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Sunblock, Blessing or Curse? The Intricacies of a daily product

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

By Ilan Stein


Picture this. You're in the middle of the Caribbean on your much needed vacation, sipping on your mocktail as you lounge around in a chair on some exotic island. You couldn't be farther away from the worries and stresses of actual society. Thousands of thousands of miles away, the sun is blasting down on you with all of its might, threatening to turn you as red as the pristine lobsters you are served.

Personally, this would be my cue to reach for some much needed SPF, as I know my skin cooks faster than minute rice. Being a responsible vacationer, you packed your mineral-based sunscreen as you know that the regulations of the area ban the use of normal sunscreen, as it kills coral. It’s thick and blotchy on your skin and never really goes away, turning you into a sort of tropical snowman as a thick white layer covers you in its entirety. While the sun has no chance of penetrating your new hide, this dense sunscreen presents a few downsides.

First, let us consider what SPF means. SPF or Solar/Sun Protection Factor indicates the strength of the sunblock you’re applying, coming in ranges of about 10-100 depending on the product. While lower SPF may protect you less, it is also true that they have less potent chemicals that are less likely to react with skin. In a perfect world, you should never really go above SPF 30 and reapply about every two hours. Alas, it is not a perfect world, so you may suffer from minor burns here and there and that is usually fine as well. The issue only comes when a series of factors combine and may result in somewhat of a bad time.

Let us return to our tropical paradise after we have applied our dense sunblock. The tropics are hot. An environment as dank and torrid as this presents its own challenges, but sometimes sunblock can stop being your ally as well. Returning to personal experience, this thick mineral-based protector blocks up most of your pores as it forms a shield from the sun. With the heat rising, this presents an issue as your body tries to perspire and cool, but isn’t allowed to do so. Soon you start to feel an itch. The itch shows no signs of stopping, and soon you are just in the very same situation I found myself in not too long ago on my tropical escape.

While the reaction is uncomfortable at most, at the very least it represents a lesson to everyone who finds themselves in this type of climate during their summer vacation. The best way to effectively prevent discomfort is moderation! Effectively managing the amount of sun you take in as well as your respective coating of sunscreen will allow you to enjoy your vacation to the max. Taking care of yourself is extremely important, but so is having fun, so enjoy your vacation as long as you can before the fall rolls around once again.

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