’Tis the season of picnics, parades ... and sunburns.
I’ve recently gotten my inaugural burn of the season. For those of us of a certain shade, it is nearly impossible to avoid. Sure, we all try to cut down on unnecessary exposure, but even a short amount of time can leave us with a red tint on our cheeks.
Call my skin what you want – porcelain, ivory, sensitive, Irish, delicate – there’s no doubt that I am just downright pale. Over the years, I’ve been forced to become the queen of SPF, master the art of post-burn treatment and even learn (the hard way) that people like me should stay away from pastel colors, such as lavender (especially in the form of bathing suits). I’ve always been jealous of those girls who come back from a spring break trip to the beach with glowing skin, even though I know that tanning isn’t really that healthy. While they can soak up the rays no problem, I have to wear sunscreen all the time.
When using sunscreen, it is imperative that you use the correct one. I like using the highest SPF I can find. It seems safer to use the “sport” varieties that are usually water resistant, just in case. Spray sunscreen is a definite no-no because it never seems to actually work. I remember as a kid using a purple foaming variety, whose awesome factor far outweighed its actual protection.
As the time comes to put sunscreen to skin, it’s best to have someone else help out, especially for your back/neck. Make sure to cover more then just what skin shows – the worst of my sunburns happen around the edges of my clothes on areas I thought were covered up. Plus, farmer tans are just really awkward.
In the off chance that you do get burned, I say go for the real stuff instead of using aloe lotion. The gel from an aloe plant is a lot more effective than diluted lotion. They’re easy to care for and can save you money in the long run. (Mine, by the way, is not in my garden, but in a lovely pot on my porch.) Besides, all the cool kids have aloe plants!
Tightness and peeling aside, the worst part is how other people react. You’d think I’d have shaved my head by the comments I get. It’s amazing how many people believe they are telling you breaking news about your face peeling when they first see you. Having a sunburn hurts enough without the constant comparisons to seafood and a certain red-nosed reindeer.
While I wouldn’t exactly call getting sunburns a “habit,” I have the unfortunate luck of getting them a lot. Sometimes, they really are unavoidable. I’m always careful to take note of the freckles and moles on my skin, and go the dermatologist occasionally to have them checked out. I’m a little grateful in the end that I have pale skin, because it makes me more aware of sun safety. Despite my desire for a golden tone, I’ve stayed far away from gross spray tans and tanning beds.
If you’re planning on spending some time outside this summer, don’t forget to lather up!
• Brigid Ackerman is a recent graduate of St. Charles East High School. She enjoys playing the trumpet, eating bread and writing this column. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.