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Things I wish I knew befor Spring Break

We hear about it constantly – in the magazines, on the news and even still from our parents. Sun damage prevention is serious business.
During Spring Break I was lucky enough to go on a weeklong trip to Cancun with some friends. We stayed in a gorgeous resort, had massages on the beach and played with dolphins. It was a spring breaker’s heaven.
However, I, being about as pale as they come, endured a painful sunburn all over my body. (Thanks, Cancun.) Despite coating myself in layers of SPF 55 and hiding in shady areas, I still fell prey to the sun’s powerful rays.
After years of tropical vacations and pool days, I still haven’t learned my lesson. I think to myself, “Twenty more minutes without reapplying will be fine,” or “It’s not even that sunny out,” or my favorite, “I should get some base color.” Turns out, all of that is wrong. 
Right around the time I saw my skin start to peel I decided I should do some research on how to better protect myself in the sun. Thanks to webMD.com, I learned a few lessons.
Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure.
I forgot to do this almost every day of my vacation. Skin needs time to properly absorb sunscreen, and if it doesn’t, you won’t be correctly protected. It’s easy enough to do but easier still to forget.
It takes about 1 fl. oz to cover an adult in enough sunscreen.
A fluid ounce is equal to two tablespoons. Most of the people I know put on around half that amount, including myself.
Base tans are more precarious than preventive.
Some tanning salons argue that tanning beds are safe because they block out UVB rays. However, dermatologists say it is impossible to block out these rays. Tanning beds can provide a base, but it only serves as an SPF of three to five.
Wearing a T-shirt while swimming does not protect you unless you put sunscreen on beforehand.
Maybe I only do this because I burn easily, but for anyone else who has had a bad burn and then worn a shirt to go swimming, the T-shirt alone won’t do much. A dark T-shirt only has an SPF of about 10, so don’t forget the sunscreen underneath.
Darker skin tones still burn.
People who have naturally darker skin tones have melanin in their skin, a natural defense from UV rays. However, without sunscreen, the sun’s energy can still penetrate the skin and cause damage.
Our society looks at tanned skin as an indication of health and vitality, but the damage that comes with excessive sun exposure is rarely worth the temporary tan.
I can’t take back every sunburn I have suffered over the years, but I can make a point to protect myself a little better.
From now on I think I’ll either deal with the streakiness and funky scent of gradual tanning lotions or just finally accept my paleness. It’s definitely worth avoiding wrinkles and skin cancer.
Heather Swick is a freshman journalism major from Schaumburg. She is a Scout staff reporter.
Direct questions, comments and other responses to hswick@mail.bradley.edu.