The sun and I are not good friends. I love sunshine, I love warmer weather, I love being able to let my kids out to play and top up their vitamin D levels, particularly because we live in a country where it feels like winter is long, damp, dark and miserable.
But the sun doesn’t like me much, or at least it doesn’t like my skin. I am fair-skinned, I freckle ridiculously easily and the standard joke around here is that I get sunburned sitting under a tree in the rain.
It’s been hot here in the UK, recently. We have had some glorious weather, which has meant time outdoors for everyone.
Of course, that means sun hats, sun cream, and being sensible when the sun is at it’s hottest and brightest, because we all know that as lovely as sunshine is, it can also burn.
I happened to be with a group of people and not, one, not two, but three people commented on the fact that I was wearing a long-sleeved top and long trousers. Both were made of cotton and linen. Each person commented “why are you dressed like that? You need to get some sun on your skin” or “you must be so hot, why don’t you wear a strappy dress or some shorts?”
When I explain to them that I prefer to dress the way I do, because the sun and I don’t see eye to eye on what my skin can tolerate, I get scoffed at and lectured on “dressing appropriately”.
Here’s the thing…
I am very fair-skinned. I don’t have red hair, but it’s verging on it. I have lots of freckles, and my skin is incredibly sensitive. When I am in the sun for more than a short time. I BURN. Even with strong sun protection lotions on, I BURN. I don’t just burn, though, my skin reacts and becomes very itchy and sore, and I get a pinprick type rash on areas that have been exposed to sun.
I don’t like burning. I have long since past the teenage years of desperately wanting to be brown and tanned and deliberately getting burned in order to achieve any kind of semblance of that. I actually have done damage to my skin due to reckless exposure to sun in my younger years. I have had two moles removed which contained “suspicious pre-cancer cells” and have been told very firmly by a dermatologist and skin cancer specialists that my skin is more likely to develop moles or growths that might be more serious, so I should be very sensible in the sun, use sensible skin care, and not allow my skin to burn if I can help it.
This photo is my neck, after 25 minutes in the sunshine, whilst wearing SPF 30 sun cream, on a sunny day, locally. When I say my skin burns, I am not joking.
I don’t tan. I have stopped trying. I freckle and eventually my skin goes from what I jokingly term “morgue blue” to a pale milky coffee colour, when I have been somewhere warm or in the sunshine.
So, when you see me sitting in the shade, and I refuse to run around or sit in the burning sun, or when it starts to get really sunny and I move into the shade, please don’t feel you have to join me, I don’t expect other people to shy away from the sun just because I am. If I tell you I am wearing a shirt that covers my arms, and that I don’t wear shorts, because I don’t want to burn, please don’t lecture me. You don’t have my skin, you don’t have to deal with the sunburn, or the mild nagging feeling that I have when I make my six-month trip to get my skin checked, that one of those moles or big freckles on my body might turn into something sinister. If you want to sit in the sun, that’s lovely, feel free to enjoy it. As for me? My skin burns, even when I have slathered myself in strong sun cream, so I prefer to sit in the shade….