This post is part of the SunSmart Love Your Body blog carnival.
One of the most common questions I receive is “Are you sunburnt?”. If you have been reading long enough, you’ll know the answer to that one – I’m not sunburnt. In fact, I take special care in the sun, because I don’t want to damage my already very sensitive skin. I need to love my skin.
I can’t use sunscreen. I do worry about how quickly my skin burns without it. I also worry about the damage sunscreen may do to my skin if I use it. (Please don’t offer suggestions for sunscreens. I have my own skincare routine that works for me.) So in lieu of this, I ensure I cover up as much as I can.
Here is my sunsmart outfit. Keeps me cool, keeps me protected from the sun. Despite what people think, wearing clothes that cover up the body is not hot, nor unflattering.
A few years ago I went to the cinema to escape the heat. I saw too movies, because it was just so hot. Of course I had to get too and from the cinema – walking to the train station and back. I covered up so much – long skirt, long sleeves, leggings, hat and sunglasses – and in between the movies, I felt I needed to warm up after being in the icy cinema. So I sat under the glass roof of the shopping centre for five minutes – still wearing my hat and sunglasses. And this is what happened. In reverse.
And now is where I get preachy, and a bit like my Nanny I see so many young people not being sunsmart. Sunbaking on the beach. Sunbaking in a solarium. Getting around wearing not very much (girls – I don’t want to see your bum cheeks hanging out of your denim shorts, no matter how great your legs and bum is). There seems to be a need to change the way we look, through the creation of a tan. In the past, people slathered tanning oil on their skin and baked themselves like chickens roasting on the beach. A tan was considered as healthy. But now we know it’s not.
The facts are:
A tan is not healthy. A tan is a sign of sunburn. SunSmart says “Sunburn is radiation burns to the skin.
SunSmart also states:
“Sunburn at any age, whether serious or mild, can cause permanent and irreversible skin damage that can lay the groundwork for skin cancer later in life. Increased sun protection against sun exposure will prevent skin cancer at whatever age it is applied.
The amount of sun exposure required to cause sunburn varies greatly from person to person. People with white and light brown skin tend to be more sensitive to the sun and burn more easily. In summer, a fair-skinned person can burn in as little as 15 minutes. People with darker skin are less sensitive to the sun and may rarely burn.”
I’ve spent many hours in the dermatology clinic waiting room. Hundred of hours over my life. I don’t talk to many people in the waiting room. I mostly pass the (long waiting) time by listening to music and reading magazines, and sometimes I do research or emails for work.
One day a man struck up a conversation with a man. He would have been in his 60s and said he’d seen me at the clinic previously. He told me his grandson was with him the last time he’d seen me, and had asked him about my skin. We talked about how regularly we come to these clinics – he attends them far more than me. He told me he has skin cancer. He showed me the backs of his hands. They were scarred, the skin fragile. He said he’d just had skin grafts for his skin cancer. That was the second time he’d had skin grafts. His cancer returned after the first skin grafts. He said that it took a year for the skin grafts to take to his hands, and he had very limited feeling on his hands.
The man told me the skin cancer was not limited to his hands. He’d had melanoma spots on other places of his body. He said that he’d been working as an outdoor labourer since his late teens, exposed to the sun every day. He wished he knew about being sunsmart when he was younger. So he could have helped to prevent the cancer he suffered from now.
I remember that conversation well. I thought about the information we have about the dangers of the sun, and whether it will make a difference to skin cancer rates when my generation is 60.
Take care of your skin in the sun. Cover up with a hat and protective clothing. Wear sunscreen (SunSmart recommends SPF 30+ sunscreen), stay in the shade and wear sunglasses. Just like not smoking, eating a balanced diet and drinking moderately, being sun smart is crucial to a healthy body. Your skin is your body’s largest organ. It is a vital organ. Love your skin. Please.
For more sun protection tips, visit the SunSmart website.
(I was not paid for this post.)