Saturday, February 27, 2010

Of Sunscreen, Sunhats, UVs and SPFs

I wanted to give y'all an update on my quest for sunscreens and other aids to protect me from UVA and UVB rays.  (BTW, I don't profit in any way by reviewing these products and have not had any contact with their manufacturers).

I, like most others dealing with autoimmune disease, experience significant nasty effects when I spend time directly in the sun. My earliest symptoms were related to increased fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and generalized skin redness. Last sumer, however, my cranky skin refined it's response to minimal amounts of sunshine to include hive-like lesions covering my arms, neck, and shins. Lovely. You can read more about autoimmune skin issues here, and here.

If you are a Sjoggie, or are dealing with any autoimmune disease, take note: Most of us need to take serious precautions to protect ourselves from the effects of UVA and UVB's. Which isn't to say that an AI diagnosis is a life sentence to cower inside the house for the rest of our lives - it just means that we need to be diligent in using effective methods to protect us when we get out there and enjoy the great outdoors.

My plan of attack is twofold: First, to find, and actually wear, clothing that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. I have a variety of hats that I've attempted to use over the past few years, but they don't fit well, are difficult to travel with, get soiled easily, and make my head sweat. I recently found one which may have promise:
 It's made by Outdoor Research and I found it at REI. I like it because it comes in a variety of sizes, so I could choose one that really fits, plus it has a neat little adjustment thingie to further refine the fit. The cap portion of the hat is very lightweight and has a sweat band on the perimeter, is washable, and crushable. So far it has been very lightweight and cool, yet has a wide brim which provides great coverage. The SPF factor for this hat is an impressive 50. Unfortunately, it also has a significant dork factor. Ah, well. So do I, even without a hat.

I'm still experimenting with various styles of clothing and fabrics that provide protection without being uncomfortably warm and outrageously expensive. Our weather here has been cool and wet, so I haven't had the opportunity to really give them a test run. I'll keep you posted.

Second plan of attack: sunscreens.

Why not just grab any sunscreen off the grocery store shelves and slap it on, you say? You can read more about concerns about a common ingredient found in most sunscreens - oxybenzone - here.

I've been looking into various sunscreens that advertise as being "chemical free". It appears that these products do not contain oxybenzone, but use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, minerals that reflects light away from the skin. While this sounds like an ideal solution, it translates a little differently when applied to the skin. These minerals are white. Opaque white. Think lifeguards at the beach slathered with a thick white layer over their noses.

I have only tried one of these products, made by Burt's Bees. It's active ingredient is titanium dioxide and has a SPF of 30. The product is thick and is tinted with a peach color to tone down the white effect. It takes some serious rubbing to apply it evenly and completely, and when it has been applied, leaves my skin feeling somewhat sticky. The label advises caution since it may stain clothing, which may be an issue for me. The reason I chose this particular product for my first test-run was it's price tag: about $15. Other products with similar ingredients can be found with prices as high as $55. Yikes. I may need to continue my search and loosen my purse strings a bit.

I am not giving up, however. I am determined to apply sunscreen on exposed skin every day in order to avoid last year's disastrous skin debacle, especially since two of these nasty lesions have already appeared on my forearms after our trip to sunny Nevada.

All righty, then. Hat? Check. Sunscreen? Um, sorta check.

Bring on the sun.


Anonymous said...

I was not aware that with Sjogren you have to avoid sun, too bad, my next holyday are in Tunisia !! I hope I will not have any problems.
I'm a little afraid now.

Julia Oleinik said...

Don't be afraid, Jazzcat! Just slather on a sunscreen and get out there. Not all Sjoggies experience the same sunshine problems that I do - but protecting your skin from UV is always a good idea.