A woman lifts up her sunglasses and looks over her shoulder guiltily

Confessions Of A Sunscreen Slacker

The winter of 2019 has been a doozy-no doubt about it. The state of Tennessee was no wallflower during the party of temperature extremes, insanely strong winds, and flash-floods. I’m sure this is a slight exaggeration, but I feel like we have had nothing but dreary and wet days for the last three months. “Cabin fever” is a mild term for what I’m feeling this year. Cold temperatures, my least favorite kind, only compound the overwhelming feeling of wanting to run screaming for warmer temperatures-and sunshine.

The sunshine breaks through

Then, last weekend, my silent prayers for a reprieve were answered. The sun burst through the clouds like a spotlight illuminating a quiet, darkened auditorium. I could see my front yard again. The sky beyond the endless weeks of cloud cover was the most stunning shade of blue I remember ever seeing. There actually is still color out there. The world around me is not all fifty shades of monotonous grey. And the sun...that breathtaking sun!

As I headed out to run errands, the warmth of the sunlight on my skin was practically intoxicating. Then, it hit me like a ton of bricks when my hands on the steering wheel warmed rapidly; I had forgotten my sunscreen. Did I need my sunscreen in the dead of winter? You bet I did. Had I stopped wearing it the last few weeks? Ashamedly, yes, I had. That daunting wall of clouds that loomed above our sleepy little corner of West Tennessee gave me more than just a feeling of hopelessness; it set me up with a false sense of confidence. I was a sunscreen slacker.

Slacking on sunscreen in the winter

When you have been a skin cancer patient as long I have, forgetting sunscreen instantly brings up some pretty hefty feelings of guilt. I know better. After all, I have extolled the virtues of daily sunscreen use. When asked, I have gladly listed my favorite products for friends and family. Skin protection is one of my top priorities and has been since melanoma threw me for a loop.

UV rays are around all year

Don’t get me wrong here. We should all be wearing sunscreen year-round. It’s a fact of life. The sun’s UV rays are dangerous 365 days a year. Winter in Tennessee is no exception. Clearly, I am guilty of forgetting this myself. Even though I know better and have known better since having melanoma in 2007, it’s easy to get fooled when the air temperatures begin to drop in the fall. When winter really gets rolling and most of us are housebound or focused solely on getting from point A to point B without much activity outdoors, sunscreen is the last thing on our minds.

It's sunscreen, not heatscreen

We tend to equate sunscreen use with rigorous outdoor activity or time spent basking in the sun. The sun is the sun every day no matter how hard you’re shivering. Those UV rays don’t play around or take breaks. A good rule of thumb is to remember that it’s called “sunscreen,” not “heatscreen.” Your skin, like mine, may be covered in chill bumps, but the UV rays are as much a threat in February as they were in July. I know. It just doesn’t seem fair. I’ll slip up again I’m sure. You will, too. It happens. At least we both know better. When we know better, we can do better. Sunscreen. Not heatscreen. Pass it on.

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