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The Importance of Sunscreen

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

I sunburn really easily. Not really a shock to most people who see me, as my mixture of English and Irish heritage has left me with a ghastly pale complexion. This has made me aware from a relatively young age of the importance of sunscreen for me in order to be out in the sun for prolonged periods of time without protective clothing.

There is a belief that people with darker skin tones, like those of African descent, do not need sunscreen because they do not burn. That is not entirely true. Apparently, the increased amount of melanin in darker skinned people provides about an SPF of 13. Much higher than what I have, to be sure, but what they really need is around a 30. That is why it is recommended that even people of darker skin tones wear sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 when having exposure to direct sunlight. This will prevent premature aging, other damage from the sun’s UV rays, and sunburns.

Sunburns can be quite nasty and painful. Particularly on certain areas. One of the worst I remember was sunburning the tops of my feet. It was part of a bad sunburn I had one summer and made wearing shoes incredibly painful. And once the burn starts to bubble, peel, and itch like crazy, you are epically miserable from the itching. So anything you can do to avoid that is a good idea. Not to mention severe sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer.

To use properly, you apply sunscreen to areas that will be exposed to the sun. You want to put it on about 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every 2 hours that you are out in the sun. You will want to reapply after excessive sweating, toweling, or after being in the water for a prolonged period of swimming or other water activity.

This can make a real difference not only in your overall comfort, with reducing your risk of sunburn from prolonged sun exposure, but also reducing your risk of melanoma. Melanoma is a deadly cancer that usually starts in the skin and tends to spread rapidly to other parts of the body. Not to mention the fact that it helps with the signs of aging that can come from sun exposure. For me it can help avoid my personal nemeses from the sun: sunspots and freckles!

Getting some sun is good for your physical and emotional health, but we cannot neglect our skin, for both aesthetic and health reasons. Sunscreen is one of the forms of self care in which we can engage, particularly as the sun gets stronger in these summer months. So, show your skin some love and slather on that SPF!

by Julie Morse

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