The perils of the sun


You might wonder by the time you finish reading this post, why I still like, in fact insist on, going on beach vacations.

“I can’t remember ever going to the beach and not having a problem with my skin,” I told Mark just this morning.

I have always burned fairly easily in the sun, and although sunscreen has been a fact of life for me as long as I can remember, I still inevitably end up with a burn somewhere on my body, often on my chest, upper back, and almost always on my face.

I stopped using sun lotion on my face several years ago after I was unable to find one that didn’t make my face feel like someone had sprayed gasoline on it and lit a match.

Now I trust only my faithful Oil of Olay daily lotion with broad spectrum SPF for my face. It only has a rating of 15, but I reapply it obsessively.

This year on our beach trip to the southern North Carolina shore I came well-armed. I bought Coppertone Sport high performance, broad spectrum, 30spf that “stays on when you sweat” lotion and spray.  And I used both liberally in the first two days.

The third day I began to develop a red, bumpy, itchy rash. At first I blamed it on sun poising which I had self-diagnosed several years back.

If it hadn’t been for Mark, who liberally applied the lotion to my back at my request, I might not have figured it out yet. But Mark took his job seriously and put that lotion all over my entire back, most of which never saw the light of day under my suit.

The rash eventually covered all my exposed body except my face, thanks to the Oil of Olay. It also developed on my back.

The rash, I believe, is from the lotion I was using to protect myself. I revised my self-diagnosis.

Now I’m on a quest for sun lotion that I can tolerate, perhaps a combination of zinc oxide and titanium oxide that work to reflect the sun off of the skin. The other lotions somehow modify the rays to render them harmless.

I came to the beach also well-armed with light-weight long-sleeved shirts, and other various cover-ups.

Yesterday, I wore long sleeves, my hat and sunglasses and went to the beach sans lotion except for the Oil of Olay on my face. I sat under our umbrella the entire time, covering the bottom of my legs with a second cover-up, and taking an indoor break during peak sun hours.

At the end of the day I had a sunburn from mid-thigh to mid-calf where my legs had remained bare under the umbrella.

“What’s your next act?” Mark asked me this morning.

Today I look like a spy out of a low-budget movie—broad hat, sunglasses, long-sleeved shirt, and capris. A second cover-up protects the bottom of my legs and feet once I’m seated in the shade. Only my hands are exposed.

I still love the beach.

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Tips, advice, and general commiseration are all welcome.

24 thoughts on “The perils of the sun”

  1. At least now you know what is causing problems. Maybe your next trip will be enjoyable without the burn to go with it.

  2. Burn, burn, burn, me too! I do not tan, I fry red like a lobster with blisters and flakes and freckles and the whole thing, I also love the beach! I also am forced to exist in the shade, slathered in sunscreen (also oil of olay for my face) sweating my butt off in large floppy hats. I have to wear sunscreen 12 months a year and I live in Canada. It’s a sad, sad state of affairs. My sunscreen doom is acne, and though it doesn’t sound like my reaction to sunscreen is as serious as yours, my best luck has been with the Aveeno Baby sunscreen. It’s a little more expensive, but that one has worked for me. It might be worth a try, good luck on your mission!

    1. It is a sad statevofvaffairs. Thanks for the tip about Aveeno Baby. Someone else mentioned baby lotion as well. I’m going to have to do a little experimenting. At least I’ve identified the problem.

  3. I, too, love the beach–especially walking it in the early morning, looking for shells. Where we live, however, the sun is especially brutal–both because we’re just a couple hundred miles south of the equator and because of the elevation–high in the Andes.

    Love the photos, Christine!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    1. Be careful in that high altitude sun. I also love looking for shells. You can forget the time when you are so occupied. I didn’t realize you were going to be near a beach. Another nice aspect of your recent move. Are you homesick for the States at all?

  4. Sounds like you are taking suitable precautions.

    I use Banana Boat Sport everywhere I don’t have a base tan (and ALWAYS on my nose and cheekbones).

    I avoid the beach from 10 am – 3 pm during the summer months when the sun is intense.

    1. I think it is the stronger “sport” lotion that got me in trouble. I’m going to have to figure it out. It’s kind of a bummer to not be able to be out on the beach and be confined to an umbrella. 😦

  5. I never could stand sunscreens, or any lotion or face cream that made me feel like I had a mask on and was sweating under it. If it didn’t feel shear, I wasn’t going to use it. I went on a boat cruise in Sand Diego once & paid a fortune for a small tube of sunscreen with a foam top on it for easy quick application. It worked well and felt sheer, however I couldn’t find it on the market anywhere else. I decided to try neutrogena wet skin & love it. It is sheer and feels like you have nothing on & you never sweat under it. It protected me as well as my very Irish husband and fair skinned blue eyed grandson and that’s saying a lot as we swam daily in the Mojave desert where the sun is unforgiving. It’s worth a try.

    1. I think you are the second person who mentioned Neutrogena. I am definitely going to try it. I hope I remember all this by the time the sun rolls back around next summer.

  6. We keep going too. For me, I will always want to be near the Atlantic. The salt smell, the wind, the rushing of the tide. Nothing like it, even if I have to always wear hats and coverups.

  7. I can really relate to this… my skin overreacts to almost everything, the sun and sunscreen included. Add to that I’ve had melanoma so I need to be doubly careful. You probably won’t like my tip (which is what I do most often): stay out of the sun and wear long sleeves when I do go out. The long sleeves don’t actually block everything, so I also wear sunscreen, the higher the SPF the better.

    1. The sunscreen was a surprise for me. I was thinking it was all about the sun. I didn’t know the fabric doesn’t block everything. Good to know. I found out the umbrella shade was not a complete safeguard.

  8. I like using the neutrogena SPF 55 and up. But I don’t burn as easily. I have Asian skin and it does help. However, I know the effects of sun exposure and skin aging so I do take all the precautions. I hope you’ll feel better.

  9. I am pleased I do not burn so easily, but like you I have come across certain Sun lotions which can cause skin reactions… It makes me wonder sometimes what is being put into these creams… and our soaps… When you start to investigate you wonder what is safe to apply to your skin..

    I hope your irritation didn’t last too long Christine and all is well now

  10. I burn easily, and also have sensitive skin and, like you, have developed rashes as a result of sunscreen. I tried the baby formulas, but eventually had trouble with those, too. I finally found one that I can tolerate well. Banana Boat Natural Reflect (“100% Naturally Sourced Sunscreens with Zinc Oxide”). I can even put it on my face without feeling as though my eyeballs are going to melt. It’s thick when you apply it, but it soaks in. It’s also difficult to wash off without warm water and soap so I don’t have to reapply as often as with regular sunscreens.


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