Fair skin. It's like a disease. It's super easy to be fried by the sun, and no one enjoys that.
There is a component in our skin cell DNA called melanin that determines skin pigmentation or the lack thereof. When you have more melanin, you have darker skin. Redheads and fair-skinned people don't have a lot of melanin, so we burn and we don't tan. Sad, but true.
I have had this burning experience over and over and over again. You would think that I would learn, but for some reason, I think it will be different every time I go outside. Not a chance.
On June 25, I had the most amazing chance to go to girl's camp on the Idaho side of Bear Lake. As youth leaders, we got to camp hours before the rest of the gaggle of girls, so we unpacked and set up a little and then went canoeing.
Canoeing is quite fun if you have never done it before. However, if you do not apply more than two coats of SPF 45 to your very fair skin, you will become a lobster. In under an hour, I became that lobster. You have never seen such sunburns! The burns were so red and so painful that the promising Ocean Potion blue sunburn relief gel hurt just to make contact with my sunburn.
The day after the tragic incident happened, my burns were showing promise of turning purple. One afternoon as I was trying to accomplish the hard task of applying medicine to my wounds, a friend asked me if I was going into shock. I brushed it off with a no, but maybe I was! I was confused as to what was going on or what I was doing; I remember breathing weird, swaying and shaking. Some of those are symptoms of shock. Not to worry, I turned out just fine -- four weeks later when the burns finally stopped itching and hurting.
There is a huge lesson to be learned here. ALWAYS wear sunscreen! I do not care whether you have fair, olive, tan or black skin. It does not matter. According to a study done over 10 years by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, male Caucasians are more susceptible to skin cancer than Caucasian women, but both are the leading ethnic group. Asian and black people are the least prone to skin cancer. Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native people are in the middle.
Everyone is at risk of getting seriously burned and/or developing skin cancer. Fair-skinned people, to be absolutely safe, put on sunscreen every single day even if it is overcast. Overcast days actually trap the UV rays, so the rays are more focused at ground level. Snowfall makes the UV rays bounce around and cause sunburns as well. As a very discouraging fact, you are never safe. Fair-skinned people, if you don't want to be burned don't go outside.
Black and olive-skinned people are getting higher rates of skin cancer every day, primarily because they believe that they don't need to wear sunscreen because they have a darker skin tone or because they tan really easily. WRONG.
Everyone needs sunscreen. You might not have to bathe in sunscreen like I do just to walk out the door -- or open the fridge -- but I am not the only one who needs to wear it.
Taylor Deem will be a junior this fall at Fremont High School. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.