No. 23 – Sunscreen Makes a Comeback: Why Sunlight is also Bad for You

Every year we try and spend a week camping at the beach. And one year, using our usual lax sunscreen methods (gotta still make SOME vitamin D), the sun, seeing our blasé mockery of its mighty power to destroy the flesh of man, totally took us by surprise.

It was the very first day of our trip, and we managed to get the beach just at the high point of the UV rays, like around 1:30 or 2:00 PM, something like that. And not only that, but it was cloudy, which always lulls you into a false sense of security right? Well there’s this thing called the UV index, and it uses a scale between 1 and 14 to measure the amount of radiation the sun is putting off that day, maybe from sunspots or solar flares or whatnot. Never usually goes above 9 or 10 in North America.

Anyway, this day the UV index went up to 11, literally 11 (not making this up). This one cloudy day at the beach, our first day at the beach, the day we forgot to really put on much sunscreen, was the record high for all time on the UV index for the area. So while we were blissfully and ignorantly playing in the surf and sand, unbeknownst to us, our skin was being beaten to death.

Somehow I got off OK without being burned too bad (maybe I had put some sunscreen on myself at some point, hiding in the tent, ashamed of my childhood compulsions that robbed me of life-giving vitamin D) but my wife and daughters were slaughtered. My wife’s legs were literally purple. From the sun. My older daughter had a diamond shaped hole in the back of her swimsuit. She had a somewhat raised diamond shape in the middle of her back for like six months.

RANDOM STRANGER: Oh what a lovely henna design on your daughter’s back.  Does she love Lucky Charms?

US: (avoiding eye contact) Um, yes. She loves them so much that she had a henna tattoo of a diamond pasted in the middle of her back. Perfectly normal explanation.

That never happened, but seriously, if she ever gets a diamond shaped splotch of skin cancer on her back, we are going to be the worst parents.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE – My wife has requested at this point that I publicly admit that I am prone to exaggeration and hyperbole, that it wasn’t that bad, and that now, years later, our daughter’s skin is 100% back to normal. We do normally wear sunscreen when we’re at the beach during peak hours…this time was an oversight.)

We spent the rest of the week going shopping and at the movies until the sun had started to set and we hit the beach at dusk like a bunch of vampires. An image which was only reinforced by the powerful new zinc oxide sunscreen that my wife painted us with before we ever went outside again. It doesn’t just soak into your skin like sunscreen, it actually leaves some kind of reflective layer on top of your skin which reflects the light away like a mirror. It literally makes your skin pale, silvery, and shiny.

We looked like we were a bunch of cos-play nerds, forcing their children to live out some kind of Twilight vampire role-play. Not that parents who do that are bad parents.

They’re just super nerds.

On the upside, when a bunch of shiny vampires show up to the beach at dusk, the other families pack it in pretty quick, so you have the place to yourself. And if they didn’t get the message, we could always pour some red wine into a chalice and glare at them.



I like to read in bed. Like at night, before I go to sleep. Often it’s for no other reason than to try to distract my mind from a project or whatever, something that is keeping my brain going, which in turn is keeping me from falling asleep. I read to calm my mind. However it is also at that time of day that my wife often has things she wants to discuss…things like the food she acquired that day at the store.

These are often less than calming discussions.