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Published:June 20th, 2011 20:00 EST
Sunscreen Regulations All Wrong!

Sunscreen Regulations All Wrong!

By Donna Cavanagh

It`s beach season and since I live about an hour from the Jersey shore, I tend to make a lot of day trips. I also rent a house for a week in my favorite spot and one day, dream is to own a shore home. To be honest, I don`t know why I love the beach. As I have written before, sharks scare the crap out of me; I find sand to be a nuisance whether it finds its way into the bottom of my bathing suit or in the backseat of my car; and I am a worrier about too much sun. 

In the past, when I headed to beach, whether it was for a few hours or a few days, I packed an assortment of stuff:  Sunglasses, a hat, the National Enquirer and assorted gossip rags and one or two sex-and-violence romance novels. I also kept a crossword puzzle in my bag in case I needed to look intelligent. 

One time, I met one of my editors on the beach and I think he thought less of me because I was reading about how Michael Jackson was the result of his mother`s alien abduction.  If it had been one of my humor editors, I could have passed it off as research material, but it was my boring city editor from the paper where I worked as a reporter, so it sort of looked bad.  Anyway, this year, it`s going to be different because I have my kindle, so even if I am reading smuttiest of smut, I will look high-tech and intelligent. 

Also, in the bottom of my beach bag, I have sunscreen--to be accurate--eight bottles of sunscreen.  I start out with a 30+ sunblock for my body, but I have a special block for my face. I have a different type of sunscreen for my husband who breaks out in hives from the popular over-the-counter brands.  I also have waterproof and sweat proof sprays, foams and lotions in various sunscreen strengths plus a lip balm/sunblock as well. I am a traveling CVS store. 

Sunscreen confuses me, so instead of sorting it out, I just buy everything.  When I was young, we put on suntan lotion to attract the sun, not to repel it.  When I had my daughter, I would buy sunscreen with 50+ SPF, until a group of informed supermoms told me that the higher SPFs were no better than the 15 SPF. I don`t know to this day if this claim was true, but it was the big talk around the kiddie pool at our swim club.   It seems that each year, the skin cancer people come out with new rules on how to protect ourselves from the evil sun, and I have to play catch up.

This year is no different.  The FDA has established a new standard test for sunscreen to determine which products can wear the Broad Spectrum label which means it protects against both Ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation and Ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation.  You would think that this new test would cut down the number of choices for consumers like me who never know what to buy. Nope, about 80 percent of sunscreens on the market will pass the FDA test; however, skin cancer and consumer groups say the tests are not tough enough, and in fact, these products would not be allowed in Europe as they are not strong enough defense against UVA. So, we are left once again wondering if we are taking proper precautions against the detrimental effects of the sun or are we foolishly barbecuing our epidermis.

I guess I could just give up and never go outside after April 30th. The problem with this is that getting no sun is bad for us too.  No sun can lead to a Vitamin D deficiency which leads to rickets or bone loss or hair loss or something--I don`t know what disease it leads to because all the medical crap contradicts each other.  One group of experts tells us to go in the sun for 10 to 20 minutes a day without block while another group says that even a small amount of sun will kill us in our prime, but before it kills us, it will age us and make us look old even though we die young. 

The no-sun people want us to wear long- sleeved shirts and long pants and hats and scarves in the sun.  While this ensemble will get me out of being stoned in Afghanistan, it`s not exactly cute beachwear.  NO, I want to wear fun summer clothes and sit on the beach and read my smut without worrying about broiling my skin or getting rickets or meeting an uptight editor or offending a radical Muslim sect. I want my carefree summers back.  Will I take precautions? Yes, I would like to reach the age of 80 and look 80 then--not 80 now, so I will buy my sunscreen and wear my hat, but the summer is made for shorts and cute swimsuits, so watch out sun, here I come.