Wednesday, May 6, 2015

10 Essential Myths — Sun Protection

Myth #2: Sun Protection

First, I guess you could say that if the sun is dangerous, then why is Earth so close to it? Ever think about that?

Right at this moment there's a volcano in Chile that's exploding all over the place. "Calbuco", it's called, and it's got lots of people running around waving their arms in the air. Imagine what happens if the sun explodes. Worse, right? So then, why are we here?

The answer is that the sun isn't dangerous. Not that dangerous. It's useful.

The sun is good for plants and all living things. Just ask the nearest lizard. Lizards go out of their way to intercept as many solar rays as they possibly can. Doubters say that's why lizards are covered in scales but scales are just a kind of skin and you'll quickly see exactly how much protection they offer the next time you bite a lizard.

Protection? Practically none, though it pays to take your time working up from small lizards to like the alligators and so on. Some of them are cranky.

So where were we? Somewhere around debating the existence of the sun.

Since we also have eyes, I guess you could argue either side:

  • Eyes are for finding the sun so you can keep away from it, or
  • Eyes are for finding the sun so you can use it properly.

You might as well say the same thing about beer. I know which side of that debate I'm on. But for the moment, let's pretend that I don't count. Let's pretend that you do, and you're afraid of the sun and its UV rays, infrared rays, visible rays, magnetic storms, neutrino flux, and other stuff. What?

What then? How to cope?

Wear Clothes

First, try wearing clothes. I've found over the years, by trial and error as much as anything else, that wearing clothes makes me less visible to others — maybe to the sun too. If the sun can't pick you out of a crowd, then it can't zap you without incinerating everyone else at the same time. Since nature tends to conserve what it's got to work with, you'll probably escape the worst of it by looking like those other doofuses out there. So wear clothes.

Wear Sunglasses

Then, wear sunglasses. People seem to like other people wearing sunglasses quite a bit, especially if the sunglass-wearers are at least partly clothed, depending on who you are. Hey — don't ask me. It just works.

But they're expensive, sunglasses.

If you can't afford any real sunglasses, cut some out of cardboard. Use one of your crayons and color it all black, then punch a little hole in the center of each "lens". Walk around looking out of your holes and smile stupidly. Again — why? I don't know either, but look up Kim Kardashian. She knows how to work it, and has even made a career out of it. Plus her butt.

Are you even that smart?

Think it over.

Use Sunscreen

This can be a real pisser.

The only sunscreen that really works under all conditions is a sheet of half-inch plywood held up over your head. Or thicker, but the half-inch stuff weighs around 25 pounds (11 kg), so. Then you need handles under it to protect your fingers, and there can be problems in high winds. A gust caught my cousin Ed one day and we're still looking for him, so if you're not all that beefy, better think about it.

Your other option is to smear goop on your skin.

Again — who's the expert? Lizards. Ever see a goopy lizard?

Ah, no. Lizards are dry and dusty, generally in that order, so methinks goop is another marketing ploy. Someone out there, maybe someone wearing clothes, and odd clothes at that, someone working in a tall building covered in an unhealthy quantity of glass, wants you to go goopy for reasons unconnected to your own needs.

And they want you to pay for it. Sound suspicious?

It does to me.

What I say is (and you may quote me) — only one word — cheap.

Goop costs a bunch. Cheap stuff doesn't.

What's cheap?

Think about it. Think.

What needs sun protection for the long term? Like decades. What?


Houses do.

And what do they put on houses?


Try paint.

Granted, this isn't like the old days. Oil-based paint, that stuff whose aroma you could spend a whole day inhaling, is hard to get any more, but the water-based stuff is just as good, if less fun out on the back porch.

Anyhow, give yourself a good coat (brilliant white is probably best), wait a few hours, and do it again. Let dry overnight, and then get out there and make all the tracks you want.

The really cool part is, once you've got a good hard shell of paint on, you don't need clothes anymore, and you'll never get sunburned again either. For years.

And if you don't like white, there's lots of other colors. By the gallon. Check it out.

What The Pros Do


Like "Carhop". He's a thru-hiker. Working his way along all of the National Scenic Trails. Solo.

So, what?

Well, he hikes at night.

Everyone knows that when the time comes and someone wants to take a rocket to the sun and not burn up, they'll have to go at night. Carhop has applied that principle to thru-hiking, which shows that some hikers are smart too.

Granted, he's got two vehicles, driving ahead a day's hike, resting, then hiking back to the first vehicle overnight, then leapfrogging past the second vehicle, and so on. And that might be a bit expensive, but compared to goopy sunscreen, it's probably cheaper in the long run.

And since it's all at night, no one can tell if you're wearing clothes. And since it's all dark, you can do other stuff, though maybe we'll have to get to that in another post.


Busted or not? Myth or solid gold?

A lot depends on your point of view, I guess.

If you're more like a lizard, enjoy eating bugs, are potentially poisonous, and relish scuttling from one hot rock to another, then you're in the clear.

On the other hand, if you're pasty white, or painted white (or some other designer color from the Sherwin-Williams catalog) and get a thrill from loping through the night woods, howling every now and then, well that works too.

Works for lots of us.