Good Day, Sunshine!

I have been spouting off lately about a bunch of stuff that I don’t know jack about… yoga, addiction, parenting a 4.5 year old… So I figured since tomorrow is the first day of Spring (halla-freakin-lullah!), I’d talk about something I actually do know about.

Sun safety.

OK, as a graphic designer/web developer, I still don’t really know jack about sun safety either – however… my company does health education and when you have been around it for nearly 10 years, you pick up a few things.

No one is more excited than I for the advent of Spring – but as Dooce and Builder Mama have recently discovered… skin cancer is a scary deal. It is the only cancer that continues to rise in the US, with over a million new cases every year. And not only that – it’s a fugly, scarring disease.


That is squamous cell, basal cell and melanoma skin cancer respectively. Melanoma being by far the most deadly. John McCain has miraculously survived melanoma twice thus far, kicking Laura Bush’s wimpy squamous cell cancer in the ass.

So. If you want to be safe in the sun, what do you do?

Limit Exposure
This one is simple. Duh. Stay out of the sun. But the sun is strongest from 10am to 4pm, so whenever possible, plan activities in the early morning or late afternoon. Or try to have your picnic under a big-ass tree instead of in the middle of the field. And stay far, far, far away from tanning booths.

Wear Cover Up Clothing
Choose loose-fitting (but tightly knit) long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and wide-brimmed hats. Check the weave of your clothes by holding them up to the sun; if you can see the sun… well, the sun can see your skin. And even though they are hotter – when possible, dark clothes are better because they absorb sun rays rather than reflecting them back on your skin.

Builder Mom is referring to it as her Diva Hat, but REI, EMS, Tilley and other outdoorsy places have lots of choices. Look for high UPF #s for the fabrics. Any company that puts “SPF” on fabrics either are lying, have not had their fabrics tested… or think you are stupid and do not understand that the standard for fabrics is indeed UPF, not SPF. I am not sure which is worse.

And have you noticed that even Target is carrying rash guards and more sun-safe swim suits now? It’s freaking cool. And although I have yet to see real UPF numbers on any of the choices at Target (buyer beware), ANY fabric on top of the skin as opposed to naked skin is a good idea.

A lot of friends have asked me where to get suits for kids and adults – I personally have purchased them from Tuga, Lands End, Solartex… but like I said – these products are flooding the market now. Google is your friend.

I know it seems like these cover-up suits would be hot – but trust me… they actually keep you cooler by keeping the water near your skin, and then they also dry very fast. And if you start the kids in them early, they won’t want to wear anything else. Did you notice that Declan was wearing his rash guard inside for his swimming lessons? He refused to swim without it.

Wear Sunscreen
Look for a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher. Also look for “broad spectrum” or one that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. UVA are the aging rays and UVB are the burning rays. You’d pretty much want to keep both of those things away from your skin, don’t you think? And remember – the fairer the skin – the more sizzle. Be sure to apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun and reapply every two hours. I learned this lesson hard in Mexico when I missed one application with Declan and he did indeed get a burn on his arm. And every blistering burn significantly increases your risk for skin cancer later in life. Crap.

But my point here with this post is to remind us that the advent of Spring brings the advent of strong sunshine, and while no one is perfect (certainly not me) – we all need to watch out, man. Skin cancer is not something I want to fuck with.

Hey. Maybe I can use that last line in our next campaign.

P.S. I was only kidding when I called Laura’s skin cancer wimpy. No skin cancer is wimpy. It’s all bad. Bad. Bad. Bad.

This article has 7 comments

  1. Anonymous

    thanks for the tips!

  2. dan o

    Thanks for the reminder. I’m sure I’ve read that Colorado has the highest per capita rate of skin cancer in the U.S.A., due to both the high sun exposure and the fact that much of the population lives at high altitude, which reduces atmospheric UV filtering by about 30% with respect to sea-level.

  3. aimee / greeblemonkey

    You are absolutely correct about the extra exposure at high altitude. You get a gold star for the day!

    P.S. Arizona has the highest skin cancer rate in the US, though.

  4. sarah

    good info, thanks!

  5. Anonymous

    good post – icky pics!

  6. Builder Mama

    Thanks for posting this…even as careful as I was, that burn I got in Cabo San Lucas back in October is what finally did me in.

    I highly recommend twice-yearly checkups at the dermatologist for everyone who is fair-skinned or with a family history of skin cancer. It’s what caught mine – I thought it was a zit that wouldn’t heal. Duh!

  7. Anonymous

    I had to laugh at the McCain/Bush line. 😉

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