A little history
Back in the 19th century, it was not fashionable to have a tan. In addition to its racist implications, it was a notion that had to do with economic and social class. Members of the working class had tans (or sunburns), because they were the ones who were more often exposed to the sun. But gentlemen and ladies of the middle and upper classes were not supposed to be tanned, their pallor indicating their status in the leisure class. Gentlemen and ladies wore hats, and throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th, from Jane Austin’s time through Edwardian times, ladies’ hats in particular were sometimes as large as tea-trays, usually wide-brimmed and thus amply protecting their wearers from the sun. People also wore gloves, and ladies carried parasols. And if there was an outdoor tea party, say, a tent or awning would be set up to allow everyone to promenade safely and maintain their fashionable pallor.
When I was a little girl in the late fifties and sixties, women and girls still wore hats and gloves, not for everyday perhaps, but on Sundays when we went to church, or at other times for special outings and occasions. Easter Sundays were an occasion for showing off our new hats and gloves. However, I quickly learned the hard way that there was another reason for me to wear a hat. My fair Celtic skin sunburned horribly. I remember fighting my mother about the cover-ups and hats she made me wear to the beach, but after a few second-degree burns and blisters all over my shoulders, I stopped fighting.
I don’t know when it suddenly became fashionable to have a tan, but I think it may once again have had to do with leisure status, as well as Annette Funicello. Movies like “Beach Blanket Bingo” and the invention of the bikini suddenly made it chic and desirable to display as much skin as possible to El Sol. Jet-setters, those precursors to Euro Trash, were splashed all over the media, sunning themselves in San Tropez and on the ski slopes in the Alps. The recommended tan facilitator was baby oil, turning us all into French fries, and the truly chic would hold sun reflectors around their faces. I tried baby oil once or twice, which resulted in another second-degree sunburn, and resumed my grudging acceptance of my native pallor. Thankfully, not long after I graduated from high school, my experience was validated by reports about sun damage and skin cancer, and effective sunscreens were finally made available in lotion form. I once managed to get an actual tan, without getting burned, during a two-week trip to Martha’s Vineyard. I accomplished this by the frequent and judicious application of SPF 30 sunscreen over the several days I spent in the August sun. At the end of that vacation, my degree of coloration was about equal to that obtained by most of my friends after about an hour in the sun, and I decided it just wasn’t worth the effort. Since then, my primary sun-protection strategy has been avoidance.
Back to the future
At last, it has become a sign of health-consciousness to embrace the skin you’re in — and protect it. Didn’t need to convince me. My uncle died of melanoma. Plus, it gives me an excuse to buy more hats. And patio umbrellas. And sun-blocking clothing. And even a parasol. I almost never go out for any period of time in any weather without some kind of hat. Not only am I being sensible, I get to make a fashion statement. A win-win situation, in my opinion. Melanoma is an insidious and deadly form of cancer, and all of us, no matter what color we are, can develop skin cancer, and consequently need to protect ourselves.
It was actually a recent news article about two new drugs for advanced melanoma that prompted me to write this post. And to point out one of my current challenges in protecting my skin. And that challenge is drivin g. It’s not something a lot of us pay attention to, but we should. Naturally, I do not own a car with a sunroof. But I drive for a living, and the sun visors in my car are completely inadequate when it comes to protecting my face and arms and hands from the sun that beams down on my through the car windows. Even those of us who only commute to work in the morning and late afternoon can be at risk from the cumulative effect of that daily exposure as we drive. But there is something you can do about it.
In the first place, you should wear sunscreen while you’re driving, whenever possible, and probably more often than you think. You also need to understand what sunscreen does and what it doesn’t do. Coincident with the news about new drugs to fight metastatic melanoma, the FDA announced new rules for sunscreen labeling, in an attempt to provi de consumers with more practical information about how much protection they are actually getting from a product. The American Cancer Society also provides a lot of information about skin cancer prevention on several pages on their site. Their recommendations mirror what my mother instilled in me as a child: cover up, wear sunscreen, wear a hat and sunglasses, and limit your sun exposure. But they don’t specifically talk about your car. So, what to do?
Sunscreen for your car
You can’t buy a parasol for your car, but you can get special film for your car windows that screens out a large percentage of the UV rays that penetrate the windshield and windows. CarJunky.com provides a good explanation about the why and the how. One of the companies that makes do-it-yourself peel-and-stick films for car window film is Gila.com. There are various types available, but their Ultra-Shield film blocks up to 99% of the damaging UV rays that penetrate your car windows. Their products can be found at auto supply chains like Pep Boys and Autozone.
Comparable car window films that can be purchased in precut kits that fit your car’s make and model are available from SnapTint.com. You can order these kits online and the average cost of a kit is about $80. Their site provides tools and ample instructions for how to install the film on your car. And it’s not complicated.
It’s important to know that there are state laws that regulate how much tint you can apply to your car windows. To find the regulations for your state, you can visit this site, TintLaws.com. These laws specify the percentage of light that must be allowed through a window film or tint in order to ensure safety while driving. Window films are rated by these percentages to make it easy for you to find the product you can use.
In addition to protecting you and your skin, car window films can also protect your car’s interior from fading and cracking, as well as keeping a large amount of the accumulated heat out of your car so you don’t burn your buns when you get into your car on a hot day. And that can save on the fuel you may use to run the car’s air conditioning. Not to mention that your car will be stylin’! So, for a small investment, you can keep cool, look cool, and help extend the life of your car and yourself. Another win-win situation all the way around.
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