I remember being young and my cousin sitting in the shade of a large oak tree at the beach. She had a big, floppy movie star hat on and a long sleeved beach cover-up, not because it was cold, but because it was hot.
The UV rays were intense in the summer and she (like myself and the rest of my Scottish family) had very fair skin. I remember my mom and aunts telling her that she would have beautiful skin when she got older. At the time, she was in her late teens. Now, in her forties, she does have beautiful skin.
My cousin’s realization that shade is best at such a young age is rare behaviour for a Caucasian teenager. I can tell you first hand that we generally have the dangerous tendencies of a sun worshiper.
I was one of those teenagers who would lie in the sun until I felt “done” on that side – then, I’d flip. My tan was beautiful , after I got past the obligatory first-week-of-the-summer burn, which was always painful and usually made sleeping difficult. I felt great with a tan, and sometimes it was inevitable in the desert-like environment that I grew up in.
Luckily I grew out of that stage quickly, because in my early twenties I smartened up and started wearing the appropriate sun protection. Now you won’t catch me outside without sunscreen, sunglasses, and a cover-up. I even wear hair sunscreen to protect my scalp and hair.
The funny thing is, most people do eventually start wearing sun screen, cover-ups, sunglasses and hats when in the sun, however, it’s usually for the wrong reasons. They don’t want to get wrinkles or look “orange”, which does end up happening to the best of us when we have that tan/sunburn mix going on.
The real, and scary, reason that we should be protecting our skin from the harmful UV rays is to protect ourselves from abnormal cells, such as cancer cells. There are studies that show that tanning beds are by far the worst perpetrators for causing skin cancer (melanoma), but over exposure to natural sunlight also puts you at risk for health concerns. If you even have one sunburn that peels in your lifetime, there are studies that show that you are almost double as likely to develop a skin condition (such as cancer) than those people who have not experienced the same thing.
These are scary numbers, but many people ignore them for the sake of beauty. Having a tan during the summer in your youth can end up costing you big time as you get older. Even for vanity’s sake, tanning is a bad idea. You enjoy the immediate satisfaction of having darker skin, however, the leathery look of somebody who has laid out too often in the sun is the long term consequence. Furthermore, sun spots and wrinkles can take their place on your skin in the long run, leaving you wishing you hadn’t spent so much time with baby oil on your skin instead of sunscreen.
Tanning can, admittedly, be a relaxing activity when you are at the beach in the summertime, but it’s not worth the risk. Try using a tanning lotion or a spray tanning product instead. You’ll get similar results but without the damage that the sun can cause.
If you are leaving the house without sunscreen on simply because you forgot, set up a reminder for yourself each morning to apply it. Your skin and health will benefit from it in the long run.