Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sun: friend and enemy

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!


Holly, the Old Western Gal said...

Overexposure to the sun is so very dangerous.

Yes, carry a parasol! And tuck those feet in!

Chatty Crone said...

I have to tell you, I've had a skin cancer removed - and I don't go out in the sun all that much any more without a major sun screen on - like 70 on my face!

Take care of yourself.


Kelli said...

I'm terrified of what a dermatologist would tell me. So many sunburns in my past. BAD sunburns. :(

Darlene said...

I just discovered your Blog today as I continue to venture through the land of Blogs. I know too well about sun burns as I am fair also used baby oil when I was young on those things today that took me to A MOHS surgeon to remove my skin cancer on my temple. Hats do not do enough, but better than nothing if that is your choice, sunscreen is the best if in the sun and particularly on meds that cause you to burn easily, and so many we can learn from that use umbrellas. Going through Basil Cell Carcinoma was scary for me and I was with many other patients in the same waiting area and around the same age as me. Your feet look really sore. I do have a question, how did you link your Blog to your Blog list? I saw this on another Blog today and need to do this myself as my list is way too long. You did a nice job with your Blog.

Sewconsult said...

Love your humor. Stay out of the sun! I need a pedicure, but won't let anyone see my feet.

The Urban Chic said...

Knit, I too worry every day from my over exposure to the sun in my youth and at the post office. Being a pale skinned redhead isn't easy and I would need the whole bottle of SPF100--now available, but with my meds it's worse. I burn within 20 minutes of exposure, so it's usually indoors for me. My dad had skin cancer and my skin on my arms and chest are really bad. Oh Noxema, brings back lots of memories from the beach days. Take care of yourself from the sun---bring back the parasol---very romantic and vintage.
Stop by, I am having a giveaway. Love and hugs, pat

Nettie said...

Yes, I have to admit I was a silly teenager...ahem 30+ years ago wearing lashings of baby oil or coconut oil while laying out in the blistering heat on Bondi Beach in my bikini...Oops! But that's what we all did back in, the day...no one mentioned anything about skin cancer...or perhaps WE just didn't listen...being a teenager of course WE knew it all!

I haven't seen a dermatologist, yet! Though I'm sure I too would have the same sun damage as you mate.

Sunscreen of the highest factor is my friend now though...