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I Heart SPF

August 5, 2013 - Carrie Olson
It was just a small sunburn on my back. It shouldn't be a big deal, but it was. Somehow during a trip to Rockaway Beach yesterday, I missed spraying SPF 75 on a tiny patch of my pasty white skin. The burn is small and probably will fade within a couple days, but that didn't stop me from slapping on globs of aloe vera lotion. I'm not sure how it happened. I applied and reapplied sunscreen until the bottle was almost empty. The amount of disappointment in myself over this small burn was pretty astounding, considering a decade earlier I would lay outside to "try" and worship the sun.

Try is the word here. I was born with very fair skin, thanks to my grandmother's Irish heritage. I'd be so jealous of the girls at my high school with blonde hair and tanned skin. They'd showcase their little white hearts on their side hip from stickers placed carefully before heading into the tanning booth. I'd lay out in the summer sun, trying to soak up whatever the other girls were able to get. My gift? Bright red burns and freckles. One summer, I stayed outdoors, burn after burn, and did receive some color … and permanent skin damage. I deeply regret that decision.

Going to a tanning both was forbidden in my family, my mother wise of the dangers of frying your outer layers. Lecture after lecture, I understood the pitfalls of tanning but still wanted that magic glow. I was given a bottle of SPF and a CD copy of the song "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" for my high school graduation.

In college, I was less likely to sunbathe. But I wasn't wearing sunscreen regularly, and there was a trip to Florida where I fell asleep on the beach. I was bright beet red for the rest of the vacation, plus my "glow" didn't fade for a couple months. Color me surprised. I ended up with quite a few dark neck moles and speckled shoulders. That hasn't gone away. It wasn't until a couple years ago that I fell hardcore on the sunscreen bandwagon. All that lecturing finally sunk in. With maturity, I started going to bed at a decent hour, taking my vitamins and applying SPF. My skin primer and foundation also contain that lucky number. After achieving a job that required me to walk long amounts of time to and from, spraying on the sunscreen is as commonplace as brushing my teeth.

Yesterday, I gawked at a woman who looked exactly like "The Tan Mom" from the tabloids (it might have been her, actually). She had slathered oil all over herself and was probably much younger than what she appeared to be. I'm glad that I have sunscreen down to a habit, and I wish I only had followed suit earlier. (I'm finally at THAT age.) Perhaps I will be mistaken for someone younger, later in life, who knows. But it's a habit I'm not going to allow myself to break.

I then proceeded over to my towel, umbrella and wide-brimmed hat. I'm grateful I never went down that road. Perhaps in the future, people will confuse me for a much younger woman, who knows.


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