In the spirit of another blogger’s confession, I’ll admit that I haven’t always been so diligent about applying sunscreen every day. On weekends, I’m the poster boy for sunscreen application as I apply it before walking out the door, especially when I’m working in the yard or just spending time outdoors. But on the week days, I have convinced myself that my exposure to the sun is very limited and that sunscreen might not be needed.
I have a 25 minute commute which starts at 7:30 each morning. I drive north, which means the morning sun is mostly blocked as it shines dimly through the passenger-side window. I work in a cubicle farm with absolutely no windows in the office or on the manufacturing floor. Most of my work days last well past 5:00, so if the sun is still shining at all when I leave, it sets in the western sky through my passenger window again as I commute home. I really get very little sun if at all.
Or so I thought.
One of the first things I do every work day morning is jump in the shower. While this wakes me up a little, the sight of me in the full length mirror as I step out of the shower stall scares me fully awake. After the shock, I take advantage of the mirror and take a quick look at my skin, looking for anything different. Yes, I check my skin daily…perhaps a tad more than the recommended monthly check, but I figure if I’m exposed in the morning, why not? I have a few larger moles that my dermatologist and general practitioner have deemed healthy, but I watch closely anyhow. In fact, my skin check is usually quite close up using a hand mirror. But what I noticed the other day was during the initial step out of the shower…a “wider picture” if you will.
I noticed that I have basically no tan lines, except along my left tricep. My left arm is at least a subtle shade darker than my right. When I wear a polo shirt (my typical work attire), the difference is not noticeable, but when I’m in shower mode, the darker arm is clear as day.
There are a couple reasons for this. First of all, while a window will block most UVB rays (the ones that cause burning), a majority of the UVA rays (the ones responsible for skin aging and used in most tanning beds) penetrate and shine right on your skin. Despite being on the side opposite of the sun as I drive, my left side is still more exposed to the sun than my right. Remember this guy?
He’s the trucker that made the news a couple years ago because of the sun damage to the left side of his face. Dermatoheliosis, or photoaging, is due to chronic exposure to UVA and UVB rays. The result is a gradual thickening and wrinkling of the skin. Twenty-eight years of driving his truck led to this excessive exposure.
Of course, my commute offers me far less exposure than did this trucker, so my condition is nowhere near as drastic. But there is one other factor to my darkened left arm. The air conditioner has been busted in my car for well over a year. Yes, I drive mostly with the window down and therefore rest my arm upon the door. It’s still on the opposite side of the car from the rising or setting sun as I drive and it’s well outside of the peak sun hours of 10AM to 2PM, but it still rests unprotected as I drive. Despite the apparent safer conditions, my left arm has a slight bit of sun damage.
In a slight bit of irony, just as I noticed my arm, the following ad from Banana Boat came to my attention.
Yep, that’s me. Except now, I've learned my lesson. Every morning as I get out of the shower (eeek!), I check my skin and then apply sunscreen to my arms and neck. I also now keep a small bottle of sunscreen in my briefcase and apply it to my arms before heading home.
Please realize that sun exposure is constant from morning ‘til night. While the early morning sunlight may seem safer, there are still UVA and UVB rays hitting your skin. When you sit in your car (hopefully with air conditioning), the sun that shines through your wind shield still carries along UVA rays. The same holds true of windows in your home or office…make sure to draw the shades or wear sunscreen! Please be diligent and wear your sunscreen even when you’re convinced it’s not necessary.