Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Totally Toasted

When I was fifteen, I decided that I needed a bellybutton piercing. You know, to go along with my waist-length sun-bleached hair, my puca shell necklaces, and my vast collection of American Eagle wardrobe pieces. It complemented me well, because I weighed about 120 pounds, I was bronzed from April through September, and my fingers and toes pruned at the sight of water. Bikinis were my suit of choice, and tan lines were the enemy against which my ninth-grade posse and I rebelled. I clearly remember applying SPF 4 sunscreen once during an all-day beach excursion with my best friend (at the time) and her family. I got the worst sunburn of my life -- embarrassingly accented by my "I Got My Crabs from Dirty Dick's" short-shorts -- and still didn't learn my lesson. About either mistake. I felt cooler than cool lying on the beach with tanning oil-slicked skin, listening to Switchfoot and Oasis on my CD player. Obviously, I was a rock star.
Instead of worrying about sun damage to my skin, I was worried about wearing sunscreen above SPF 15 to maximize my tan potential. Fortunately, I have never had a cancerous mole or a melanoma scare, but I've read and heard many times that every bad sunburn you have ever had is compounded, long after the redness fades and the skin peels. Just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean I'm in the clear.
Um. What? (circa 2007)
I've also heard that any SPF above 75 is a complete waste (e.g. SPF 110) because it's plastered on sunscreen more as a reassurance rather than a legitimate protection measure. I have no idea whether this is a falsehood, but I'm inclined to use SPFs 50 and 70 like it's my second job.

Yesterday morning (our first day on the beach), I sprayed half a bottle of Neutrogena SPF 70 head-to-toe, slathering myself in Sun Protection Hopefulness. Ian and I set up our low-slung chairs right at the precipice of the foamy waves; an hour later, the tops of my thighs were red, while my calves on down were still pasty pale. Mind you, my back and shoulders are still peeling from the wicked sunburn I got during Ian's graduation ceremony. I don't know when the switch happened that I went from compulsively tanning to protecting my skin beneath sunscreen and T-shirts, but these days I'm all about preserving and protecting it. Don't get me wrong -- I'm 100% jealous of Ian's natural ability to step out in the sun for 10 minutes and be bronzed like a Greek god without ever sunburning, but I don't envy his brass-balled confidence that sun damage isn't affecting his body. Thankfully, I didn't sunburn yesterday, but I did notice new tan lines after only two hours in the sun.

And another thing!
Are you familiar with the game Never Have I Ever? The age-old high school sex education query, or the collegiate drinking game component? Well, "never have I ever" fake-baked. While I think golden skin is beautiful skin, I have a serious complex about forking over my hard-earned bucks to lie in a casket for 10 minutes every week. Never have I ever had an interest in looking sun-kissed year-round, no siree. It is in no way natural or attractive to be Snooki-esque in February. I'll take my G-L and you can keep the T.
For a message from a fellow blogger, check out Alyssa's stance on tanning beds. She says, "Tell [your friends] you have a friend who [had] skin cancer, and she says it's just not worth it."

P.S. Do you tan naturally? Do you fake-bake? Do you get spray tans or use DIY tanning agents? If "yes" to the latter, which do you recommend?

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