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I’ve always thought that tan fat looks better than white fat. So, for years, I was a sun worshipper, and if I couldn’t find the time to be outdoors basking, I frequented tanning beds. I owned a gym in the 90s that offered tanning beds, so believe me, for many years my fat looked go-o-o-d!

But fast forward about 20 years. Not only do I have so many freckles covering my body that my name should be changed to “Dot,” but I’ve had around 10 skin cancers removed. Scary.

The good thing about skin cancer is that, if you stay on top of it, they can be removed before they turn malignant. And even better, skin cancer can be prevented by protecting your skin by covering up or with sunscreen.

So today, National Sunscreen Day, let’s take a look at why protecting our skin is so important.

Coming Out of Hibernation

Finally, finally it’s almost summer! Who doesn’t love to feel the sun’s warmth on your skin after being cooped up all winter? And since we’ve been sheltering because of Covid-19, we are all anxious to get out and about. Ahhh, let the sunshine in.…whoa, slow down there cowgirl. Before you go out you should protect yourself from the same sun that feels so good.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the US today. More than 3.5 million people are diagnosed with it each year.Basal cell and squamous cell cancers (I’ve had both) are the most common types, and they make up 95 percent of all skin cancers. It’s the ultraviolet rays of the sun that are so damaging, and even being exposed for 15 minutes is harmful.

Not all Sunscreens are Created Equal

Nowadays it’s important to be sunscreen savvy because there are a variety of lotions and sprays that provide UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) and claim to protect you from the sun. But before you go out and spend a fortune, it is important to embrace a few sun-safety myths. I sure wish I had known this stuff when I was a teen using baby oil with a few drops of iodine to fry myself.

Myth #1:

The higher the SPF, the more protection.
Most people think that the higher the SPF is, the more protection you will have. For example, an SPF of 100 should provide three times the protection of and SPF 30, right? WRONG! A product with SPF 30 will block 97 percent of the sun’s rays. Higher SPF’s are pricier (got to love marketing ploys) and will only block 1-2 percent more. There is no product that can screen out 100 percent of the sun’s harmful rays. Also SPF has no impact on how long the product will protect you. A lower SPF product will protect just as long as a higher SPF. Typically any sunscreen will protect about 2 hours or less.

Myth #2:

If you wear any type of clothing while outdoors, you are protected from the sun.
It is the type of clothing that you wear that is important for sun safety. Darker and brighter colors absorb more UV rays than white or pastel colors. Likewise, heavier, more tightly woven fabrics provide more protection. A white t-shirt offers very little protection, and if it’s wet, even less.
Fortunately, there are new high-tech fabrics that offer sun protection, so it is important to read the labels when buying beachwear. A hat that has at least a 3-inch brim all the way around will help to shade your head. Wearing UV-filtering sunglasses will protect your eyes.

Myth #3:

You can’t get sunburned on a cloudy day
Even on cloudy days, up to 90 percent of the sun’s rays can get through to your skin. Since you can’t feel the heat of the sun on a cloudy day, you may be tempted to do without sunscreen. Don’t. No mater how cloudy, you can still burn.

Myth #4:

My makeup foundation has sunscreen. I don’t need anything else.
This one I’ve said A LOT in my younger days. It’s true that makeup with SPF does provide protection, but it doesn’t work as well as traditional sunscreen. And generally you apply a thin layer of foundation without applying it to your ears, throat and the back of your neck. So even if your makeup has a built-in SPF, you should also use a regular sunscreen as well.

Myth #5:

Sun is sun. It doesn’t mater what time you go out in it.
UV rays are strongest when the sun is peaking in the sky – about 10am until 4pm. If at all possible, you should avoid extended sun exposure during this time. If it can’t be helped, make sure you wear protective clothing and apply lots of sunblock.

Myth #6:

If you have dark-colored skin, you don’t need sunscreen.
While dark-colored skin may not burn as easily as fair skin, the sun can still damage it. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone, no matter what color their skin is, should wear sunscreen, because everyone, no mater what race, gender or age can get skin cancer.

Myth #7:

Harmful UV rays cannot penetrate through glass
Glass, like car windows, does block UVB rays, but not UVA. UVA rays can cause skin cancer. If you are sitting next to a window during a long car trip or if your office desk is next to a window, your skin could become damaged. Likewise, windows of airplanes, busses and trains do not filter out UVA rays, so it’s best to protect your skin while traveling even if you are not directly exposed to the sun outdoors.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes an annual guide to sunscreens. The group has reviewed and tested over 1300 sunscreens, so before you buy, you might want to check it out.

Read the Labels

Here are a few things that are important when selecting a sunscreen:

Broad Spectrum SPF 15-50. If a sunscreen is labeled as having “broad spectrum” that means that it filters out both UVA and UVB rays. This is a good thing.

Water-Resistant. No sunscreen can claim that it is waterproof, but it can be labeled as water resistant for either 40 or 80 minutes. After you swim, it’s best to reapply regardless of the time designation.

Mineral Based. These products contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide and will be less likely to irritate sensitive skin.

Oxybenzone and Retinyl Palmitate. Avoid any product that contains these. Both can absorb into the body and cause allergic reactions, especially in children. They are not approved by the FDA.

Powders and Sprays. It’s best not use spray-on or powder sunscreens because it is difficult to tell if the skin is completely covered. Also, an aerosol could cause problems if it is inhaled.

Expiration Date. Just like food and batteries, your sunscreen’s effectiveness can expire. The FDA requires that all sunscreens have ingredients that will last 3 years, but after that, you can’t be sure of the effectiveness. If you are pulling out sunscreen from previous years’ vacations, make sure you check the expiration date before use.

Wow! A lot to think about, huh? I’ll admit this might be screaming “TMI! TMI!” but, because of the mistakes I’ve made with my skin, I am a crusader for good skin protection. This is stuff I never realized, and then, it was too late. White fat doesn’t look that bad to me now.

Slather on the sunscreen Wimpy Girl, and enjoy your summer!

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This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

It was Senator Gaylord Nelson who, in the 1960s, brought awareness of the environment and keeping it clean. He proposed National Earth Day in 1970 and on April 22nd, 20 million Americans took to the street in support of a clean environment and to protest harmful environment practices. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created as a result.

As a runner/walker, there is a lot you can do to help Mother Nature to protect and clean up our planet.

1. Go Plogging
In essence, plogging is picking up trash and waste while you are out on your run or walk. Plogging is actually a Swedish word, combining the words, plocko upp (pick up) and jogga (jog).

2. Support Companies that are Environmentally Friendly
It takes everyone doing their part to make a difference. Companies that have made cleaning the planet part of their mission include Adidas, Brooks, Ikea, Unilever, and Patagonia lead the list.

3. Go Plastic-less
Plastic is the one of the hugest threats to our oceans. Making a few simple changes can make your plastic footprint smaller. Things like bringing your own grocery bags while shopping, refusing to use plastic straws and cutlery, bringing your own water bottle and coffee cup, and never, ever using glitter are a few ways to show Mother Nature you care.

4. Walk or Bike, Rather than Using the Car
This is a no-brainer!

5. Plant a New Tree Each Year

6. Save Energy
Save energy in your home by turning off lights and fans and unplugging devices that aren’t being used.

Check out EarthDay.org for more active projects and groups to make each April 22nd, better than the last.

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