I love sunshine.
I was never one to work on a suntan though, because I always burned so easily. I am pretty fair skinned for having such dark hair, thanks to my maternal grandmother who was a redhead.
Years ago there weren't many sunscreens available except those marketed for small children. A product called PreSun was the first one that caught my attention as a young adult. It was clear, watery and came in a brown bottle. I was married in September of 1975. June of that year, Bill and I went with friends to watch the hydroplane races on the Detroit River. I took PreSun with me and used it as I knew we would be in the sun most of the day and I didn't want to burn.
In the fashion of the day, I wore cut off blue jeans, a halter top, sandals and had my hair in pigtails for most of the warm day. After the races we went to Bill's house and fell asleep on the floor while his mom worked on dinner. I woke up sick, so sick I crawled to the bathroom. Bill's mom was a nurse and wanted him to take me to the hospital but I just wanted to go home. Wherever I forgot to apply PreSun (my ears, the part in my hair, the tops of my feet) and wherever PreSun didn't cover as I spread the watery liquid over my arms and legs unknowingly leaving streaks of exposed skin, and also wherever my clothing shifted and revealed unprotected flesh is where I burned.
Aloe Vera wasn't a known remedy back then. My mom applied Noxema cold cream which sank into the patches of lobster red flesh like raindrops in a desert. The nausea passed and Noxema, lots of fluids and tepid showers got me through the rest of the day and night. Three months later on my wedding day, the odd sunburn patterns on the tops of my feet and the streaks on my legs showing how my fingers were spread as I applied the PreSun were very obvious. The fringe of my cut offs was clearly visible in sunburn. I can't imagine how sick I would have been without the PreSun.
I've had a few minor sunburns since but usually I had sunscreen on or avoided being directly in the sun for prolonged periods. My last sunburn occurred while on a cruise 11 years ago. The day was partly cloudy and I was under an overhang, presumably in the shade most of the afternoon. I didn't take into account the reflected rays from the swimming pool next to me. My neck and upper chest area burned more than my face and arms. It eventually faded and was forgotten until last year at the dermatologist's office.
While talking to the dermatologist about another matter he mentioned my sun damage. What sun damage?! He pointed to the spots on my neck and chest which I attributed to aging. Nope. They are sun damage. How could this be? I wasn't a sun worshiper who spent my teens and twenties basting myself with baby oil while lying on reflective aluminum sheets! Alas, here it is:
The discolored patches are more obvious on certain days and in certain lighting. Again, I can't imagine how different I would look without sunscreen precautions.
This past weekend we were at the birthday party of a five year old relative. The sun felt good on our faces. I sat out in it for a few minutes, then changed seats to one in the shade. I had nylons on and shoes with skinny straps that crossed my instep twice. Guess who didn't have her feet under the umbrella the whole time?
(My toes are curled under here because a pedicure hasn't happened in ages.)
Many drugs affect sun sensitivity. Blood pressure medication and some antibiotics are two that come to mind. I'm lucky that this is all that has gone wrong regarding sun exposure. If you see me outside and I don't have sunscreen on, don't be surprised to see me using a parasol...
...especially if the parasol makes me look like this!