Normally, I’m ecstatic when it comes to the beginning of summer, and though I do find myself overjoyed at the prospect of not having to wear a jacket for the next few months, among other things, this year I also am finding myself a bit cautious. Yes, the sun is good for you in some ways – it uplifts your mood and provides you with a natural dose of vitamin D – but it is bad for you as well – sun spots, wrinkles, skin cancer. Skin cancer is more common than you think; I recently read an article that stated that it is the most common form of cancer in the United States. So, other than hiding away from the sun, which seems a bit dramatic and saddening (although I have considered it this year), investing in a good sunscreen is important.
My favorite thing about summer has always been the sun (I loathe the humidity), the warmth of it against my skin, the golden glow it leaves on me. I lived for those beautiful sunny days that boasted the perfect temperature for a beach adventure – carefully following the weather forecast so I would not miss a day. I would take off during the week on one of those “perfect days,” travel to the beach and spend hours laying in the sun. The beach was my meditation. I would be sure to pack water and something to eat along with my towel and magazines (to read on the train-ride there and back), and of course sunscreen. Years ago, I was at the beach on a cloudy day and ended up severely burned (my ears blistered). I hadn’t put on any sunscreen because I thought I would be safe…but I had been wrong. Aside from the bright red shade that I was, and the obvious damage that I had done to my skin, I remember how painful it was, how I couldn’t sleep because literally my whole body was burned, and how I could barely move. Since then, I’ve been careful, always bringing spf (I used mostly 8 or 15) with me to the beach. I thought that I was doing good, but as it turns out, it wasn’t that much better than not wearing sunscreen at all.
Last year, the FDA regulations on sunscreen changed, and one of the things was the addition of the words “broad spectrum” on some bottles. Sunscreens protect against UVB rays – the ones that give you a sunburn – but most don’t protect against UVA rays – the ones that cause skin cancer. Sunscreens with the label “broad spectrum” protect against both UVA and UVB rays, and therefore should be the only one that you are using. Also, sunscreens over a spf of 30 do not do much more to protect you than 30 – so little so that it really does not make a difference.
This year, before the summer started, I threw out all of my sunscreens and replaced them with ones labeled “broad spectrum” with a spf of 30, and so should you.