Sun exposure and sun protection – what you learn over time

It doesn’t seem to matter whether I put thick layers of SPF 50 or a wide brimmed hat onto my baby: she always seems to tan so easily. Chris insists that she has inherited his melanin (even though she’s nowhere as dark as he is), and so she doesn’t need as much sunblock application as I like to put on. The thing is: even when you put on SPF 50, you are never 100% protected from the sun. An SPF that high protects you from about 97% of UV rays on average, so the sun is still penetrating the other 3%. Plus, the only real way to be protected from the sun is to be covered up with clothes, sunglasses, a hat, or to stay out of the sun completely. Just because you aren’t getting sunburnt does not mean that you are not getting any sun damage.

I want to make sure Pookster understands and practices safe sun exposure as early as possible. I don’t want her to think that tanning is a healthy practice, and I especially do not want her to think that she’s invincible from getting sunburned just because of her skin color. Clouds are not a protection from the sun! People still get tanned and burned on cloudy days! Covering up and applying sunscreen liberally are your best bets to keep sun burns and premature wrinkles and skin damage (and eventually, sun spots and freckles) away! No one ever educated me on this when I was little. I learned all of this on my own — oddly, through magazines like Teen and Seventeen when I was 11.

I was lazy about wearing a wide-brimmed hat up until very, very recently. I’ve always hated wearing a hat in the summer because my head sweats, and I feel even more gross as a result. But then it suddenly hit me last December: why are there are these new freckles and sun spots on my face? Wearing sunscreen and big sunglasses just is not enough as I ignorantly used to think, and these stupid spots are only going to get worse as I approach middle age! So even though I’ve been borderline obsessive about applying and reapplying sunscreen, I’ve finally admitted to myself that this just isn’t enough. As I have gotten older, I have also changed my stances on certain practices… like wearing hats. But I guess this also means I can just start buying more hats to add to my wardrobe. I just hope I don’t lose them like I have lost two before (one in South Africa, and one in India. I mean, I just wasn’t used to looking after a hat!).

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