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  • Bambi Kohler: Everything's better with butter — even tanning

    Published: 07/28/2014


    From the Times Herald:

    There are certain things that we are no longer sure are good or bad for us. Milk, eggs, and butter, which are grocery-list staples, have been under fire for years. The cover of the June issue of Time magazine reads, “Eat Butter.” What’s next month’s issue? Drink water out of the spigot?

    Another thing I’m not sure is good or bad for me?

    The sun.

    My Italian genes translated into olive skin that hardly ever burns, so I used to never wear sunscreen. When my friends flocked to the tanning beds to get a tan for prom or weddings I only needed to sit out a few days to reach my desired shade.

    I feel like I need to preface the following with a disclaimer that it is true and I am not taking literary license. I also hope you keep in mind the “Summertime Stupidity” column from last month. During Senior Week and the two following summers when I spent a week at the beach, I tanned using butter. It started out as an experiment, we would each tan using something different — baby oil, tanning oil, SPF 5, Country Crock — and see what yielded the best results.

    Yes, I got some strange looks at the beach while I made like Julia Child and buttered myself. After 20 minutes, I was cooking and my friend Annie commented, “Katie’s done!” I’m more of a get-in-the-water than sit-on-the-beach type girl so I spent the next hour hopping waves and probably attracting sharks.

    “You smell like broiled fish,” Annie commented at the end of the day when we walked back to the house.

    For the record, I had the brown shade of a Thanksgiving turkey. The friend who wore SPF got a nice base tan, tanning oil and baby oil ended up severely burned.

    Then I got the beejesus scared out of me. No, I didn’t have to get a weird mole removed. I was inundated with the “Practice Safe Sun” message. Every woman’s magazine summer issue consisted of an article on identifying moles, the best sunscreens and a real life skin cancer survival story. All of the TV health guru’s preach its importance. Now, before my fair-skinned husband and I head to the beach, pool, or outdoor activity I liberally apply the SPF.

    Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime.

    Luckily, it is also one of the most preventable. Sunlight emits two types of rays — UVA and UVB. Exposure to either can lead to skin cancer, wrinkles, and age spots with UVB as the primary cause of sunburn.

    Dr. Jonathan Wolfe, division director of dermatology at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, stresses the importance of protecting your skin by looking for shade, wearing sunscreen and protective clothing in any type of weather since both types of rays get through clouds. More than 3.5 million nonmelanoma skin cancers are diagnosed annually with basal cell being the most common.

    “There is no safe way to tan. Every time you tan you damage your skin. It increases risks for all types of skin cancer. There is nothing safe about indoor tanning beds. They raise the risk of cancer up to 60 percent,” said Wolfe, who is also an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania. He has specific expertise in melanoma skin cancer, psoriasis and medical dermatology.

    The peak hours of UV radiation are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wolfe recommends applying a 30 or higher SPF 20 to 30 minutes before going outside and reapplying especially after getting out of the water.

    “Look for ones that block UVA and UVB and contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Everybody needs to wear it (sunscreen),” said Wolfe, who recommends a one-ounce amount or the size of shot glass per application.

    Dr. Wolfe notes the recent spike in melanoma among 15- to 29-year-old females and warns of the dangers of the boom in the tanning business.

    “The tanning industry is not your friend,” said Wolfe. “Their revenue was two and a half billion in 2010. They are not looking out for one’s health. Tanning beds use multiple organic ultraviolet radiation, which is a known cancer-causing agent. The amount of radiation produced during tanning may be more than sitting out in the sun since you are sitting right under the lightbulb.”

    The most commonly sunburned areas are the face and upper arms. If you are sunburned, the first step is to get out of the sun. Don’t pop blisters or pull skin. Let skin decompress on its own and take cool showers and use a cold compress. Take an anti-inflammatory. If it is still painful, consult a physician.

    “People love the look of the tan. There is nothing good about it. If you are healthy and active and outside you will slowly get color. Be healthy and active, wear sunscreen and you will get color. Any type of tanning is bad,” said Wolfe.

    I was too embarrassed to disclose my tanning past — more Betty Crocker than Coppertone — to Wolfe. He and his cohorts scared me straight. Besides, it’s okay to eat butter again so I will go back to buttering my toast instead of myself.

  • Communications Team