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No Sun Tanned Skin For Me - Doctors Orders!

Aug 17, 2007
I'm writing this article outside in the sunshine. Well, actually that's not completely true.

I am outside and the sun is shining beautifully but I'm sitting in the shade. As much as I'd like to feel the heat of the sun on my exposed limbs my days of sunbathing have gone - doctors orders!

Like many people I love to have a tan. It has always made me feel healthier (and slimmer) somehow, and from my mid teens until my early thirties I spent many a happy hour soaking up the sun's rays.

But not any more.

I have done so much damage to my skin over the years that if I had one of those special skin X-rays done I would look about ninety! I've had all sorts of things burned, frozen or cut out and it has to stop before I get the kind of skin cancer that cannot be treated.

When I was a teenager it was "cool" to have a tan although I don't suppose that was the expression used in those days. It was just fashionable. I used to rush home from work at lunchtime and don my bikini for almost my entire hour's lunch break. I'd then dash back to work red faced but happy, pleased that I was gradually building up a lovely tan to show off in my sleeveless, low cut tops and halter necks.

I sunbathed in the middle of the day when the sun was at its hottest and not only did I not use suntan lotion but coated myself in baby oil instead. I literally cooked myself.

Was I stupid? - probably, but not intentionally. I just didn't know better. No-one did back then. Sun tan lotion was only for those very rich people who actually went abroad for holidays to "hot" places like Spain or Portugal.

As I got older my quest for an all year tan led me to sunbeds. For almost two years I had one in my bedroom and used it regularly. There was no advice in those days not to use one for more than a few days per year.

I religiously wore the thick black goggles and timed the sessions but I certainly had more in a month than is now recommended for a year.

Too late, the damage has been done and I'll be happier when I'm older so I can grow into my skin!

My excuse for not taking better care is that I was simply unaware of the dangers sun damage can do. However, in this day and age there is no excuse for people to follow my example.

In almost every magazine and newspaper reference is made to the changes in the ozone layer and the increasing strength of the sun. Yet still many people, particularly men, seem to think that it is only when you go on holiday that you need to use sun protection.

If you look at any construction site or road maintenance operation during the summer you will see men with their shirts off, working in the heat of the day, burning their backs, necks, heads and arms. Some even wear shorts with their heavy duty boots.
How many, I wonder, wear sun protection and out of those who do, how many actually renew it as the day goes on?

Like me in my younger days it still appears to be the belief if you work outside then the tan will build up gradually and it will be okay. However, a tan is a sign of DNA damage and as the saying goes, "There's no such thing as a safe tan".

A recent survey (2007) revealed that ten percent of men don't even know solar radiation is linked to skin cancer and two thirds of men rely on their wives to both buy and apply sun protection for them.

I'm not sure if that's a macho thing or what, but skin cancer is on the increase and in UK we have more cases than Australia. This is most likely due to the awareness over there but 13.5 million men in UK don't use sun cream and the more people burn the more risk there is.

Women are more likely to use sun protection because of the fear of premature ageing, wrinkles and age spots but even then many don't realise that it's not just necessary on hot sunny days.

You can't see or feel UV radiation and it can be equally as dangerous on cloudy days. You need to protect against both UVA which are ageing and UVB which are burning.

As the summers get hotter and longer it is essential to protect your skin at all times and you should use at least a sun protection factor 15 (SPF15).

Also take great care of your eyes and make sure your sunglasses have UV protection otherwise you'll magnify the sun's rays onto the delicate skin around your eyes.

There's no question being in the sun gives you that feel good factor and wonderful natural Vitamin D. However, limit your exposure and avoid the hottest times of the day when the sun is at its highest otherwise you'll be like me and have to sit in the shade - doctors orders!
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