I avoid the sun. Don’t be surprised if you see me walking around town with a parasol. I’ve been burned too many times to know that I should fear it and what it does to my skin and I strive to protect my family from sun exposure, yet last Sunday, to my chagrin, the entire family got sunburns. Why? We had gone swimming.
My girls love to swim, but between their sensitive skin and the fact that their mom loves water about as much as a cat does, it is just something we don’t do too often. We were on a weekend visit at our in-laws, so we decided to head to the pool. We lathered ourselves up in sunscreen and headed out the door. I was pretty vigilant about reapplying the sunscreen, which I did every one to two hours, but when your kids are swimming and wiping their faces every time they come up for air and complaining about having to put on more sunscreen and not wanting any to be too close to their eyes, it can be a daunting challenge to fully cover each area properly every time. The sky was clear and the Texas sun was high. We got burned!
It breaks my heart when I look at my little girls’ sunburns; I feel like I failed them. Despite the continuous application of sunscreen, their beautiful fair skin is all red, splotchy, and striped. We were simply out there too long, seldom seeking shade. No amount of sunscreen could have protected their sensitive epidermises from the hours of harsh solar radiation. Rob and I also have burns, albeit, not as bad as the girls because we are more patient when it comes to thoroughly being covered in sunscreen and we also avoid rubbing it off.
A sunburn is a radiation burn caused by too much exposure to UV light from the sun or tanning beds. The UV light forces your skin to produce more melanin, which is your body’s defense against the damage of the UV light. Unfortunately, your body can only produce so much melanin, and when it can no longer produce any, you get a sunburn. Obviously, how quickly you get burned depends on your genetic make-up.
A frightening yet educational site about sunburns is from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s “Sunscreen: The Burning Facts“. Please read it. It is full of good information, for example:
There is no such thing as a healthy suntan. Any change in your natural skin color is a sign of skin damage. Every time your skin color changesafter sun exposure, your risk of developing sun-related ailments increases.
- Although a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher offers protection from sunburn, it does not block all of the sun’s damaging rays. In fact, there is no evidence that sunscreens protect you from malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, even though sunburns have been linked with the development of melanoma. There is only limited evidence that sunscreens protect you from several other types of skin cancer. To fully protect yourself, remember to seek shade, minimize peak hours of sun exposure, and wear protective clothing in addition to applying sunscreen.
UVA rays, which are not absorbed by the ozone layer, penetrate deep into the skin and heavily contribute to premature aging. Up to 90 percent of the visible skin changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by sun exposure.
I realize now that sunscreen is not good enough, and we should have paid more attention to the amount of time we spent in the sun. We pledge to be more aware of the dangers of sun exposure. We’re using these burns as a lesson. We were never really what you’d call “sun-worshipers” and we already actively avoided prolonged sun exposure, but now there isn’t a doubt in my mind: no matter how much fun in the sun you’re having, it’s not worth risking your hide.
Tune in next week for Part 2, in which we will cover “sunburn treatments”!