You’re a grown-ass woman, so you know the world is a dangerous place. As women there are many frightening things we all face every day: institutionalized misogyny, the possibility of meeting someone who definitely knows your name but you don’t know theirs and they can TELL, white pants, the “boho” trend, the list goes on. And then the list stops, because it reaches the number one enemy of everyone, everywhere: The Sun. “Oh shut up, you silly ginger, only you and your kind are afraid of the sun. Get the stick out of your alarmingly pale butt and come to the nice sunny beach with us. You can bring that embarrassing umbrella that you own,” you say. First of all, it’s a parasol, and second of all, NEWSFLASH, the sun is harmful to everyone. It is obviously not the #1 enemy of humankind, because the sun also happens to make life on earth scientifically possible and also drop-crotch jeans exist, but if you were making a list of things to avoid in the interests of your health and overall well-being, too much sun would definitely be on that list, possibly underlined. Let’s find out why, shall we?
UVA, UVB, SPF, WTF: How to care for your skin in the sun
So, obvious paranoid-parents rules remain: apply 30 minutes before going into the sun, reapply every two hours or after swimming/sweating (this presumes a more active outdoor lifestyle than I lead; I am giving you the benefit of the doubt here), and go for an SPF of at least 15. The sunscreen or block of your choice should also protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. UVAs are sneaky and can get through things like clothes and windows, while UVB rays are less invasive but more likely to cause cancer, so obviously make sure neither of them are invited to the pool party. Generally after 50 the SPF number doesn’t make much of a difference, so don’t bankrupt yourself on some fancy-pants SPF 1000 stuff, it’ll work just as well as some good quality stuff of a lower SPF. Any sunscreen that claims to be water- or sweat-proof is lying to your reddening face.
The emotional severity of burns are as follows: accidentally touching a hot pan while cooking, mild sunburn after a day in the park, burning your tongue even though you’d waited forever to take a sip of your drink, medium sunburn, mom burns (the truest burns), blistering sunburns, and the time the dentist looked at the roof of my mouth and said knowingly, “Pizza burns?”
A wrinkle, in time (#doyougetit)
Alright, so maybe the idea of a terrible sunburn doesn’t bother you. Maybe you don’t get sunburns. Maybe you TAN. Well guess what, Tan Boleyn, the cold hard sword of wrinkles is still coming to chop off your head (Henry VIII is the Sun King in this metaphor, not Louis XIV) (cool and accessible example, everyone gets it). If you spend a lot of unprotected time in the sun or in sunbeds, you will wrinkle sooner, them’s the facts. In a recent study, Science claimed people who wore sunscreen every day regardless of the weather could expect up to 24% fewer wrinkles than those who don’t. I guess the real enemy here is not the sun, the real enemy is the aforementioned UVA and UVB rays, because those guys hang out even when it’s cloudy or snowing or even raining. Take a break, harmful rays, jeeze! You don’t even go here.
Taking a break to debunk a myth
Mom, Dad, and future moms and dads: do not force your child to swim in a t-shirt. A T-shirt, even a dark one, provides a sun protection factor of about seven. It also provides a coolness protection factor of 500. No coolness will be able to penetrate that water-T.
Traveling while pale
If you go anywhere Mediterranean or warm where the locals are used to the sun/can handle it, they will think you’re nuts. In Tunisia, a woman literally tried to take a picture of me like some kind of albino giraffe, because she had never seen anyone so blindingly white. When I was working in Italy one summer, my students presumed that I just didn’t know how to tan, and instructed me to lie on the ground with my arms out and “just wait.” Don’t let this kind of thing weaken your resolve. Also be warned that a lot of places are hard to buy sunscreen in, either because they don’t have brands you’re used to or they know tourists are desperate for it and jack up the prices accordingly. Bring your own and use it well. Remember that you don’t have to be pale to experience sun damage/burns/melanoma/heat stroke. Believe in your spf!
Sometimes when you are out in the sun loving life, on a dock, say, with friends, you will think to yourself “I don’t need to reapply that sunscreen. Heck, it’s the summer! Maybe I will even get a tan.” I am here to tell you from the bottom of the heart that is underneath a chest which peeled, blistered and leaked warm pus (sorry, that’s what happened) for actual WEEKS, that that is not a good idea. It takes five seconds to reapply sunscreen. Sun delusion may also lead you to consume only alcoholic beverages for hours and hours in a nice park, leaving you with a weird combo of heatstroke and hangover that you will prevent you from going dancing in the warm evening when the city of Toronto looks like a film set. Don’t miss film set weather! It’s so exciiiiiiting! Other common side effects of sun delusion include: applying Sun-In like that’s a good idea, applying any kinds of oil to expedite the tanning process, that thing where you loop the bottom of your t-shirt through the neck to make a fun belly shirt, and hair beads.
This has turned out to be a love letter to sunscreen instead of a rant against the sun, demonstrating the philosophic principle Bueller’s Truth: life moves pretty fast… if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. I bet Bueller rocked a casual SPF50. What a man.
Follow Monica on twitter: @monicaheisey