Fun In The Sun
by Rachel Lee Carter
As a teenager and summer lifeguard, I remember dousing myself with spray-butter in order to produce a better tan. My theory, though never vindicated, was that it would toast my skin much like browning toast on a broiler. (The sun really must have fried my brain.)
I debated whether to hide my adolescent idiocy from you, but my hope is that it will raise awareness and prompt healthy sun habits.
When I was 19, I landed a modeling contract in New York City. Upon moving to Manhattan, my agent prescribed a daily routine of SPF 50, regardless of season. The reasons were two-fold. One, they didn’t want me to begin showing signs of premature aging. And two, models shoot summer clothing in winter, and winter clothing in summer—and no one has a tan in the winter.
I was reluctant because I grew up loving the golden glow of my youth, but my career was more important. So I conceded, even though it meant I would later have to shoot fleece in Barcelona in the 114 degree July heat and swimwear in the frigid ocean in January.
Now in my 30’s and still modeling, I have an even healthier respect for sun protection. The World Health Organization states that one in three cancers is a skin cancer. Since we are in the throes of summer, I’ve included some helpful tips for sun health.
Use sunscreen when you are in the sun. This sounds elementary, but it’s worth repeating. The sun is most intense between the hours of 10am and 4pm. Amp up your broad-spectrum sunscreen during this time, and get dogmatic about reapplying every two hours or after swimming.
Avoid tanning beds. According to Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D. of the Mayo Clinic, tanning beds do not offer a safe alternative to natural sunlight. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation damages your skin, whether the exposure comes from tanning beds or natural sunlight. This damage increases the risk of skin cancer, premature skin aging and short and long-term eye damage. In fact, most tanning beds emit mainly UVA rays — which may increase the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Cover up. Sun aging begins first on the face where the skin is least elastic. Pre-mature wrinkles, melasma—a condition that causes brown to grayish-brown patches on the skin, and freckles are common indications of the suns harmful effects. Protect your sensitive skin and eyes with wide-brimmed hats and polarized lenses.
Get a sunless tan instead. If you would like the golden glow of a tan without exposure to damaging UV radiation, consider using a sunless tanning product. My favorite, quickest and most affordable is L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Perfect Salon Airbrush Mist, sold at drugstores ($8-$10).
Maintain daily protection. It’s the cumulative damage—the five minutes here, the ten minutes there—that increase skin cancer risks. Make facial sunscreen a daily regimen, regardless of season, and don’t rely on the SPF in cosmetics.
Applying the epicurean condiment to my skin all those summers ago actually worked in creating the bronze glow that I wanted, but the jury is still out on whether those years, literally baking in the sun unprotected, will produce cancerous side effects for my future.
Enjoy the summer, water and annual vacations, but make it a point to slather up well—just not with butter.