Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Piz Buin Photo: Wikipedia
Coco Chanel made tanning fashionable when she returned from a vacation with glowing skin. Up to that point, the rich wore hats, long sleeves, and parasols to shade them from the sun's rays. Having pale skin was a sign of nobility and wealth; it meant that those people did not do manual labor in the outdoors.

In 1938 a Swiss chemistry student named Franz Greiter suffered severe sunburn while climbing Mount Piz Buin on the Swiss-Austrian border. In the process of trying to heal his bad sunburn he invented an effective sunscreen which is still sold today.

I often wish we had sunscreen when I was growing up. I might have to make less trips to the dermatologist in my old age. During summers in Constanta at the Black Sea, we would get so sun-burned every year and used, after the fact, plain yogurt to draw out the heat from burned skin. When we could not find yogurt, which was often the case, the skin would bubble up painfully and several layers of burned skin would peel off. Who knew at the time that we were exposing ourselves needlessly to potential skin cancer?

I saved my ex-husband’s life with several tubs of plain yogurt. He thought the northern hemisphere sun would not be as strong as the southern sun, but it was, especially for those with very fair skin like him.

My friend Mary, even though she always wore hats in the sun, and, as a black person had lots of melanin in her skin, died of melanoma. My former mother-in-law also died of melanoma. She was partly Native American and her tribe was particularly susceptible to certain cancers.

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