OPINION: SPF infinity please

Photo credit: Mark Nelson | The Collegian

I have never been the type of girl to lay out in the sun to get tan. I prefer to let my skin receive the golden kiss of the sun “au naturel,” whether it be by walking around the block, enjoying the pool or working.

Last summer, I spent about nine hours a week sitting on a lawn mower capturing a truly farmer-worthy farmer’s tan, which happened to follow me all the way into December. Those long days in the sun on the mower involved a big hat, sunglasses, lots of insect repellent and a nice lathering of Sun Protection Factor (or, SPF) 50.

I thought I was going all out to protect myself from the harmful dangers of prolonged sun exposure; however, I was only protecting myself halfway. The American Melanoma Foundation suggests that people stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. I was outdoors during the time when the sun is strongest.

In addition, you should also wear sunscreen under your clothing because a typical T-shirt only provides SPF protection of five to eight. Not only is wearing sunscreen and reapplying it every two hours important, you should also invest in a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and long-sleeved shirt and pants, according to the American Melanoma Foundation.

This past winter break, I traded in my coveralls for a bathing suit and hopped on a plane to Costa Rica. I went from frosted fields to bright blue beaches in the matter of a few days. The majority of my time there was spent outdoors, soaking in the sun.

By day three on the beach, I had completely forgotten my long-standing sunshine ritual: lather with SPF 50 and repeat two hours later. I left Costa Rica having caught a large fish and a larger sunburn, caused from the lack of sunscreen on that half-day fishing trip.

I don’t even want to consider the degree of burnt I had gotten, nor do I want to relive the elderly woman sitting next to me on the plane, lecturing me on the importance of sunscreen.

What the lady did not mention (and what I didn’t know) is that, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, it only takes one blistering sunburn during your childhood or adolescence years to more than double your chance of developing melanoma later in your life.

The Skin Cancer Foundation also points out that, “A person’s risk for developing melanoma also doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns at any age.”

This summer, I decided to heed what seemed to be the very unnecessary advice of the elderly woman from the plane, “When the sun is out use sunscreen.” My nanny job this summer makes applying sunscreen easier, mainly because I have to nag two little sun-thirsty pool-goers to apply their sunscreen as well.

That is, it was easy to remember until last week, when I was too busy applying sunscreen to everyone but myself and attempting to keep greedy fingers away from the cookie jar.

After succumbing to the youngest one’s wishes and plunging into the icy depth of the crystal clear pool for a while, then laying out to read my book (yes, the nanny life has turned me into one of those girls that lays out at the pool), the thought of applying sunscreen still did not occur.

Perhaps it was the overcast day that clouded my judgement.

Upon my return home, I finally noticed the lovely red hue spread across my face and shoulders. Yes. I had forgotten to apply sunscreen.

Not only was I sunburnt, it was a blotchy sunburn. To add insult to (burn) injury, a nice tan did not appear from that blotchy mess.

On top of that, in order to convince myself that I was not a ditzy and forgetful nanny, I made up a silly story that I purposely didn’t apply sunscreen to help clear up my not broken out face.

Yes, I am just so smart.

I did not apply sunscreen, but I did wear sunglasses. At least I was protecting one part of me.

Sunglasses are not only good for keeping the harsh light out of your eyes, they also protect the sensitive skin around your eyes from sun exposure and protect your eyes from UV rays, which in turn, reduced the risk of cataracts, according to the Center for Disease Control.

After my previous experience in Costa Rica and my more recent experience at the pool, one would think I would have learned my lesson. Well, I believe I have and for the rest of the summer I hope I will remember to apply.

The last thing I want from forgetting to apply sunscreen is to look like a dunce, get skin cancer or develop unnecessary wrinkles when I am an elderly woman. The need to stay young and healthy forever is very real to me. Instead of a Dorian Gray painting, maybe just try not forgetting the sunscreen.

Jena Ernsting is a sophomore in agricultural communications and journalism.