I’ll admit it. I’m a teeny tiny bit vain (ooo it’s so painful just to admit it in type). I care about my skin, and I want to remain wrinkle free as long as I can. So when I learned in med school that UV light is one of the most notorious causes of aging, I was horrified.
I adored being outside, and I almost never wore sunscreen. It was a slightly misguided “proud to be asian” principle. I figured I had more than enough melanin to protect against melanoma, and I wanted to do all I could to fight the stereotype that asians are obsessed with being white. So every summer, I’d run around and get roasted to a dark beige. My family would tell me, “you’re so black!” but I couldn’t have been happier.
When I started med school in Toronto, I met more asian colleagues than I’d seen since leaving China. And as summer creeped up on us that first year (we’re stuck in school well after everyone else is enjoying their lives on the beach during summer break), I realized that no other asian person seemed to be tanning. I chalked it up to our culture’s silly obsession with appearing fair, and continued to throw myself between the sun and the ground at every opportunity.
But one fateful dermatology lecture changed everything. For upwards of an hour, our esteemed dermatology prof solemnly informed us (although I was apparently the only one who hadn’t already known) that sunlight is the single most important cause of aging- it would give us wrinkles long before laughing too much (I was sure that was the way I was going to go) could ever do the trick. As proof she asked us to compare the skin on the front and back of our forearms. Sure enough, the underside was as smooth and soft as a baby’s bum, while the sun exposed side was rougher and drier. Our prof then went on for another hour about the importance of basting oneself in sunscreen.
I came home from that day both terrified of getting skin cancer STAT and a little depressed. I went that night to the drug store and purchased a huge bottle of sunscreen, only afterwards remember how incredibly sticky and unpleasant it made one feel. Following that, I became a vampire, systematically avoiding the sun. How I got from point A to point B would change depending on the position of the sun and which side of which buildings were in shade.
I passed one whole year in this sordid state before I discovered the umbrella that changed my life.
This little contraption is called a “sun-brelli” and it is exactly that- a brelli for the sun. It is a transparent pink that lets in all of the glorious summer rays, but filters out 99% of UVA and UVB. It is made with a bamboo handle and spokes, and biodegradable plastic.
Since I’ve chanced upon it in Kensignton, we’ve been inseparable. This summer I’ve managed to enjoy the sunshine and stay reasonably wrinkle-free, accomplishing my dream of becoming a sociable vampire.
Do you have any great suggestions for keeping shady while in the sun?