I got sunburnt in just half an hour
ORIGINAL 2003 ARTICLE:
I took an early holiday this year, writes malehealth editor Jim Pollard. I didn't bother to read those articles about looking after your skin. Having even written a few of them in my time, I thought I'd be OK.
No fool like a smug fool. I got a stinging crimson dose of sunburn that would have made Icarus proud. (The picture on the left is a model but the hue is pretty accurate.)
It happened in just 30 minutes and I'd spent half of that time in the sea. To compound the injustice, you couldn't even see the sun. It was lost in sea mist. Forget the old gag about frying an egg on your stomach, you could have done a full English on mine.
So what should you do to avoid a similar fate? Well, there's probably no shortage of advice. Most newspapers and magazines have 'how to have a safe holiday' article around this time of year. (And malehealth is no different.)
This is what one of the Sunday newspapers proposed last month for 'healthy tanning'. First, eat food rich in betacarotene like carrots and mango. Second, supplement your diet with the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. Third, eat oily fish (the omega-3 fats in oily fish protect the skin from sun damage). Fourth, take the amino acid L-tyrosine. And finally, use a natural sunscreen as some sunscreens are toxic.
Now, I'm not saying this is bad advice. Most of us could do with more omega-3's in the diet. Carrots and mango are good for you and taste nice. Natural sunscreen? Why not. But, as the great Julie Walters once said in a tea-bag advert: what a palaver! It's no wonder that men don't take health advice when it's couched in such complicated terms.
Perhaps following the above advice to the letter will help you tan healthily (although the exact roles and functions of antioxidants and amino acids are not well enough understood to be able to predict exactly how and in what quantities they might reduce skin damage from the sun.)
But there's a much easier way. You need just two easy to use products to make sure that that first class holiday doesn't end in first degree burns.
First things first, the sun's fun. It makes you feel good and boosts vitamin D production but too much is dangerous. How do you know if you've had too much? Simple - you start to change colour. The healthy tan is like the unicorn, the Leprechaun and England's middle order batting - a myth. It's true that people with brown and black skin are better protected but there's simply no such thing as a healthily tanned white man. Any tan is damaged skin DNA.
Too much sun increases your chance of getting skin cancer - the UK's second most common cancer. And, like the workload of airport baggage handlers, the number of cases is doubling every ten years. Skin cancer can kill and the figures for the most deadly form prove that sun is a major factor, even in the UK. Highest rates are in Cornwall and Devon, the lowest in Manchester and Birmingham. You don't need to be Michael Fish to detect a pattern. Of course, it's unlikely that one serious sunburn episode alone will cause skin cancer but it may not take many, especially in childhood, if you're fair-skinned and have a genetic disposition.
So what are those two easy to use products? The first is a T-shirt. Keep it on. You will probably look better too. After all, it's a rare woman who wants to be seen with a man with bigger breasts than her own. The second, unless you want a face like an old leather jacket, is a hat. Nose and ears are skin cancer magnets.
For the uncovered bits just smear on a sunscreen. Don't worry, if you think that Factor Fifteen is the average speed of the Starship Enterprise. Just buy any sunscreen aimed at children. It's guaranteed to have a high sun protection factor (SPF). Certainly don't go for anything less than an ultraviolet B protection factor (SPF) of 15 and an ultraviolet A protection of three stars. And make sure your sunglasses are to British Standard BS2714:1987.
If you do sunbathe, slap on the sunscreen regularly and avoid the midday sun. The nearer you get to the equator the more dangerous the sun is. In the UK it's worst between 11am and 3pm.
The sun's ultraviolet is increased when it reflects off the sea and sand and can burn you even through water and - visitors to UK destinations and idiots like me, please note - light cloud. Ask the locals about those special places they like to go to find the shade, they're called bars.
Finally, if you are worried, remember that skin cancer can be treated if caught early. See a doctor pronto if your moles, especially new moles, begin to change size, shape, height or colour or to bleed or itch.
SUMMER 2008 UPDATE:
Sunscreen ingredient may cause cancer
In March, the US journal
Do you have any healthy tanning tips? Or sunburn horror stories? Share them with malehealthâ€¦
Page created on July 31st, 2008
Page updated on December 1st, 2009