This post is dedicated to the memory of Cary Tracy Pugh.
In the wake of having now lost two friends to skin cancer, (the latest just this past week), coupled with having just returned from another jaunt to sparkling Big Sur, a place where I have spent many happy days and nights through the years right next to the Pacific….and a place where I have acquired more than one sunburn… I am prompted to write about skin care protection.
My husband, John, has had surgery for skin cancer twice now, and will still leave the house without sunscreen. (See that small scar on the end of his nose? Skin cancer surgery.) I have finally convinced him that wearing a hat is the right thing to do, but he only wears hats now, because I tell him he looks handsome in them, and not because they protect the top of his head from the sun. sigh…He hates sunscreen. I hate skin cancer, so I try my best to provide protection for the stubborn man.
There truly are steps one can take beyond sunscreen to protect the skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun. I’ll start from the top down….
I am a big fan of hats, myself, and have a huge collection of them. However, not all hats are suitable protection from the sun. Those that are made from straw or other loosely woven materials allow too much sun to penetrate the skin. Therefore, safe those hats for the evening or for special occasions, in favor of sun hats that are opaque. When purchasing a hat, hold it up to the light. If you see light seeping through, opt for another that is more tightly woven. The brim is also important.
Select hats with very wide brims. The wider the better. Doing so will help protect, not only the ears, forehead and upper face area, but also the lower face and upper chest.
I go in for vintage Ray Bans, myself, and own quite the collection of both prescription and non-prescription styles. Although wrap-around sunglasses offer the best protection for the sides of the eyes, just about any style is better than no sunglasses at all. The color of the lenses doesn’t matter, as far as protection goes, although lighter lenses make you more apt to squint due to the brightness factor. They all protect to the same degree, however, as long as they are labeled with “100% UV Protection.”
As with hats, loosely woven clothing allows too much skin exposure to the sun. The best clothing is that which is tightly woven and darker in color. I’m not advising one walk around in black all the time, but deep, saturated colors provide the best protection. The darker the color, the less sun will penetrate the skin. Rather than shorts, opt for long skirts. The new sun-rated clothing really works, AND there are certain laundry products that infuse clothing fibers with UV protection.
What do you do if you live in Texas or one of the other hellishly-hot climate areas? Columbia Sportswear manufactures a line of clothing called, “Omni-Freeze Zero” that uses a technology that actually COOLS the skin. It is made from high quality cotton, is tightly woven, yet lightweight, stretchy and comfortable. Wearing it feels like wearing a build in air conditioner. I kid you not. The hotter you get, the cooler the clothing gets…physically. The pieces are simply constructed and great for layering with other pieces. I own some tanks and tees that are fantastic. The minute the fabric detects perspiration, it kicks in with the cooling technology. Amazing. Absolutely amazing!
Feets Don’t Fail Me Now!
One’s feet and legs can be at a higher risk for sun damage, and many folks simply fail to apply sunscreen to these areas. The rule is simple. The risk for skin cancer is present any time one exposes his or her legs and feet to the sun — even when wearing sandals that partially cover the feet. Every single surface of the feet and legs is vulnerable, including the soles of the feet. These parts can become burned when laying out in the sun. Paraplegics, those with peripheral neuropathy, or diabetics are especially at risk, because these conditions may prevent one from feeling a sunburn until it is too late.
While sunburn to the lower legs and feet may feel yucky, and even painful, the damage goes much deeper. Exposure to the sun’s damaging UV rays without sunscreen protection significantly increases the risk of developing both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. Repeated exposures greatly increase this risk.
Perhaps the best protection against skin cancer is common sense. It is said that common sense is like deodorant, however. Those who need it most seldom wear it. When given a choice, opt for shade rather than direct sunlight. Apply sunscreen each and every time you go outdoors, and while sun is necessary for the production of Vitamin D, pop a supplement every day so you won’t have to do the sun thing. When you HAVE to be in the sun, make sure exposure is as brief as possible. Take the precautions I have mentioned above. You can still have outdoor fun in the sun. Just do it safely, m’k?