Welcome to summer –and sun protection

This is a blog about the business of health and health care policy so I don’t often delve into the realm of personal health tips. But since it’s the first day of summer and I’m a sun-sensitive bald redhead, I’ll make an exception.

It’s the time of year that newspapers write about sunscreen. A Washington Post article talks about the safety of sunscreens, contrasting “physical” sunscreens that block sunlight by reflecting it back,with chemical sunscreens that absorb the sun’s rays and keep them from damaging skin. The fear is that chemical sunscreens may be absorbed into the skin and cause trouble, e.g., by producing free radicals that cause damage to cells.

I share this concern about sunscreen safety, but my worries are also more practical and immediate. In particular, I’ve found that when I use sunscreen at the beach I often miss a spot –like the tops of my feet or some place on my back– and end up with a big, bad burn.

Twenty years ago I was working on a consulting project at an academic medical center in New York City. I was interviewing a dermatologist who took a look at me and couldn’t resist offering the advice that I should wear sun protective clothing, especially at the beach. Since then I’ve worn sun protective gear from Solumbra in the summer. I’m partial to their zip-front swim shirts, which I wear religiously. They’re comfortable in the water or on shore and I don’t worry about getting burned or needing to reapply sunscreen once I’ve gotten wet.

This year my wife asked me to try something a little more stylish than the plain, blue Solumbra swim shirt I favor. So I bought one from Coolibar, which looks better but is honestly not nearly as good.

If you’re sun sensitive like me, or just sun sensible, I hope you’ll take care of your skin by wearing sunscreen or protective clothing.

See you at the beach!

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