Like many women, I love some summer sun. The warmth on my skin, the outdoorsy color, the sound of beach waves crashing in the distance as I lay stretched out on a towel or lounge chair. Sun is fun, healing and happy, bringing forth memories of happy summer days past and present. It is a good thing.
But like many good things, it is good only in moderation, and only when approached with the proper knowledge. After all, while I love a good glow, I’m certainly not out to be a Snooki – or even worse, tan mom Patricia Krentcil. And beyond the fear of the “oompa-loompa” look comes another, stronger fear: melanoma.
While we can’t let fear dominate our lives, we also need to take the proper precautions to protect ourselves – and our skin. And I’ll be the first to admit that I had some lax sunscreening habits – and some worse tanning habits – back in the day. But age, knowledge, and having a mole removed a few years back have all been a very real wake up call. Sunscreen saves lives – and yours is worth it.
Sunscreen. It is a greasy, messy inconvenience. Optimally, you need to put it on 30 minutes before heading outside (an inconvenience), and it gets your hands and the edges of your clothes greasy (messy). It makes my face seem to sweat more and faster, and I’m always worried I’m going to get an ugly, nasty breakout on my chest.
Then I just remember running the Philadelphia Marathon one year with four stitches in my hamstring, waiting for the pathology on that mole to come back. I was lucky; it had irregular qualities but was not cancerous and had narrow, but clear margins. DB has had a few moles removed as well, and now we both have a yearly dermatology scan to keep everything in check.
I could tell you the ABCD’s of melanoma (asymmetry, border, color and diameter), but this link from the American Melanoma Foundation does it much better. Check it out, and check yourself out. The removal of a suspicious mole is generally a very quick, painless, out-patient office procedure. In our experiences thus far, it has been nothing to be frightened of. But the more important lesson I want you to take from Clove’s shortest blog ever is this simple sentence:
Your skin doesn’t know the difference between three hours on the beach and three hours of running.
Think about it. Most of us wouldn’t even consider laying out on the beach or poolside for that long without sunscreen. And we certainly wouldn’t let our children do it! Yet how often have you headed out for a long run, several hours in duration, and maybe just slicked a little on your face or shoulders? If that?
Sunscreen. It is a greasy, messy inconvenience, but it can save your life. It doesn’t have to be expensive – as a matter of fact, my favorite brand is a generic! Something about the smell that just works for me.
I would be remiss in publishing this blog if I didn’t call proper attention to the recent debates about sunscreen, and the new FDA rules for sunscreen labels that are scheduled to take effect in December. USA Today published a great overview of the concerns and the new labeling rules that you can find here: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-05-14/FDA-sunscreen-labeling/54979576/1, but in summary, you should consider the following in selecting the most effective sunscreens:
- Choose SPF 15 or higher, but not higher than 50.
- Choose “broad spectrum” sunscreens to ensure protection from both UVA and UVB rays
- Ignore “hype” – No sunscreen can completely block harmful sun rays, nor is any sunscreen completely waterproof or sweatproof
- Do not rely on sunscreen alone; rather, use it in combination with proper clothing, hats and sunglasses. You should still aim to avoid the worst of the sun’s damaging rays between 10 am and 2 pm.
May is Melanoma Awareness Month, and in honor of that, I’ve recommitted to sunscreen before each and every outdoor run longer than an hour in sunlight. Join me – and show your skin some love!
What’s your favorite sunscreen, Salty readers? Do you prefer a spray or a lotion? Any tips for making the sunscreening process more palatable? Let’s hear them!