Friday, May 27, 2011

What sunscreen?

You'd think that with nearly 24 hours of daylight in the summertime, I'd be very concerned about protecting my skin and putting sunscreen on all the time. Well, I don't. It's not just that the chemicals found in it are downright bad for you, although that doesn't help. And it's not because I love the "healthy" look of a tan, although it is nice to see myself other than ghostly pale. Mostly, it's because of the benefits that the sun actually gives you. I think of it as human photosynthesis because the way our bodies react to the sun produces vitamin D. Because of sunscreens and other skin cancer prevention measures, most people are actually deficient in this important vitamin, which plays a role in both physical and mental health. Lack of vitamin D is part of what causes SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. (Despite what that link says about longer nights not necessarily affecting the occurrence of this disorder, people in Alaska have a much higher incidence of SAD than do other populations. So much so that the University's student health center stocks special "happy lights" that students who are affected by SAD can borrow for free.) To combat any hint of winter blahs (I don't think I get SAD, just a little rundown in midwinter) I make sure to take a walk every day in the winter when it's light out, and I turn my face to the sun. Doesn't help much when the only part of my skin the sun touches is the area around my eyes, but it makes me feel better to be proactive about it.
In the summertime? I go nuts. I know you can't store vitamin D, but I don't do much to block the absorption because I know exactly how much I need it. And because I'm about 90-99% covered up for 7-8 months of the year, I'm not all that worried about skin cancer. It's the one cancer that Alaskans get in lower proportions than the rest of the country.
Record breaking or matching temperatures right now (it's over 80 in the shade today--yes, in Fairbanks) is probably going to lead to another horrible summer for fires here. There have already been several notable ones around town, including a forest fire that lead to home evacuations last weekend. *Sigh* I hope this doesn't degrade the air quality like it did in the summer of 2009. A month straight of ash, no matter which way the wind blew because the forest fires surrounded Fairbanks. It looked like fog, and left the smell and taste of campfires permanently in the nose and mouth. I know it was a bad summer for asthmatics, and it can't have been good for the rest of us.

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