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Question of the Week: Why Do You Seek Shade or Sun?

2008 May 19

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

With Memorial Day coming up, it’s time to think about the sun. How do you protect yourself (and your kids)? Do you follow any of the SunWise program’s recommendations? If you actively seek sun or use a tanning bed, why? And what would it take to convince you to seek shade instead?

Why do you seek shade or sun?

En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Ya que se acerca el Día de Recordación de los Caídos, es momento de pensar en el sol. ¿Por qué debe protegerse (y a sus hijos)? ¿Normalmente Sigue las recomendaciones de SunWise? Si activamente busca el sol o los salones de bronceado, ¿por qué? ¿Qué tenemos que hacer para convencerle que debe buscar la sombra?

¿Por qué busca la sombra o el sol?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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60 Responses leave one →
  1. Judy permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I feel better after a day in the sun – emotionally and physically. I also sleep better.

    However, given the information of the higher amounts of UV rays we get I am much less likely to plan to spend my whole day in the sun…even at the beach and then use a moderate sunscreen and a hat.

  2. Jean Rhodes, Ph D permalink
    May 19, 2008

    Very light blue eyes water up like crazy in the sun so I avoid it like the plague. No one can beleive I am 52, still got carded in my fourties.. So it works to stay out of the sun.

  3. Susan Pinkowski permalink
    May 19, 2008

    My mom was a sun-worshipper the entire time I was growing up. I would seek shelter in whatever shade I could find, even lining up with the shade from a telephone pole! I’ve been known to float on a raft in a pool holding an umbrella. I’ll even golf with an umbrella on sunny days. I enjoy outdoor activities such as gardening, kayaking, softball and golf, but I try to avoid the sun while doing them. Over time, the sun will dry up all the elastic in your skin and no amount of moisturizer will cure it. I do not look 55, so I’ve been told, and I attribute it to staying out of the sun. I have a 13 year old son who I have sheltered from the sun as well. I have never been in a tanning bed and frankly think they should be against the law. We use suntan lotion when we’re going to be outside for an extended period and I reapply it on my son when he gets out of the water. Near the end of my mom’s life, she wouldn’t wear shorts because of how bad her skin looked from all those years of sunbathing. She regretted it, but it was too late then. My mother-in-law loved the sun, too, and avoided the shade until she wound up with skin cancer on her ear. Now she’s fighting me for my shady spot on the pontoon boat every summer! My sister-in-law, who is a nurse and should know better, visits the tanning salon and sits in the sun every chance she gets. Her skin looks older than mine and she’s nine years younger. Unfortunately, with the changes in the climate that we’re experiencing, the sun is only going to get stronger and do more damage than ever before. Greater public awareness is needed.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I seek shade and use sun screen, weat hats and glasses. Encourage all my family to do so also.

  5. Brenda Kitchens permalink
    May 19, 2008

    When I was young, every summer my parents spent 1-2 weeks in Florida in July. Every year I was beet red the first day. We had no sunscreen at that time, and tans were the most popular thing any one could do to look “healthy”. I never deliberately tried to tan, but I was always on the beach when we went so I have recieved multiple severe burns. I’ve had a cancer removed from my arm.
    My mother and her tanning buddy both developed cancers from their yearly sun-bathing and my mother died of melanoma. I am apalled that any one would deliberately bake in a tanning booth knowing what we know now. Even if sun-screens turn out to be unhealthy, melanoma is still more often than not, fatal. I observe all of the Sun Safe steps 99% of the time. When there’s time to plan, I do not step out of the house, ever, without applying 25-85 SPF sunscreen (winter and summer resp.) and I seldom travel without sunscreen, and sunglasses in my purse or car. Frequently, I don’t wear a hat, but the older I get the less vain I am. Living without a nose is much less attractive than wearing that hat.

  6. Shannon permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I love the sun, it makes me feel good sort of energized and after this winter, I’m ready to bask in it’s warmth! I am careful though, I do not allow myself to be burned. I don’t use sunscreen until the sun is at it’s highest point. I then lather on the 15. Another reason for soaking up the sun is good ole Vitamin D – the natural kind!

  7. Janet permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I live on a farm and so must be out in the sun to get chores done. I ALWAYS use suncreen and wear hats and sunglasses. IMHO, using a tanning bed is just begging for cancer—-stupid!

  8. Anonymous permalink
    May 19, 2008

    Being in the sun feels good – physically and emotionally. I love to be outside and believe that some exposure is good, but burning is not. So we always apply sunscreen after being outside for a while. We have 3 children – one that loves the shade, one that loves the sun and one that doesn’t mind either way. We take extra precaution to make sure they are protected with sunscreen. Also, we drink LOTS of water and stay hydrated all year long, whether we are outside or not.

  9. Bill permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I always try to protect my head, and I take precautions for long exposures to the rest of my body. But I also recognize that sun has good effects as well as bad, including the production of Vitamin D. So I normally leave my arms exposed, and use sunscreen only when the exposure is more than 15-20 minutes at a time. I am blessed in that I tan very well.

    Tanning beds are really stupid. Risking health for appearance sake is a sign of serious immaturity.

  10. May Valls permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I live in the tropics so there is lots of sun. But I use Sun protective lotion 15 because I need the Vit D for absortion of calcium for my bones. I used to wear Lotion 60 but I got osteopenia which is some loss of calcium in my bones; then I switched to 15 plus more exercise and last time (2 years after) it was low osteopenia. So my doctor told me I was doing good. I read that in the US lots of people use too much protective lotion though the sun there is not so strong and so there is a lot of osteoporosis. Its a matter of balance.

  11. Kim permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I have always been in the water swimming anytime I could. I have used sun protection at times over the years, especially after I became an adult.
    We owned a waterfront piece of lake property for 22 years, raising 4 boys that spent almost every weekend there after the temps had warmed up until the first frost. Needless to say, we were in the sun constantly between the boating, fishing, and water sking.
    We sold the property about 5 yrs ago, after I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). It is more difficult for me to be out in the warm temps & sunshine now as it makes my ms symptoms worse until I’m back in the shade & the temp comes down. I guess it is the Lord telling me that “a little sunshine will go a long ways”!

  12. Lina Younes-EPA permalink*
    May 19, 2008

    Personally–I’m happier when it’s sunny and warm. Summer is my favorite season. I admit that during my teenage years in Puerto Rico–I used to “fry myself”. With time, I have wisened up.
    I’ve try to teach my daughters the importance about the shade and wearing sunblock. The teenagers are going through their reckless sunscreenless stage, yet my 6 year old now doesn’t go to the pool without tons of sunblock. Guess I’m finally doing something right!

    Spanish version–Personalmente, me siento más felíz durante días soleados y cálidos. El verano es mi temporada del año preferida. Admito que durante mi adolescencia en Puerto Rico solía “freirme” en la playa. Con el pasar del tiempo, he escarmentado. He tratado de enseñarle a mis hijas sobre la importancia de buscar la sombra y utilizar crema protectora de sol. las adolescentes están en su época de descabellada de no utilizar protección solar. Sin embargo, la pequeña de seis años no sale a la piscina sin unsar grandes cantidades de crema protectora. ¡Parece que al fin estoy haciendo algo bien!

  13. phdwmn permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I am actually allergic to the sun, although I love to be outdoors. We found this out when I was around 15 years old. In those days before we knew better, we would bake in the sun after putting cooking oil (!) on us to get us nice and toasty brown. My mother now suffers from recurring skin cancers on her face. She is allergic to sun screen! I am now in my late forties and am constantly trying out the latest in sun screens. Light weight long clothing is also a must for me.

  14. Blake permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I rarely ever wear sunscreen. If i have plenty of water to drink the sun never really crosses my mind. I tan fairly quickly and dark which seems to prevent me from burning (with the exception of the beginning of spring or summer when I first start spending long periods out in the sun). I prefer the shade just because on a hot day, sitting in the shade seems glorious. I have three girls all of which tan very readily but we still put sunscreen on them if we plan to be outside for more than half a day. Reading the comments maybe i should improve my UV protection!?!

  15. Sue permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I grew up when suntanning was the popular thing to do. Looking “healthy” meant that you had a great tan. My tanning lotion of choice was baby oil. Many years later I am paying for that fun in the sun with age spots, sun damage, dry skin, wrinkles, but worse, basal cell carcinoma and a pre-melanoma spot. Both have been removed but I learned a lesson. We live in Florida now and I am very respectful of the sun and my time in it. I wear an spf 60 uva/uvb and also a broad visor when I can. I’m with Brenda above, a hat might look old and funny but much less so than no nose. BTW that basal cell was quite literally under my nose and looked like nothing much so I was closer to something much worse than I ever thought. Take care out there.

  16. Michelle permalink
    May 19, 2008

    This is a no brainer for me. I have a wierd, pre-cancerous mole on my face that I could excise, but even that would be disfuguring so I just watch it and be careful in the sun so I always use sunscreen, wear hats, avoid lots of sun until 4 (I live in Mississippi where it is strong).

    I don’t always 100% slather on the sunblock everywhere, but if I am in the strong sun, I do. I do not deliberately tan, ever, but do get sun while mowing and gardening.

    And, I end up looking 10 years younger than my age. But, sun makes me happier and it is good for Vitamin D and all. What could be dumber than a tanning bed? I don’t envy the leather look that folks get. :) The idea of cancer is not too pretty so…folks should change habits, I believe.

  17. Shade Lover permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I seek the shade, and when I head out in the sun, I cover up with sunscreen and a hat. I may not be a bronze goddess, but I’ll look years younger than others my age in the next 20 years.

  18. Hobby Gardener permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I am fair skinned person who has never tanned, only burned and peeled. So I learned a long time ago that I can’t take the sun for long stretches of time. My hobby is gardening, so I love to be outdoors (Also love to hike). So I have the big hat and bottles of sunscreen. Also I try to plan my garden duties to follow the shade as it moves around the yard. For areas with no shade, I try to do those projects early in the morning or later in the evening.

  19. sharon permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I usually protect myself from the sun, but never thought about my head. I have gone without hats in the desert and found that my scalp got sunburned and tender. Now we, my family and I, groom each other like monkeys looking for any signs of skin cancer.

  20. Heidi permalink
    May 19, 2008

    When I was younger I could tolerate the sun, and heat, very well and thought it was pretty awesome to come through summer with a great tan. Today, I steer clear of the high sun exposure times and wear a good sunscreen as necessary. I am lucky to be blessed with an olive skin tone, so even minimal exposure nets somewhat of a healthy glow. I would never be out in the sun without protection though.

  21. Kevin H permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I put on SPF 50 and wear sunglasses everyday. I wear a wide brim hat and long sleeves even on the hottest of days. I developed Melanoma at age 26 and had a portion of my ear removed. I continue to get checked out every 6 months. Our local dermatologists have a 3 month wait for an appointment. I recommend if you have spots that you are unsure of, then got to your family doctor immediately. Early detection can save your life. I am fair skinned and the only explanation for the melanoma was that is was probably from burning(more than 3 times) as a child. Please teach your children good sun sense early. Or they will get to see as I have, the broken down state of our healthcare system. Unless insurance is provided from my or my wife’s employer, I am unable to purchase health insurance unless through a state program for high risk individuals. I am lucky to live in a state with this program but it is still unaffordable for most, at least double what you could normally pay as a “healthy” individual.

  22. Erin permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I have very fair, freckled skin. I simply do not tan – it’s straight to sunburn for me. I lather up with the highest SPF I can find when I’m going to be spending a lot of time in the sun (usually SPF 45 or 50). I’d like to keep my skin fair and wrinkle free in my old age. There is nothing worse looking than a woman who has clearly spent too much time sunbathing and looks like a leather baseball mitt!

  23. Kathleen B permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I seek shade, on 5/11 and 5/12 I had skin cancer surgery on my lower eyelid. It ended up becoming a skin graft due to the amount that had to be removed. This is the 4th such surgery, the second on that particular eye. I have never been a sun worshipper, I always garden early morning and late afternoon in the shade. As a child however, I played as all children played in the streets and there was no sun screen back then. I got sunburns and sunburn poisioning. Not pretty. I thank God for having sun screen when my children were growing up so thankfully, they will be spared what I was not. I also have the beginning of a cataract which the doctors said is made worse by the sun. I am fair, freckled and burn easy, I have my freckles photographed every year, including the one in my eye. That is the only way you can see if anything is changing. With digital cameras, it makes it easier than it used to be. Yet-I still see young people going to tanning salons, I cannot imagine what they will be like in 30 years.

  24. Marcia Cardde permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I wear sunblock every day to fight wrinkles and worse. A little on my face in winter, and slathered all over in summer. I’m much too young to look my age.

  25. warren short permalink
    May 19, 2008

    A great & wonderful question. Looking at most of the answers i wonder if i understood the question. Here is a
    small slant on the question – using colors – ask again.

    The distinction between warm and cool colors has been important since at least the late 18th century but is generally not remarked in modern color science or colorimetry. The contrast, as traced by etymologies in the Oxford English Dictionary, seems related to the observed contrast in landscape light, between the “warm” colors associated with daylight or sunset and the “cool” colors associated with a gray or overcast day. Warm colors are often said to be hues from red through yellow, browns and tans included; cool colors are often said to be the hues from blue green through blue violet, most grays included. There is historical disagreement about the colors that anchor the polarity, but 19th century sources put the peak contrast between red orange and greenish blue. This concept is related to the color temperature of “visible light”, an important consideration in photography.

    The determination of whether a color appears warm or cool is relative. Any color can be made to appear warm or cool by its context with other colors.

    Color theory has ascribed perceptual and psychological effects to this contrast. Warm colors are said to advance or appear more active in a painting, while cool colors tend to recede; used in interior design or fashion, warm colors are said to arouse or stimulate the viewer, while cool colors calm and relax. Most of these effects, to the extent they are real, can be attributed to the higher saturation and lighter value of warm pigments in contrast to cool pigments. Thus, brown is a dark, unsaturated warm color that few people think of as visually active or psychologically arousing.

    The hottest radiating bodies (e.g. stars) have a cool color while the less hot bodies radiate with a warm color.


  26. Judith permalink
    May 19, 2008

    I love being outdoors all times of the year, I love going to the beach on vacation, I love mowing and gardening and snow shoveling, but I wear sunscreen and protective clothing and sunglasses. My toddler also receives liberal slatherings in sunscreen. I never tanned well, I always burned, so I just protected my skin from grade school age on. Growing up, you end up on the receiving end of a lot of grief for being pale–even kids in my church youth group called me stupid for wearing a long sleeve overblouse on a trip to an amusement park. But, they look OLD now and some of them have had skin cancers removed, and most people underguess my age by fifteen years and I’ve luckily never had any skin cancers.

  27. Joann permalink
    May 19, 2008

    As with most things, moderation is the key. I love spending time in the sun, gardening, swimming, golfing or just reading by the water. I feel energized and healthy when I have sun exposure. I am careful not to burn and use sun screen when I think I will out for a long time or if the intensity warrants it. I look younger than my age even though I tan in moderation.

  28. Linn Thant permalink
    May 20, 2008

    I like shade as I live in tropical country, Burma. And Omar Khayyam loves shade too.

    Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
    A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse—and Thou
    Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
    And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

    Omar Khayyám (1050? – 1122)
    Persian mathematician, astronomer, and author.

    English translation by Edward FitzGerald

  29. Matthew Kelm permalink
    May 20, 2008

    Chinese women choose to use umbrellas to shade them from the sun………..I too think we should use umbrellas to shade from the sun. For instance, an umbrella hat with a cup holder and a straw would be nice! ;)

  30. Dommy permalink
    May 20, 2008

    I encourage everyone to talk to your childrens principals about having a hat policy during outdoor activities. Also be sure to educate your children about the harmful effects of over exposure to the sun. Remember that children model the behavior of thoes who take the time to teach them. Make it a point to apply sun-block on the kids (and yourself) BEFORE they leave the house everyday of the year. Love the skin you are in and play it safe in the sun and for all of you 12+ never, ever, ever use tanning beds! It is so great that there are so many people who are willing to help others by sharing stories and ideas. What excuses are left? We ultimatly are responsible for being proactive about the way we take care of our skin after all the sun is a known human carcinagin.

  31. susan permalink
    May 20, 2008

    I follow the sunwise protection rules ever since I had a really bad burn in high school – many years ago!

  32. Morgan permalink
    May 20, 2008

    I remember swimming in the summer and turning into a lobster. We had no idea that getting burned could have a long-term effect. For a few years after I left home, I went to a tanning bed. Having a tan was supposed to make a woman more attractive. After finding some strange-looking freckles I decided I didn’t need or want the tanning bed. I was glad when some stars like Madonna and others helped show that you didn’t have to be tan to be considered attractive. Now I daily use a sunscreen as part of my makeup routine and if I am working in the yard, I use sun block, long sleeves, and a hat.

  33. Abhishek permalink
    May 21, 2008

    Hi! I feel good coming back home after spending the whole day outside home in office even though i spend most of the time in A/C but during the short breaks when I move out in the sun i can feel the pinch and again when i return back to low temperatures the feeling is awesome. One should spend some in sun because you get Vitamin D which is good for your health but too much of exposure cancause sun burn. So its always advisable to use suncream while moving out in the sun.


  34. Pat permalink
    May 22, 2008

    After spending the last 20 years in nursing or Medical Aesthetics, I have seen many sun damaged persons, and those with skin cancers. I preach sun protection to everyone that will listen. If at all possible do not go in the sun at peak hours, 10AM-4PM, wear sun protective clothing,(either high SPF rating on fabric or close woven as not able to see light through),Remember to always wear Sun Screen, not all are UVB& UVA protective, one with micronized Zinc is very important. Remember to reapply as directed. The SPF is only a rating for the B ray which is the burning ray. UVA is the aging ray and the one that penetrates the deepest. UVA rating is usually never on the sun screen labels. This is something currently being worked onwith the FDA. Always wear a hat, the sun penetrates the hair follicles.
    I have seen teen agers with Melanoma and that was what really opened my eyes. I try to keep everyone posted on the UV rating that the EPA publishes. Living in S. Florida it is of upmost importance. A program taught in schools at a very early age and enforcing the use of protection would no doubt save lives and prevent deformities that are sometimes caused in the removal of deep rooted skin cancers. I hope I see such a program implemented in my lifetime. Be Safe/Not Sorry !!!!

  35. Pat permalink
    May 22, 2008

    P.S. I forgot to add, Don’t forget your sunglasses that are 98 to 100% UV Protective. Your eyes are very important to protection. This might save your sight later !!!

  36. Mary Rowlands permalink
    May 25, 2008

    I tried avoiding the sun. I would get some but not much. In the early ’90’s they reformulated the sunscreens. When I would use them I would get handprints in the sunburn. Something was seriously wrong with the new formulas. This can be validated by an ER visit.
    Since then my dr. has run a test on me and now I’m deficient on vitamin D!
    What slays me is when I was in my teens and 20’s the sun tan lotion that promised that I would be a bronze goddess left me as white as the driven snow. What gives. If it wasn’t broke why did they fix it?

  37. Jennifer permalink
    May 27, 2008

    I was a part-time sunworshipper, but after a couple a painful burns the last couple of years (and currently nursing a sunburn now) have decided I need to break out my sunscreen more often. I would use it when we went on trips and planned on being out in the sun, but never thought to use it when I was going out to work in the garden. Especially important now that my daughter got her towel out to sunbathe the other day.
    I agree- using a tanning bed is asking for trouble later, plus it doesn’t look healthy or natural when you over do it.

  38. Clara permalink
    May 27, 2008

    I think it’s interesting how many replies I read where people have admitted to being outside for a while, then applying their sunscreen. If your ead the container, or any other good artile on the subject, you need to apply it at least 20 mintues before going outside so the sunscreen can be most effective. Waiting until you’re already in it is too late! You can still get your Vitamin D while sitting in the shade or wearing your sunscreen. Of all the many things in our environment that can give us the “Big C”, we at least have control over this one and we need to taek advantage of it!

  39. Diane permalink
    May 27, 2008

    When I think back to when I was a teenager (a very long time ago!) and we actually used baby oil with iodine in it to get a tan, I can’t believe we have any skin left!

    I do seek and enjoy being in the sun BUT use sunscreen. The sun is beneficial for many reasons (medically, emotionally and psychologically) and there’s no reason for people to hide from it, as long as they enjoy it sensibly! Getting breast cancer 8 years ago was enough to convince me to never use a tanning bed again! While tanning beds/booths don’t give you cancer, they can irritate and energize cancer cells which can cause them to grow faster. They also age your skin faster, and just because you’re skin is tanned, you aren’t protected from burning in the sun.

  40. Lynn permalink
    May 28, 2008

    I bicycle for transportation and enjoy many other outdoor activities. I love being outside in the sun and wind. However, I am very fair and burn easily. I slather on the sunblock and wear a hat or bike helmet when I’m going to be out for a while. Despite my best efforts, I still get the occasional burn, but even with the increased risk of skin cancer, I think that this is a healthier, happier lifestyle than one spent sitting in front of the computer or TV.

  41. Sue permalink
    May 28, 2008

    If I come back from a few days at the beach or some other outdoor place with no tan and no burn, I feel like it was a successful trip. I use SPF 55 or 70 (now they have 85), wide-brimmed hats, and SPF clothing, but I try not to restrict my activities. I had my first skin cancer at 29, then several more in my 30s, so I am not messing around. I do not necessarily seek shade (it’s hard to do when you like to do outdoor activities during normal hours), but I seek to avoid the sun’s rays hitting my skin! I even wear sunscreen to the office!

  42. Joanne permalink
    May 29, 2008

    I try hard to stay in the shade for 3 reasons-first, because I am very fair and burn easily; second, because I am fearful of skin cancer as my mom had many removed; and third, because I hate the heat and hot weather. However, I do use a tanning booth on occasion before going on a Caribbean or Florida vacation. But I do use sun-block (not in the tanning booth, of course).

  43. Anonymous permalink
    July 14, 2008

    No, We don’t pay attention to “Source” of food generation, only look at “Price” and “Freshness”

  44. July 16, 2008

    Yes, buy only US due to pesticides used. Not monitored (of any value) coming into US. Try to find US Organic.

  45. erin permalink
    July 23, 2008

    I try to see the sun as much as possible to help with my Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I also wear SPF 50 because I do not want to burn

  46. Anonymous permalink
    January 7, 2009

    you should spend time in the sun but whatever everyone said is a lie

  47. A...................N permalink
    January 7, 2009


  48. Jen Brooks permalink
    May 17, 2009

    Everyone needs at least 30 minutes of sun per day. Number one for the vitamin D3 your body generates which helps you build strong bones. Number 2, almost everyone is deficient in D3 that lives north of the 45th parallel. I would not recommend sunscreens, too many chemicals in them that absorb straight into your body.

    Stay healthy,

  49. Shawn permalink
    September 8, 2009

    We have always been really careful with our kids. We cover them up with sunscreen all the time.

    We go out to friend’s pools a lot and I notice the other families’ kids seem to be a lot more tanned than our kids.

    It’s strange; the one family I specifically have in-mind…their grandfather passed-away last year from skin cancer.


  50. Phil permalink
    March 23, 2010

    We are always protecting ourselves from the sun. Being on the lake and next to the water, it is almost a must. Knowing what I know now from the past burns and scars, I wouldn’t go a day without sunscreen on the water.


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