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Ever since the Coppertone® girl showed off her tan lines in 1953, having a golden tan has been the "trendy" look for skin. For a number of years now researchers have educated the public and reinforced the statements that tans are unhealthy, and the sun can cause skin damage and even cancer. Still, the local pool is packed and the beaches are more for "catching some rays" than swimming or surfing. As the atmosphere above is damaged, the sun's ultraviolet rays become more dangerous each year. What can you do to help students understand the importance of protecting their skin?

Sunburns don't show immediately, and they are usually most painful within the first 6-48 hours after exposure. True, a sunburn will turn into a tan, but that is only because the skin has been severly damaged by the initial burn, and is working to protect against another sunburn.

First it's important to understand why it's possible to get a sunburn. When ultraviolet radiation is absorbed by your skin, melanin goes to the surface of your skin and acts as a natural sunscreen to shield your skin from further damage. Melanin gives your skin a "tan" color, and that color deepens with continued exposure. Sunburns occur when the exposure to the ultraviolet light exceeds the ability of the melanin to proect skin. People with pale skin don't consistenly produce enough melanin to protect their skin, so they are more prone to sunburns. Each time you tan or burn, you damage your skin. Damage results in wrinkles, sun spots, and in some cases, the skin cancer: melanoma.

Teachers and parents should be familiar with the "It won't happen to me" attitude. Kids don't worry about things like cancer, because they don't belive it will ever affect them. If you can't sell the melanoma statistics, you might have better luck hitting where it hurts. The truth is, 70% of the damage done to one's skin happens before the age of 17, and each severe sunburn doubles the chance of skin cancer. Sunburns are painful, damaging, and especially not attractive to those who would have rather had that "bronzed look" anyway.

How do you keep from getting a sunburn? Obviously, the best thing to do is avoid the sun. The sun's rays are strongest between 10am and 3pm, so this is the easiest time to get a sunburn.Plan outdoor activites for early morning or late afternoon, and always wear sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Coppertone developed the SPF system, and the government is expected to propose new labeling for sunscreens that will clarify what those SPF numbers really mean. Sunscreens with an SPF lower than 15 don't provide sufficient UV protection, because they don't block a high enough percentage of UV rays. Using an SPF of at least 25 is really your best bet, and will help ensure you don't burn.

A few healthy reminders:

  • Pale really is "in." Really healthy skin is pale-with fewer wrinkles and a lower chance of skin cancer. While the models on the covers of the latest fashion magazines may look like they've been on the beach for days, a quick look at the inside cover will reveal the name of the sunless tanner they used to acheive the bronze glow. You'd be hard pressed to find a model that actually tans under UV rays.
  • Steven Spielberg is hip. Sport a baseball cap with a big brim, sunglasses, a beard and big, baggy clothes. Spielberg is a great sun protection role model.There are many clothing brands emerging that offer clothing with an SPF to help protect skin just like sunscreen does.
  • Watch the UV index. The ultraviolet index is printed in most major newspapers. Take heed and stay inside when the UV index is high. Anything over 7 on the index is serious; 10 means big-time sun burns.
  • Make 15 your lucky number. Skip the lotions that only provide partial sun protection. SPF 15 is the first stop for real skin protection.Waterproof sun screen will wear off and wipe off on a towel. Reapply protection frequently, especially when at the beach. Lips are skin too. Use a lip balm with an SPF of 15 or greater every day.
  • Remember snow and sandburn. Reflected sunlight bounces ultraviolet rays right back at you, creating dangerous "sun surround." Snow reflects 80-90 percent of the sun's harmful rays; sand reflects between 15 and 20 percent.

For more on sunscreen, sunburns, and your skin, check out these links:

Educational Innovations, Inc.
carries a wide (and we mean WIDE) variety of colorful UV detection products including beads, t-shirts, nail polish and paint. One package of approx. 240 beads will cost you less than $10..
Contributor Rachel Badanowski offers this suggestion:
I use ultraviolet detecting beads purchased from []. The beads only change color in uv light. You can test the effectiveness of sunscreens as well as sunglasses. I give the students beads on a string bracelet and ask them to discover what the beads do. I also use uv detecting nail polish from the same source. Discovering seems to make more of an impression then talking ever does.

Eleven "rules" that high school & college graduates did not learn in school

Rule 1: Life is not fair; get used to it.

Rule 2: The world doesn't give a damn about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your
grandparents had a different word for burger flipping; they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes. Learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now.
They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes, and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents' generation, try cleaning out your closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades; they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This, of course, doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off, and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself.
Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

From Charles Sykes'