Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sun scream

For those of us in the non-burka wearing world, exposure to sunlight has become fraught with paranoia in recent years. And now that summer is approaching, I need to get something off my freckled chest.

What the hell is going on with SPFs?

When sunscreens first came out, they were mostly 2s and 4s. I thought that was pretty cool. You could lay out on the beach for four hours and only get as much suntan as you would if you were there for an hour. That sounded perfect.

Then they came out with SPF 8. I thought that was overkill, but okay. I understand that there are people who work outdoors all day and that kind of protection could be necessary.

The year after that, they came out with Waterbabies SPF 15. I thought only the most insanely overprotective mothers would buy something like that, but eventually I relented and started slathering it all over my kids, too.

But of course, a couple of years later you couldn't even find SPF 15 on anything marketed for children. They all bore a 30. 30? Thirty times your natural protection from the sun's rays? Isn't that the equivalent of wearing a sweatshirt?

I thought that had to be it. After all, how much protection could we possibly need? I mean, I understand that we've pretty much destroyed our ozone layer, but throwing a football in the backyard with your kid isn't as dangerous as exposure to plutonium, is it?

Apparently, some people think so, because for the past two years the most popular sunscreens have an SPF 45. And just a couple of weeks ago, a woman tried to sell me some makeup with the pitch that it has an SPF 50. I honestly don't think bomb shelters offer an SPF 50.

I'm curious to see how high the SPFs go next year. In meantime, maybe we should stay away from the beach and just go shopping.

Perhaps we'll find some cute burkas.


Myfanwy Collins said...

This is great, Ellen. I particularly liked: I honestly don't think bomb shelters offer an SPF 50. hahahaha!

David Niall Wilson said...

I hadn't really noticed this, but not that you mention is a bit crazy. I think it's the marketing people desperate for ANYTHING new they can push in an old product.

Witness the FUSION shaver with FIVE blades that just came out...anyone care to speculate how many blades they will have next year? OUCH!

I wonder what the SPF is on aftershave...


Stephanie said...

The sad thing is that I always want a little tan, yet with my spf of 45 I seem to get paler and paler....v. funny about the bomb shelters.

Ellen said...

Lol. Glad you liked it, Myf!

Dave... yup. And the whole "brand extension" mania is another pet peeve of mine, because every time there's a product I like, it winds up getting pushed off the shelves by a low-fat, carb-free, no-thimerisol, supersize, two-scoops, quintuple-bladed version. Ack!

Steph ... is a little tan really going to kill us? And if so, isn't there something to be said for leaving a pretty corpse? Don't answer that. :)

Susan Henderson said...

The worst is that kids' sunscreen that goes on either purple or green. The idea is that it makes it a good time for the kids while helping the parents ensure they're good and coated and then it's supposed to fade away.

It doesn't completely fade away. We put some on our boys and it faded just enough to look like we'd beat them silly.

Once my doctor recommended we wear these ventilated beekeeper-looking suits as a way to protect ourselves from the sun. I agree we're all a little too paranoid. And I think we're also fooling ourselves if we think we can avoid illness and death our whole lives.

Ellen said...

*And I think we're also fooling ourselves if we think we can avoid illness and death our whole lives.*

Yeah. We seem to have this frantic idea that we can control everything if we're just diligent enough, right?

Beekeeper suits? YIKES!!! My burka idea wasn't that far off.

David Niall Wilson said...

Cryogenics! That's the answer...if you are frozen solid the sun cannot burn you (heh).

It's not new, this paranoia, however. Did you know that dustjackets on very old expsensive books are rare because they were only there to be discarded once the rich owner had his book, thus removing all the "common" touches that had occurred during manufacture and shipping?


SusanD said...

"I honestly don't think bomb shelters offer an SPF 50."

HA HA HA! That's great, Ellen!