My skin seems to only have two tones, white or red. As a result, I can be a bit obsessive about applying sunscreen. After experiencing a few bad sunburns in my younger days, I prefer to prevent the misery of sunburns altogether. However, since we spend so much time outdoors I have come to dread the daily ritual of applying and re-applying sunscreen. There are a few annoying side effects of my now daily sunscreen ritual.
A Sealed Barrier
It would seem that sunscreen—when applied—acts as a barrier. It prevents the harmful rays from penetrating my skin. That part is great! But there’s a side effect. What’s the side effect of creating this barrier you ask? My poor skin cannot breathe. From the moment I step outside I find myself nearly sweating to death. And then it is all downhill from there. My skin tends to develop an awful stickiness and then my body overheats. If not treated, this can lead to severe crankiness!
Perpetual White Residue
Over time these applications (and re-applications) of sunscreen have built up on my skin and formed a sticky, white residue that oozes from my pores. I fear that someone will mistake me for an albino or that “special” person who covers their full body in zinc oxide for sun protection. Water and sweat seem to make things even worse as rivers of diluted sunscreen form on my neck, arms and legs. Even with soap and water, I can’t seem to rinse my skin of this perpetual white residue.
Despite these side effects, I continue to press forward with my new ritual. After all, the alternatives are far worse—especially under the powerful Australian sun.
Scary Statistics in Australia
Since arriving in Australia, we have learned that Australians have the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world. The rate is two to three times more than that of the US. We also learned that Australians are four times more likely to develop skin cancer than any other cancer and that two out of three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70!
Sharing the Sunscreen
We have been impressed with the availability of free sunscreen at various locations across Australia. Many businesses— including hotels and hostels—have provided complimentary sunscreen to their patrons. We have seen large pump bottles sitting on counters for anyone to use. At the Australian Open, not only did they pass out complimentary sunscreen at the entry gate, but we observed the staff walking the isles throughout the day offering free sunscreen to spectators.
At this point, I enjoy the rare day when my sunscreen ritual isn’t needed. It gives my skin a much-needed break from the white film. However, I can say that a little sweat and a thin white film is a small sacrifice if I get to escape the North American “winter” and spend it soaking up the sun of the warm southern hemisphere.