burning my lips – it’s surprisingly painful.

  3. sara

    My skin reacts the same way to the sun. I’ve learned my lesson after multiple sunburns in my childhood/teens. I don’t have a go-to sunscreen brand, but I usually just use whatever has the highest SPF.

    This post reminded me of a very interesting documentary that covers sun and tanning bed damage:
    I have a copy of it, if you’re interested I can send it via Facebook.

  4. haren

    I told you to wear sun screen!!!!!

  5. kristen

    YIKES! Why didn’t you listen to your mother and wear sunscreen? I use Burt’s Bees but it’s hard to rub in.

  6. All you need:

    SPF 30 isn’t 2x better than SPF 15; 15 blocks 93% of all UVA but not UVB. SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVA. SPF 50, 100, 10,000, etc. is overkill and doesn’t help with UVB despite what those commercials from Robocop say. The only thing that blocks both types of rays 100% is zinc oxide, aka the white stuff lifeguards put on their noses.

  7. Carmela

    I love the spray sunscreens and use them regularly because we drive in a convertible a lot. I also wear a hat when in the sun. I don’t leave my house without my Estee Lauder moisturizer on under my makeup, which has an spf of 15. And you are right, sunscreen burns like hell when it gets in your eyes, which is why I use a moisturizer on my face and not sunblock. The sun is a killer, and I got a terrible burn last year in ST. Maarten in about 5 minutes. Sunblock takes a while to soak in, so it is suggested that it be applied 30 minutes before sitting in the sun, if possible.

    • Carmela, I really need a good sun hat, here at the beach they all seem to blow off my head! I need to be more careful about the sun for sure, maybe I’ll only go to the beach after 3pm, it’s prettier then anyway.

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