Friday, May 18, 2012

Dear Sunscreen

Dear Sunscreen,

Now that it is warmer and the UV index is steadily climbing its scale, our need for you has returned.  You again reside permanently on the bench right by the front door.  However, you are another item on my Love-Hate Relationship List.  I love that you protect our skin from harmful UV rays, but I hate slathering you on and how you feel on my skin.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am sun-phobic.  It's not that I want to stay fair like all of 'my people'; I have skin so light my legs can reflect sunlight and cause a traffic accident, so some color would actually be nice.  I just don't like being in the sun for any more than 'a little while', especially without sunscreen.  I also don't like the feel of the sun's prickly heat on my skin (but Dear Husband adores that 'warmth-on-skin' sensation; you can imagine how our vacation outings go: I seek shade while DH strolls leisurely in the sun.)  I fear the possibility of a sunburn; I imagine how the UV rays are making the DNA in my skin cells mutate or speeding up that inevitable wrinkling process.  In sum, I use sunscreen in the summer the way I use lotion in the winter.  Slather, rub, repeat.

However, the OCD in me makes me very particular about the textures of things I touch.  I prefer the feel of certain lotions over others, and I must immediately wash off anything I cannot tolerate on my hands.  I definitely have hypersensitive tactile issues; is there a clinical term for that?  (Don't ask me how I cook; that can be another post all by itself).  Thus, the texture of sunscreen?  Cannot stand it.  Whether it's titanium dioxide, zinc dioxide, or avobenzone (the three available ingredients in the US that protect from both UVA and UVB rays), I don't like the feel of them.  They all feel greasy to me.  I simply cannot stand the feel of sunscreen on my hands and between my fingers.

As a parent, I am even more worried about the skin on my kiddos than the aging skin on myself.  I attack my children with sunscreen they way policemen would attack an offender with mace.  Every year, we take pictures of the kiddos on the first day of school when we are all out on our driveway waiting for the bus.  It has occurred to me that every year, the pictures inevitably show me in action, putting sunscreen on the kiddos.  There I am, slathering and rubbing, and faithfully justifying that I am putting on this invisible shield to protect my children's baby-soft skin from the evils of the sun's invisible rays, as I mutter and complain about the yuckiness of it all to myself.

DH loves to tease me about how I have brainwashed my kiddos about the use of sunscreen and the dangers of the sun's rays.  His favorite story about Dear Daughter is when she was about five-years-old.  She and Daddy were playing outside on the driveway.  She was playing with a ball, and somehow the ball rolled away.  DD started to go after it, but then came to a screeching halt of all a sudden, as if she was met by an invisible fence.  DH realized that she stopped right where the shade ended on the driveway.  She looked up at her daddy and said, "I don't have any sunscreen on."  To which DH didn't know if he should laugh or cry.

More recently, now that my Dear Son has turned five-years-old, he has also internalized my issues with the sun.  One day, we were running late, and I was not able to slather him with sunscreen before the bus came to pick him up.  I quickly told him to not stand under the sun the entire time the class played on the playground.  They don't stay out that long anyway, so it's probably okay, I told myself.  Later that day, I went to his school to help with the Book Fair.  I sat in the gym where it looked out onto the playground through two emergency exit doors.  I spotted him, and hoped that he would look in through the doors and see me.  He never did.  But he kept standing in front of the doors with his back to me every now and then, repeatedly.  It took me a little while to realize that the area right outside the doors was in the shade.  He remembered what I said and kept taking breaks in the shade!  That's my boy!  Brainwashing: successful.

So in order to alleviate my tactile intolerance issue, now I buy waterproof sunscreen for the pool, and lotion with sunscreen for everyday use.  The lotion with sunscreen has a texture that I can tolerate much better on a daily basis.  As for the waterproof ones for going to the pool, just that first hurdle I must jump over is enough to keep me from wanting to go to the pool at all.  I must put sunscreen on 80% body surface of 3.5 people.  Just. Kill. Me.  I've tried the spray-on ones, but you still have to rub it and spread it evenly to make sure all skin surfaces are covered, not to mention the fumes are nauseating.  After I do slather and rub waterproof sunscreen on to myself, the kiddos, and the back of DH, we're ready to go, but I then feel like a newly greased pig ready for roasting.  Did I mention I cannot stand sunscreen on my hands?  Now it's all over my body!  #@$%!

Oh, here's one more success at good training on my part for using sunscreen.  DH is now an expert at putting it on my back or the kiddos' backs.  On one occasion a long time ago, he experienced the wrath of my sunburnt-back because he missed some areas while applying sunscreen on it.  Let's just say he never made that mistake ever again.

If I have made myself seem like a sunscreen freak to you, well, it's because I am.  Only my fellow heliophobes would understand me.  And only my fellow OCD sufferers would understand my love-hate relationship with sunscreen.  But I guess I feel like this is something important enough for my kiddos to remember.  I don't want them to make the mistake that I did as a child: slather on baby oil and stay under the sun in hopes of tanning.  I didn't tan: I burnt to a crisp.  Just thinking of the times I've done that makes me think stupid, stupid, stupid.  Plus, sunburns are painful, not to mention they cause wrinkles.  Scientific fact.  Sweariously

So, Sunscreen, I will continue to use you because I have to, not because I want to.  But I appreciate your function in slowing the process of aging and preventing the occurrence of skin cell mutation.  Thank goodness DD is now old enough to slather you on herself and I just have to endure the lesser amount necessary for DS.  Okay, I admit that if a cool summer breeze is present, then the sun's warmth on my body while I'm at the pool can be quite fabulous.  But only if I have you all over my body.



  1. Sandra, I enjoy reading all your blogs but this is definitely one of my favorites. I don't have your dedication in applying sunscreen but I fret when I'm at work and realize I forgot to apply sunscreen on the kids before leaving for work. Thanks for sharing the funny incidents of DD and DS! So glad I'm not alone in lathering on the sunscreen on kids and DH think I'm nuts.

    1. Tran, I always just assume people think I'm nuts when it comes to the sun and sunscreen, so I am glad to find someone who can relate! My 'dedication' is nowhere near 100%, but I just try. And I usually get lazy on myself, since I hate it so much. Thanks for your kind comments!

  2. I'm horrible about putting sunscreen on the kids (don't have time to do it before I go to work), plus, I don't like it on my hands, either. If they are going to the pool, I always do it...but I still don't like it. I'm white as a ghost, so I avoid the sun. I put a lightweight sunscreen on my face and neck every day, but the rest of my body is done only when I plan to be in the sun. (I try to remember an umbrella, too.)

    1. Yes, I am white as a ghost, too! Which means like you, I burn pretty easily. I use foundation with SPF, and I also get lazy with the rest of my body. Funny you mention the umbrella! In Asian countries, everyone uses umbrellas for the sun anywhere that has no shade. It's quite a comical scene to see umbrellas everywhere on the streets on a sunny day. =)

  3. I dunno.... I might disagree with your statement that the sunscreen is making your cells mutate more slowly ;) The nasty chemicals that are in most sunscreens, yuck! Just sayin' but I LOVE the stories of your how children have very well absorbed your sun issues.

    And the texture stuff? Yeah, sensory processing disorder. But I'm with you on textures. It's all good.

    1. Oh, Michelle, I've only ever known that sunscreen was good for you, at least against harmful UVA and UVB rays! It never occurred to me that those chemicals were 'nasty'! I guess I need to do something reading on this. Or just be myself and stay the heck away from the sun at all costs.

      I thought it might have been 'sensory processing disorder', but I didn't want to use the term incorrectly. I just very much dislike a lot of textures of my hands. I think I'm surfacing more and more issues now that I'm getting older. Hmmm.

  4. Oh poor you. I hate sunscreen too but I have less need for it. Even when I was in hot Manila, we did not use sunscreens. We had umbrellas. When I was new here in the US, I wanted to use my umbrella to keep myself away from the sun. My husband laughed at me.

    Anyway, when I had my first child, I read all about sun protection for children. I was worried for him because he did not have my skin pigmentation. I freaked out when he was put near the window, I fussed that the car window had no protector, and so one. One day, we had to bring him out to the car in the hot sun. There were about 5 -6 meters between the door and the car. My baby had no sunscreen on.
    I ran all the way to the back of the house, made everybody get, so that I could have an.... umbrella over my son's head. :-)

    Oh well.


    1. It must be that Asian sun-phobia gene we share, since I can see myself doing the exact same thing! It's nice to know that I'm not alone in this ordeal. Baby skin is just far too precious to let the sun hurt it, isn't it? Thank you for sharing your story to make me feel not so 'abnormal'! =)