Tuesday, June 23, 2009

If You Want to Soak Up the Sun, Use Sunscreen

I really love this neighborhood.

It's like being on vacation every day. Especially in the summer.

This is the view from my front porch. That's the community pool behind that building. We've been there everyday since they opened it in May. It's the reason you don't hear much from me.

It's also the reason we go through so much sunscreen around here. We've emptied four spray cans and two rub-on tubes since school was out three weeks ago.

I have to admit I have a bit of a sunscreen addiction. When I was younger I couldn't wait until the suntan lotions were stocked on the store shelves. I preferred the oils back then, all tropical and coco nutty and completely devoid of any UVA protection whatsoever. At sixteen (and eighteen. and twenty) I thought I'd get a tan. Have you seen me? I'm all red hair and freckles. My "tan" came in the form of a first degree blistering burn. But it didn't stop me from hoping the next time would bring the deep dark Hawaiian Tropic sun that greasy bottle promised me.

So I wasn't really surprised when, at twenty-two, I noticed a tiny spot on my side one day. And then two weeks later realized that spot had grown to the size of a dime. If my dad hadn't spent so much time at the dermatologist getting his own skin cancers removed, I may have just brushed it off as gross, but being the semi-hypochondriac that I am, I called the only dermatologist in my college town and sobbed into my new-fangled cordless phone about my certain death insisted they fit me in before the only appointment they could give me: four months from then.

He saw me the next day.

I was prepared for the lecture I received about the dangers of the sun. I was prepared to have that nasty thing removed. With a knife. But as much as I knew that spot was bad, I wasn't prepared for the phone call telling me that the hole in my side was previously a squamous-cell carcinoma and I needed to come in right then to remove a little bit more of the skin around it.....just in case. And then my dime-sized hole became a quarter-sized hole. Until that nasty thing grew back three months later and I had to repeat the entire process all over again.

So I gave up my tanning oils for sunscreen.

That dermatologist and every other one after him have insisted I use at least an SPF 15 every single day, rain or shine, winter or summer and that's what I try to do. It's not always easy, though, because sunscreen is sticky and thick and smell like, well, sunscreen. I mean, I love the smell of sunscreen and I could smell it all day off the back of my little water babies, but on me...ick.

A few months ago I was offered a bottle of skin md natural shielding lotion to try. I was anxious to try it because I am always on the look out for a cream that will protect my skin from the sun yet not smell like I'd been at the pool all day. Especially in February. Because that's just weird. And also, I was running low on my usual moisturizer/sunscreen and really didn't want to dish out the dough to buy more.

When it came I thought no way was that small bottle going to last through the month. I was bummed because I figured I'd have to go out and spend money again. The enclosed pamphlet said a little bit goes a long way and it was right. I only needed a tiny squeeze to cover my face and neck. I've used that little bottle for three months now and it's still half full.

I do like this lotion. It goes on light and is perfect for an everyday moisturizer under make-up or alone. It works well as a sunscreen for short periods of time, but I've had to switch to a 70 SPF for our mornings at the pool. We are in Texas after all, the summer sun is brutal. When (and if) I do run out of this, I will buy it. I haven't seen it in stores near me, but you can purchase it from their website. It's a little pricier than most drug store brands, but it'll last forever. Well, seems like it anyway.

I wish they'd sent me two bottles because I'd love to give one away. I'd send you mine, but that just seems gross and unsanitary. And I like it too much to part with it.

And while I'm on the subject, use sunscreen this summer. It doesn't have to be this kind, it can be any kind. If you need a deep dark tan try a self-tanner. I used them for years back when they made your palms orange and took hours to apply. It was the best tan I ever had. I even dated a guy for six months who thought I was going to the tanning bed every day. He never knew the difference.

I was lucky. According to the doctor who took the hunk out of my side, my spot could've become melanoma at any time. I was smart to insist on being seen when I did. A girl down the street from where I grew up wasn't as lucky. By the time she was seen about her spot, her melanoma had spread to her liver, lungs, and brain. She died four months later. We both spent our summers at the pool slathered in those sweet smelling oils.

I'm still spending my summers at the pool and the sunscreen companies are happy about it. We're averaging two cans of it a week. It's pricey, but it's worth it. I don't think we could afford the alternative.


Maggie said...

That's so sad about your friend. The sun can be scary!! I'm glad you insisted on going to the doc when you did.

I burn, too; I'm white as a ghost. My boys and I like to wear Huggies Cucumber Melon spray. Smells wonderful and it's like 70+ spf. So far, no burns, so I guess it's working! =) (I have always been weary of the sprays, for some reason.)

Aunt Murry said...

Funny, I have been delegated to an spf 8 - I have a Vit. D deficiency and they want me to get 20 minutes of unscreened sun a day. My dermatologist went nuts...thats why the SPF 8. Do you realize how hard that is to find?

Ruby Red Slippers said...

That is so horrible what you have been through! (And your poor friend!)
I didn't think I needed sunscreen at the beach the other day-it was so mild out, but by the end of the day-I (and my kids) are burnt.
I am so mad at myself-this was the first time EVER we have ever burnt!
Your story is a good reminder for me:
A: to get some funky moles removed, and B: Lather it on no matter what...