When I was a teen in the 80s, not only did we not use sunscreen, we put cooking oil on us to encourage the skin to tan! Mothers applied it to their daughters!
I had no idea of the dangers. A group of us -- all teen girls raised in Ireland -- would race out to the sun as soon as it came out (it did at times, but often quickly went back in again).
One warm summer we slathered ourselves with a Crisco oil equivalent and lay out, hoping to cook all day. I'm surprised the neighborhood didn't smell like chicken!
The majority of us have been sunburned at least once, either while innocently gardening, playing sports, or having jobs that require outdoor work or by laying out in the sun for too long without adequate sunscreen.
Sunburn can range from uncomfortable (a light burn) to excruciatingly painful and dangerous, to the point of needing hospitalization. Sunburn can damage the skin like any kind of burn by fire, including wounds, blisters, and permanent scarring.
But unlike other burns, sunburn is directly linked to skin cancer, something that 75,000 Americans will be diagnosed with this year, according to the American Cancer Society.
It also must be noted that one can suffer skin damage through cars, on cloudy days, while active in winter sports and while wearing clothing that appears to cover the skin up. And we haven't even started on the premature aging -- who wants to look like a vintage leather purse at only 60?
The worst burn I can remember is in my mid-20s. I headed to the park to brush up on my tan before attending a wedding reception that evening and didn't use sunscreen at all.
The temperature was well into the 80s with full sun and I lay out or swam for about four hours. A few hours later I was lying in a bath of cold water, the pain was so bad from the burns.
The heat radiating from my body was almost disturbing, it felt like I was burning on the inside too. I got out of the bath after about an hour and water had turned warm -- due to the heat from the all-over sunburn.
I attended the wedding that night, barely able to sit, as the back of my thighs were deep red. My entire body remained deep red for days.