And We Thought the Sun Was Our Friend

Chances are when you see someone out in the sun wearing a hat, that someone is either a child or an adult who has become more sensible with age. Many of us learned our lesson about the sun too late, after spending years in the sun, unprotected.

The standard course of action in our wild and crazy youth was to suffer the consequences of loving the outdoors. Early summer days at the beach or the pool, hiking or biking, tennis or baseball, resulted in the inevitable cycle of burn, peel, and then begin to build a tan.

To be a teenage girl in those days was to make it even worse. We’d find a nice patio or even a rooftop, slather on the baby oil and bake.  If you wanted a really great tan, you could engineer a roasting shield made of cardboard, covered with aluminum foil and hold it under your chin to intensify the sun’s rays.


We were thinking of being golden goddesses. Looking good in halter tops and mini skirts. As we got older, we thought suntans made us look younger – and, sad but true, they probably did.

In our youth, we didn’t get much help from sunscreens, because that shelf in the drugstore had slim pickings. Bain de Soleil Orange Gelee SPF 4 was a favorite – because it made our skin look glossy and glazed while we baked – but that didn’t even come along until the early 1970s. The first SPF 15 was introduced in 1986 and not until the early 1990s did we have an SPF 30 — time for us to be good parents and save our children’s skin. Now we have SPFs of 70 or even more. Now we know that time spent in the sun leads to things we don’t want – dark spots, wrinkles, or even skin cancer. But we didn’t know it then.

We gave up tans reluctantly – and moved to self-tanners that created an alien mustard orange shade, too often marked by streaks, blotches and spots. Self-tanners, supplemented by hats, sunscreen, and common sense, are not perfect, but they’re better than the alternative.

Posted in HEALTH.