June 30, 2011
Jenny’s Notebook - Sunscreens
It’s officially been Summer for nine days now, and that means sunblock is on my mind. And on my face, arms, neck (front and back), and especially the back of my ears. Oh—and lips. Mustn’t forget the importance of SPF on the lips!
The big news is that, after four years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally provided new rules for how sunscreen products must be formulated and labeled (for one thing, it’s no longer called “sunblock). I also really liked Explaining Sunscreen and the New Rules, written by Jane Brody, of The New York Times.
Sure, I sunbathed when I was a vain teenager (in Texas, no less); we all did—applying handfuls of that coconut-scented tanning oil as though it were a life-saving potion in our endless quest for the dark tan. (A friend who also grew up in Austin once told me that she used to slather on Wesson cooking oil instead, because it was cheaper!)
Then came lupus, and overnight I became older and wiser. I still remember the children’s stares and comments the first time I swam in my health club’s outdoor pool after I was diagnosed: “Mommy, why is that lady swimming with all her clothes on and that giant hat?” Makes me laugh now to remember! I wasn’t fully dressed, but I did have on a long-sleeved shirt and a hat with a four-inch brim.
Happily, my local drugstore has its own brand of lotion with SPF 15, so that gets applied each morning, all year round. For my face, neck, and ears, I use dermatologist-tested lotion for sensitive skin that includes titanium and zinc, as well as protection against UVA and UVB, with SPF 40. And I never leave home without a hat; these days I favor a safari-style topper with a long front brim and a neck flap in back—because living in DC can be like a jungle safari sometimes!
Sun protection products are expensive, I admit, but well worth it to limit wrinkles, leathery brown skin, cracked lips and heels, and ugly sunspots on exposed skin. And in 15-20% of us with lupus, those same UV rays can lead to lupus flares. For me, the result is extreme exhaustion for the next two-three days. Not worth it—I have too much work to do here at the LFA.
I’ve considered trying the bronzers and lotions that give you that tanned look, but I keep thinking about that “Friends” episode when Ross went to get a sprayed-on tan and ended up really, really tan on just one side of his body (something about not knowing how to count to “five”!) So if any of my readers have tried these and have the successful tan to prove it, let me know!
Til then, I remain your faithful correspondent,
“Sunsafe in the City,”