Thursday, April 12, 2007

Everybody's free... wear sunscreen.

Yeah.... "baby block" we'd call it... layers of the thick white goo on the girls before we would go to the beach, or the pool. For ourselves we put on something lighter, maybe SPF 15, 8, or 4... or my sister, tanning "oil" with SPF 2.

I haven't had to wear any in quite a while, having not spent much time on a beach since I started covering. However, my face is still exposed so it would be wise I think to have some (they have very convenient roll-on sunscreen dispensers now) with me should I be engaged in an activity out doors for more than a short while. I hated to wear sunscreen when I was young, and it's a shame, really. I remember a number of times coming home fried like a lobster (my sister compared me to Sebastian the crab--wiki, img) and in pain. But somehow I managed to associate the "slight burn" with a "good feeling." That is, it felt good to have warm to the touch, slightly pinkish skin that would sting everywhere, and at times even itch.

Until I was a teenager and began to be annoyed by it, and burns so bad they turned into rashes. Days after one particularly bad burn on my back, I was in the shower and the sunburn began to itch... itch like it had been exposed to some sort of toxin, really, and I couldn't get it to stop. The skin of course was very sensitive but I turned the shower to the maximum setting (max pressure, like water pellets shooting at me) and then began to scratch my back with a shower scrubber--it was coarse and I was scratching so roughly it felt like pulling the skin off. Nothing helped. It burned, and I was in tears, calling my brother in to do something, anything to help, and he ended up applying lotion profusely to my back and the sensation went away finally--a few hours later. If you have ever been sunburnt, imagine scratching that sunburn with sandpaper--that essentially what I was doing to alleviate the pain!! The one kind distracting me from the other perhaps.

Days later my back had turned into a collection of blisters. This is difficult to describe, it's kind of nasty really. I was in marching band and spent the afternoons outside, sweating of course. We had a uniform of sorts, that we had to wear white t-shirts (there is wisdom in that) and shorts, but I wore two tshirts, because the blisters kept popping, leaving brownish-yellow circles all over the shirt. They weren't tiny blisters either, by the way--some as large as two or three centimeters across, covering my back. Blisters like that indicate the burn has gone deeper into the skin, i.e., "second-degree."

But no, that's not the last time I was sunburned, though I did start paying more attention to wearing sunscreen. I was jealous that I never could tan--pale skin like mine was particularly unattractive in school, sometimes called "glow in the dark." So the pressure was there to try to tan but always I burned. The burn was followed by a short period of ever so slightly darker skin. It never really paid off.

The most recent burn I received in the Bahamas, on a cruise in August of 2003 I think. My mother and I were taking a short cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship, to Nassau, then the company's private island, then back to Miami. On that island, my activity for the day was primarily snorkeling. Having no interest to sit on the shore and stare at the water, I opted to discover tropical fish and rocks and seaweed. I was out there for hours, coming out once to apply more sunscreen actually (so I put it on twice that day) and nevertheless fried and burned. Because it was only my back, neck, arms (backs of them) and backs of my legs which had been burned, it was only sitting, and lying down which hurt... how convenient--not. Unfortunately, it actually made me sick (nausea and headache) in a way ruining the last night on the boat.

Alhamdulillah, that was the last major burn I had, 3 and a half years ago. Covering in hijab has kept me from situations that would allow sunburn, not to mention it isn't all that comfortable being outside in the heat.

The song linked above came out when I was in high school, so I remember it.

As the days warm up, people start going to the beach and trying to tan, I think about sunburn, and I think about skin cancer. Considering my skin type, and how many times I have been severely burned, not to mention all the little spots I have as souvenirs, I think it's a very real threat. So I still intend to wear sunscreen.

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