Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Fear and Loathing

To explicate: Fear of leatheriness and loathing of sunscreen. With all this high-country hiking I’ve been doing recently, I’ve been more than usually aware of the Sun’s potential to transform pallid northern European skin (such as I possess) into tough brown leather. Sure, I grease myself up like buttered corn-on-the-cob before I head out on a hike. But do I “apply the sunscreen 15–30 minutes before sun exposure”? Do I “reapply after swimming, towel drying, or extended sun exposure”? No and no.

Spritzing myself with Neutrogena Healthy Defense Oil-Free Sunblock Spray SPF 30 is the last thing I do before I head up the trail, simply because I don't want to feel all disgusting while en route to the trail. And the reason I use the spray-on stuff is so that I don’t have to touch it to apply it. And even if I’m hiking all day, during peak hours for ultraviolet (UV) radiation, up high (where UV is stronger), I never reapply the stuff because my skin is already covered with a repulsive, sticky patina of sweat, sunscreen, trail dust, and a few embedded gnats (or similar) that had the bad fortune to fly into the unsavory concoction and meet an untimely death (by drowning? suffocation?).

I hope no one’s eating right now.

So, yeah, I’m really stupid about sun protection. I’m sort of in denial about it, since my half-assed one-off application of sunscreen does keep me from burning, but in the back of my mind I know that those invisible UVA rays are attacking at all times and probably making great progress in turning my hide into top-grain leather. And, of course, I should be worried about skin cancer, too. More worried.

The problem is that I’ve tried all sorts of sunscreen, especially the ones that boast of being “nongreasy” or “oil-free” and they are all appalling and loathsome and viscous. The “sweatproof/waterproof” ones are the worst. They (and whatever entomological components they may contain) do not come off in the shower unless you scrub yourself with a pumice stone or something equally abrasive. So vile. Why can’t manufacturers come up with a sunscreen that isn’t thoroughly revolting? If anyone has any recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

So short of some new miracle suncreen that isn’t goopy and gunky materializing, I am going to have to think about maybe wearing something a little less skimpy out on the hiking trail if I want to stave off leatheriness. Something involving long sleeves and long trousers, although I don’t know how you are supposed to keep from getting way overheated dressed like that. So I’m not at all convinced that covering up is the route to go. We shall see. Just so you know, though, I will not be wearing the previously derided legionnaire-style sunhat.


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