I do not tan. Pale, pasty, blindingly white — you pick the adjective. I just don’t tan.
When I was younger, I used to wish that all my freckles would meld into one glorious shade of bronze. Or, at the very least, my terrible sunburns would fade into a hint of tan color. Or that I would master sunless tanning lotion and fool the world.
None of these things happened. And at least once a year, I still reach for the aloe. Every dermatologist, mother and well-informed consumer is cringing, I know — the National Cancer Institute says that even one severe, blistering sunburn can increase your risk for skin cancer.
So what’s a pale-skinned 20-something to do? Wise up on sunscreen.
I don’t use anything lower than SPF 30. I nixed sprays after the sunscreen got carried away with the wind instead of landing on my legs on one beach trip (talk about awkward burn splotches). I only trust other pale people to apply sunscreen to my back — all you tan-skinned jokers don’t live in the same sunburn paranoia that we do. I know all the worst spots to burn — hairline, bikini line, tops of feet — and slather them judiciously. And even when I’m sitting in partial shade or only heading out for an hourlong walk, I grease up.
It’s not always fun, obviously. No matter how many showers I take, I still think I smell faintly of sunscreen. (Sorry, co-workers.) And there are times that I still mess up — falling asleep in the sun is the most lethal, I’ve found. Thinking “Oh, it’s only 20 minutes” is another no-no habit I still fall into occasionally.
But part of adapting to 20-something life is taking responsibility for your own health — and that includes your skin. No one is standing over your shoulder reminding you to re-goop every two hours or making sure you get the back of your neck.
How have your sunscreen habits changed over the years? Are you more or less diligent about protecting yourself from the sun?