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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Seeing Red Over Sun-Kissed/Sunburned Skin

I typically don't like repeating topics within the same month (well, aside from the Back to the Future trilogy entries that I worked on the last three Monday Matinees), but in this case, I'm going to have to in order to set up the story.

Above is a copy of Jughead With Archie Digest #88. It was one of the very first comic books that I remember reading in my childhood, and miraculously enough, it is still in fantastic condition. I would have gone into my bookshelf to scan the images that I needed to illustrate this point, but it's tucked all the way in the back of my bookshelf, and it would take me a lot of time to dig it out, so I'll just have to describe it to you.

Anyway, one of the reasons why that particular book stands out in my mind is the opening story. Traditionally speaking, almost every digest magazine has two new stories mixed in with some classic Archie comics from the last ten or twenty years prior. In almost all cases, the new stories at at the two bookends (or, the opening and closing stories). With me so far?

The first story in the book shows Jughead and Archie talking to each other while Archie is doing some watering in the garden. I want to say that Archie is wearing a bathing suit and a T-shirt, but I can't recall. At some point, Archie and Jughead decided to go to the beach, and Jughead and Archie get into a discussion on precautions that they could take to avoid excessive sun exposure. It's actually kind of a story that is similar to those Goofus and Gallant stories that you'd find in Highlights magazine. In Archie and Jughead's case, both of them knew that going outside without wearing sunscreen was not a good idea (keeping in mind that this story was illustrated at a time when the hole in the ozone layer was just discovered a couple of years earlier). So, both of them rubbed some sunscreen all over their bodies and played on the beach happily.

Reggie Mantle, on the other hand, didn't need sunscreen. He felt that wearing sunscreen was the wimpiest thing that one could do. So, he spent his day on the beach prancing around with girls in bikinis, himself wearing a rather skimpy Speedo.

(Which, according to this blogger is one article of men's clothing that I would never wear.)

But, anyway, I'm sure you all know how the story goes. Archie and Jughead end up without any damage done to their epidermis whatsoever. But after a woman accidentally slaps Reggie in the back, he winces in pain in a dramatic fashion before turning a sickly shade of rose. Despite the fact that he was basically out in the sun for hours on end without even so much as using sunscreen, he is still completely clueless about how harmful the sun's rays could get, and is absolutely dumbfounded over how something like that could have happened.

Cue a scene of all the bikini-clad women that Reggie was just playing frisbee with chanting...


And, at the end of the story, Jughead adds “and you should too”.

Now, I suppose you're wondering why I have chosen this comic book tale to open up my discussion. Well, it's very simple. It has to do with today's blog topic.

Sun protection.

I mean, let's face it. All of us these days need it.

I will say this. I'd rather get a tan the old-fashioned way by going outside for a few hours rather than book an appointment at a tanning salon any day of the week. I don't really like tanning beds much at all, and I am in firm support of banning them for everyone under the age of eighteen. But, regardless of whether you tan in a bed, or tan on a beach towel on a sandy shore, you still have to take protection from the sun very seriously.

As someone who works a job that is mostly outdoors now (where each of my shifts last at least seven and a half hours), I definitely have to make sure that I take care of my skin whenever possible. In fact, I'm going to post my daily routine for protecting myself from the sun, just so I can give off the impression that I am no Reggie Mantle and that I do take the effects of excessive sunlight exposure on the skin quite seriously.

First, I always make sure that I have sunscreen on me at all times. And, I know that a lot of news sources these days are reporting that you don't need to have a sunscreen that has an SPF higher than 40, but I always use at least a 50 SPF. When I was younger, I burned something fierce, and joked that I needed a sunscreen that had an SPF of 10,000! But, I have noticed that the stuff that I use is fine. It does what it is supposed to do, and that's all that matters. Believe me, I know all about blistering sunburns. I acquired quite a few of them in my early childhood that were skin-peeling awfulness. After you experience a couple of them, you definitely don't want to experience another one. And, I also have learned that applying it only once a day is not exactly the way you want to go unless you're going to be outside for 30 minutes or an hour. Myself? I usually reapply sunscreen during breaks and my lunch hour. That way, I'll be well protected from the elements.

Another thing that I mostly do is wear a hat that has some sort of protection. I know that those Tilley hats that look like the hat that Inspector Gadget wears are probably the best ones to wear, and I used to own one, but I cannot find it for the life of me. So, instead, I use a baseball cap. Not quite the protection that could be used, but it's fine as long as I remember to apply sunscreen on the back of my neck. Though, admittedly sometimes I don't wear a hat if it appears to be an overcast, cool day, and when the clouds go away and heat up the ground below, I end up paying for my little slip-up. But, it happens to us all. No need to stress over it.

And, of course, the whole idea of applying sunscreen on a scorching hot day is just one of the many things that one can do in order to stay safe in the summer heat. In fact, I want to tell you a story from the days in which I did store standards for my job. It was the day before Canada Day (July 1), and I was out in the hot sun for several hours without drinking any liquids whatsoever.

Big mistake on my part.

Heat stroke is very serious stuff. As someone who has suffered from heat stroke related incidents in my childhood, I know how hard it can be to experience that discomfort. So, you know what I started doing? I used to smuggle a thermos filled with ice cold water inside the shopping cart collecting machine so that I could stay hydrated at all times. And, the best part was that the thermos was the same exact colour as the shopping carts at the time, so I didn't have to worry about getting “busted” so to speak. And, even if I did get caught with a thermos filled with water, I think that they would have understood.

That's why I'm always constantly drinking water on the job when I work the Garden Centre. If I didn't drink water out there, I'd likely be passed out in the compound lying in between the cedar mulch and peat moss. So, yes, hydration is very important to me, and I make sure that I keep a bottle of water on my person at all times while I am working outside.

Just one more thing that I want to make clear as I close this blog post on sun safety. I am one of those people who has a naturally ruddy complexion. When I get a lot of sun exposure, it's typical for me to get a reddish glow in my skin. But then it fades completely to a tan brown colour. It comes from my father's side of the family. Did you know that when my father gets a lot of colour, his skin gets incredibly dark? It's true. Mine does the exact same thing. I can see why some people might mistake it as being a burn, but I would know if it is. I am the best judge of my own body, and I know what a sunburn feels like. I've always had that ruddy complexion whether I am in extreme heat or extreme cold. It has nothing to do with high blood pressure (it was normal the last time I had mine checked), and it also has nothing to do with any skin diseases. That's just the way that I was born.

It certainly doesn't mean that I don't practice sun safety. I wouldn't be writing an entire blog post on how important it is if I didn't. Nor does it mean that I don't take care of myself outside. I may have a slip-up every now and again, but everyone does. I would say that I actually do a good job keeping safe against the elements. It may not look like I do, but there's only so much one can do with a naturally ruddy complexion.

I certainly wouldn't fault anyone for getting a nasty sunburn every now and again. Maybe they forgot the sunscreen one day...or maybe, like me, they have a naturally ruddy complexion too. I certainly wouldn't point it out to them and chastise them for having a burn. I don't know the situation behind it, and it's not up to me to judge.

I certainly don't think it's very nice to make light of a person who has had the misfortune of getting a sunburn. I definitely don't think it's very nice to make everyone in the room aware of the fact that a person's skin colour is redder than what they perceive as being normal. 

And, I certainly don't think that it's very professional or courteous to point out a person's sun-kissed skin to everybody in the room and kick off an impromptu sun protection intervention in a public space like say, a cafeteria, hallway, or break room where you are basically observed under a microscope for your entire lunch hour and having to try and constantly explain that your skin is not burned, that it is merely a side-effect of having a naturally rosy complexion. Because not only does it make that person's free time less enjoyable for kind of makes that person feel like the village idiot - especially someone who does take sun safety quite seriously - who is tired of explaining to people who obviously don't know better than to talk with someone in a more respectful manner.  And, sometimes, it hurts the person's feelings, which if they already do suffer a nasty burn can make the situation even more embarrassing.

In the end, they are people, not circus sideshows. And, regardless of whether the intentions behind the concern are good, I still think that respect plays a huge part in that.

Just some food for thought though.

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