13 January 2012

Love your body - be SunSmart

 This post is part of the SunSmart Love Your Body blog carnival.

One of the most common questions I receive is "Are you sunburnt?". If you have been reading long enough, you'll know the answer to that one - I'm not sunburnt. In fact, I take special care in the sun, because I don't want to damage my already very sensitive skin. I need to love my skin.

I can't use sunscreen. I do worry about how quickly my skin burns without it. I also worry about the damage sunscreen may do to my skin if I use it. (Please don't offer suggestions for sunscreens. I have my own skincare routine that works for me.) So in lieu of this, I ensure I cover up as much as I can.

Here is my sunsmart outfit. Keeps me cool, keeps me protected from the sun.  Despite what people think, wearing clothes that cover up the body is not hot, nor unflattering.

I don't go to the beach much, the last time I did was in 2009. Here is what I wore. It may have not been the skimpy bikini that attracts wolf whistles (and the reason for me going to the beach was not to attract wolf whistles either) but my outfit protected me from the sun.

A few years ago I went to the cinema to escape the heat. I saw too movies, because it was just so hot. Of course I had to get too and from the cinema - walking to the train station and back. I covered up so much - long skirt, long sleeves, leggings, hat and sunglasses - and in between the movies, I felt I needed to warm up after being in the icy cinema. So I sat under the glass roof of the shopping centre for five minutes - still wearing my hat and sunglasses. And this is what happened. In reverse.
And now is where I get preachy, and a bit like my Nanny I see so many young people not being sunsmart. Sunbaking on the beach. Sunbaking in a solarium. Getting around wearing not very much (girls - I don't want to see your bum cheeks hanging out of your denim shorts, no matter how great your legs and bum is). There seems to be a need to change the way we look, through the creation of a tan. In the past, people slathered tanning oil on their skin and baked themselves like chickens roasting on the beach. A tan was considered as healthy. But now we know it's not.
The facts are:

A tan is not healthy. A tan is a sign of sunburn. SunSmart says "Sunburn is radiation burns to the skin.

SunSmart also states:

"Sunburn at any age, whether serious or mild, can cause permanent and irreversible skin damage that can lay the groundwork for skin cancer later in life. Increased sun protection against sun exposure will prevent skin cancer at whatever age it is applied.
 The amount of sun exposure required to cause sunburn varies greatly from person to person. People with white and light brown skin tend to be more sensitive to the sun and burn more easily. In summer, a fair-skinned person can burn in as little as 15 minutes. People with darker skin are less sensitive to the sun and may rarely burn."
I've spent many hours in the dermatology clinic waiting room. Hundred of hours over my life. I don't talk to many people in the waiting room. I mostly pass the (long waiting) time by listening to music and reading magazines, and sometimes I do research or emails for work.

One day a man struck up a conversation with a man. He would have been in his 60s and said he'd seen me at the clinic previously. He told me his grandson was with him the last time he'd seen me, and had asked him about my skin. We talked about how regularly we come to these clinics - he attends them far more than me. He told me he has skin cancer. He showed me the backs of his hands. They were scarred, the skin fragile. He said he'd just had skin grafts for his skin cancer. That was the second time he'd had skin grafts. His cancer returned after the first skin grafts. He said that it took a year for the skin grafts to take to his hands, and he had very limited feeling on his hands.

The man told me the skin cancer was not limited to his hands. He'd had melanoma spots on other places of his body. He said that he'd been working as an outdoor labourer since his late teens, exposed to the sun every day. He wished he knew about being sunsmart when he was younger. So he could have helped to prevent the cancer he suffered from now.

I remember that conversation well. I thought about the information we have about the dangers of the sun, and whether it will make a difference to skin cancer rates when my generation is 60.

Take care of your skin in the sun. Cover up with a hat and protective clothing. Wear sunscreen (SunSmart recommends SPF 30+ sunscreen), stay in the shade and wear sunglasses. Just like not smoking, eating a balanced diet and drinking moderately, being sun smart is crucial to a healthy body. Your skin is your body's largest organ. It is a vital organ. Love your skin. Please.
For more sun protection tips, visit the SunSmart website.

 (I was not paid for this post.)


  1. Great post, Carly! I makes me so mad and scared seeing my friends oiling up with no sunscreen and just frying. gah! Love your hat & long floral skirt too :)
    Heidi xo

  2. Thanks for this post. I come from the generation that promoted sun tans. Even though I didn't burn very often I still have many spots and dread the day that I find I have skin cancer. I still see so many people here at the beach not listening or else they wouldn't be so very brown. I thought you look so good in that outfit that I pinned you on my pinterest clothing board. Already had one repin. Cherrie

  3. Absolutely agree Carly. Always in the shade + sunscreen for me - I hate the feeling of strong sun on my skin, almost as much as I hate when people say "You're from Qld and you're soooo white".

    You're beach outfit looks fab - I think you deserved a wolf whistle or two ;)

  4. Fantastic post, Carly - I hope it has a positive impact. I'm always slightly horrified by the sight of people just lying on the beach, baking themselves. Not only is it dangerous but I can't imagine anything more boring!

  5. I'm 26 with pale freckled skin and I've almost always avoided the sun. The few time I've got a bad sunburn I will always remember because they have left me with scars. There is a particular patch of freckles on my right foot in the shape of the gap in my sandals...that I was wearing when I got sunburnt at age 8. Sadly I have a similar story from a sunburnt shoulder in my 20s, and an awful lot of incident exposure freckles on my arms and face. But those freckles on my foot will give me something to show my kids to teach them about the lasting effects of sun exposure.

  6. I think your sunsmart outfits look fab! I was very careless with "sunsmartness" when I was younger, being young & growing up on the coast of Australia. These days I try to protect my skin as best I can. I wear sunscreen almost every day, and I try to cover myself up. Here's hoping that all the sun exposure from my teen years hasn't done any harm yet.

  7. Great post Carly, I'm so passionate about sun safety, and it makes me so angry when I see/hear about girls who actively sunbake or use sunbeds. It's so so so dangerous and skin cancer is so easy to get. I was one of those people who thought 'it'll never happen to me' (not that I ever sunbaked or used sunbeds), and it did, I had a melanoma exised from my back 2 years ago and had a skin graft. I've now got a huge ugly scar on my shoulderblade to constantly remind me.

  8. This is such an important post. I lost my Dad to melanoma a few years ago, and it's truly a brutal disease if not caught early. I've been bad in the past about allowing myself to get sunburnt, but I'm now a lot more cautious.

  9. I'm a ginger. I went for a run at 4pm this afternoon for half an hour and my arms are burnt. I'm SO freaked out because I burn so easily. Even if it's just light reflected from a white wall and I'm actually under shelter. It's crazy.

  10. Your sun smart outfit rocks! I love cotton white tops especially in summer. As you know from photos, i tick all the boxes for being most prone to sun cancer - pale, light blue eyes, red in my hair, freckle easily. My parents and siblings used to tease me about 'sunbaking' in the shade... but im so glad i did lol. Thanks for sharing such an important message.

  11. Such a great post Carly, I went to the beach earlier in the week and I was gobsmacked by how many people were sunbaking all day, even using oil to speed up the tanning process! I was one of the very few people in a hat, sunglasses and dress (to cover me when I wasn't swimming). It was hard not to feel like the odd one out, but I know it will pay off in years to come when I remain healthy :) xxx


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