I love being outdoors. There’s nothing better than being out in the sun on a beautiful summer day. But there can be too much of a good thing. And the concept of a “healthy tan” is a bit of a misnomer.
A little about me. I’m pale. Like really pale. Like, there’s no way I’m really going to tan. In fact, for me it’s about which shade of red I become.
I got lots of sunburns growing up. And, of course, I didn’t think much of it. After spending many of my little kid years in sunny Florida, I grew weary of the shock of having a bad burn.
Here’s why I don’t want too much sun exposure now
1.I’m pale skinned and vain. People who are pale wrinkle more easily. And even those who aren’t pale will wrinkle with consistent sun exposure. Sure, that tan looks sexy when you’re 17. But that same tan can make you look haggard by 35.
2. Skin cancer sucks. I once had a pre-cancer on my face called acitinic keratosis. And while only about 5% of those eventually turn into cancer, I was happy to get it off my face ASAP!
3. I’ve known many people with skin cancer. Even a few who had melanoma. And while most non-melanoma cancer is treatable, it can still be disfiguring. I’d say that’s something I’d rather not experience, right?
So how do you enjoy the sunny days of summer and still keep yourself safe? That’s what I’m talking about right now!
The shade is your friend
Be outdoors. Enjoy the outdoors. But find the shade. Sit under an umbrella. Walk on the shaded side of the street. And take breaks when you’ve gone through a period of extended sun exposure.
There’s no sunscreen that’s meant to protect you against constant exposure. So be smart. And realize that a moment or two out of the sun won’t destroy your fun.
Wear a hat
It’s pretty hard to put sunscreen on your head (unless your bald!) The sunscreen would stick to your hair before it ever reached your scalp. The only way to protect your noggin is with a hat.
Think about it. Your scalp is the part of you that’s closest to the sun, getting constant exposure. Personally, I have a horrible head for hats and I still wear one. If I can look goofy in a hat, then you can wear one too. Since you’ll likely look much cooler than me!
Wear sunscreen on your face always
Remember I talked about hating wrinkles? Well, you know what can really age your skin? Everyday sun exposure on your face.
Now, don’t get me wrong. A little sun exposure daily during non-peak hours is good for your vitamin D intake. Since your body makes vitamin D from sun exposure. But your should always wear sunscreen when outdoors during the hottest hours of day – usually from about 10 am to 4 pm.
I’m pretty passionate about choosing a non-toxic sunscreen – especially if you’re wearing it daily. So choose one from a line that uses clean ingredients. As I’ve shared before, my favorite daily option is from Badger.
Badger Damascus Rose SPF 25 Face Sunscreen Lotion with Lavender and Chamomile – 1.6 oz Tube
Limit sun exposure during peak hours
You know what’s fantastic about summer? The days go on forever! I mean, how amazing is it that you can see sunshine at 8 pm (or later)?
Summer is a great time to sleep in, have a leisurely brunch indoors, and go outside later in the day. That way you’re not directly in the heat what the sunshine rays are at their most powerful. Your skin will be less likely to burn or become damaged this way.
Don’t be fooled by high SPFs
Did you know that certain sunscreens stop you from getting sunburned without blocking the wrinkle and cancer causing damage from the sun? This isn’t a conspiracy theory. This is a real problem of many sunscreens in the US.
I wrote about this in detail last year. So check out that post of you like. And look for sunscreens made from zinc oxide and titanium oxide which offer cleaner, more comprehensive, safer coverage.
Purchase on umbrella or tent for the beach
Sure I can preach about staying out of direct sunlight. But that doesn’t help if you’re on the beach, where there only is direct sunlight. So it’s your job to bring the shade with you.
Lots of people bring coverage for the beach these days. So you totally won’t stand out. (Plus worrying about looking weird becomes uncool after middle school – weird people rule!) And make sure to go back into the shade for a few after every 20 minutes to a half hour of direct sun exposure.
Re-apply sunscreen often
Even sweatproof sunscreen needs to be reapplied regularly. Putting on sunscreen is a great first step. Making sure that it doesn’t sweat off is even more important.
Don’t get so caught up in your good time that you forget to maintain your sun safety. Set an alarm every two hours in your phone as a reminder. And also make sure to apply the sunscreen for the first time at least 30 minutes before exposure begins.
Get checked by a dermatologist yearly
People are developing skin cancer younger and younger. And even those who’ve never experienced a bad burn can be at risk. So it’s important to get a check yearly from a dermatologist so you can spot changes before they become serious.
Remember how I mentioned I had a pre-cancer? Well, my pre-cancer didn’t look scary to me at all. My doctor found it during my regular yearly exam. And I was shocked to learn that this small spot on my cheek was anything but benign.
But because I treated it early, it didn’t have the chance to turn into something serious. So a yearly skin exam is something everyone should do. Because a dermatologist knows better than you what to look for when trying to spot things early!
So be safe in the sun this summer. And do it while still loving and enjoying the great outdoors. It’s easy, once you know how!
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Thanks to my pasty white skin I’ve developed pretty good sun habits over the years. I think one of the biggest favors a woman can do for herself if use a face cream that has sunscreen in it. After a couple of bad sunburns on my ears, I always remember to coat them now as well or to wear a hat. I’m not supposed to expose my radiated skin to the sun very much, so I guess it’s a good thing I’m not one to let the girls hang out on a regular basis anyway.
I am all about shade and sunscreen! You are so right about remembering to reapply!
So true! Another reason to avoid the sun is that there are several autoimmune conditions that are triggered/worsened by sun exposure!
Jennifer Maune says
Thanks for the important reminder! A tan definitely isn’t worth melanoma! I also agree with wearing sunscreen every day!
I’m cool with being pale and pasty. I think being pale is perfectly fine even when its so in to be tanned! I don’t want to damage my skin for years to come.
Very important to stay safe from Sun’s UV rays. Some of the skin diseases you mentioned are scary.
RoseMary Griffith says
You’re singing my song, Erica. As a Celtic heritage person, pale skin is truly my DNA. My latest hat is spf and has a 5 inch brim on it. I don’t care if I look like a dork, I’m not skipping it. I’ve had two basal cancers removed from my scalp via Mohs surgery. The one within my hair looked like a very small red pimple. It was huge (dime sized) by the time the surgeon was done removing all the cancer.
Tip: keep a running list of every spot that catches your eye or fingertips so that when you make that annual dermatologist appointment, you don’t forget to have her look at each point of concern.