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An interesting news article: Avoiding the (sun) burn. A look at human behaviour

September 17, 2015

This article caught my eye on the weekend – Avoiding the burn: how best to change sunbathers habits.

Yes I thought that putting sunscreen on the beach in neat dispensers thus making it available for free was a good enough idea – they do it at pre-school and schools.

Although I did wonder how it would stay stable in that metal box.

And I wondered how long they would last before being vandalised (how sad is that?)

But what I was most fascinated by was the way the article articulated how Bias, social conditioning and human behaviour work.

The year I emigrated to Australia from the UK a phone call back to home broke the news that one of my mums friends sons had died of skin cancer.   Eleven or so years ago skin cancer wasn’t something that the average English person thought or cared much about and yet here was I, in Australia or ‘melanoma world’ as the scared part of my brain tried to frame it hearing about a fellow English friend who had succumbed to this ‘Australian’ disease.

It felt so wrong.

But then I took the time to think more deeply about my new country and realised that while the risks of getting skin cancer were higher here – higher temps, more sun, stronger sun (thanks to the dodgy ozone layer) that risk was being strongly countered by a deeper level of awareness and grass-roots support.

In the UK when I was growing up there was the feeling that if you didn’t come back from your holiday with a tan the holiday was deemed a failure or disappointment by your peers.  

Here in Australia the days of the bronzed beach bum Aussie are long gone, replaced by a culture that almost goes as far as shaming those who go to the beach to ‘fry’. Yes there are still tanned, scantily clad bodies littering the beach but they now have to share it with bathers in full-on body protection, the whiff of tropical aroma sunscreen and wall-to-wall beach umbrellas.   Kids hear ‘no hat no play’ in every institution they set foot in from pre-school until their high-school graduation and sunscreen is on offer everywhere.

Reading the above article made all of those memories flood back and allowed me to see more clearly how strong our desire to be socially accepted is.

I think that making sunscreen available in public places is a great thing. Sunscreen is expensive, people forget it, run out of it, break it on the way to the beach etc or don’t even think about it so putting it in

people’s faces so to speak could work.  But as the article says it won’t work if people don’t ‘see’ it as a part of their routine.

So hopefully this initiative of Florida’s will start a conversation about safe sun behaviour similar to that which we had here in Australia – Melanoma rates in young Australians is on the decline!

Free sunscreen is only part of the solution but it is a good enough place to start.

Slip, Slop, Slap.

All year for us Aussies 🙂

Picture below is of Cape Tribulation Beach, Far North Queensland. Winter 2015. 28C and sunny.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 23, 2015 8:49 am

    Have you ever thought that the increased use of sunscreen has lead to the increase of skin cancer due to the sunscreen reducing or vitamin D production. Also the clean freak germaphobe generation is scrubbing all of their natural oils off.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      November 23, 2015 9:34 am

      Yes, I have considered those points. It is possible that those who take the message about the risks posed by the sun very seriously may over-shoot the ‘safe’ point and leave themselves at risk of under-exposure. That is why it is really important that any sun safe marketing messages include tips on what moderate exposure looks like and how we as humans have evolved to live under the sun. Top to toe sunscreen every day without fail is an over-reaction as is never going outside. That said it is also important that people who are tending towards the other end of the scale – thinking that sunscreens and sun-safety are really not necessary or are only promoted to make money (I’m not saying that you said that but I do hear this argument banded about) do also have to keep in mind that correct use of sunscreen does slow down the rate at which the sun burns the skin and sun burn and tanning has been linked to certain forms of skin cancer.

      In terms of the clean freak germaphobe generation yes I agree. We are too clean, me included. I would personally benefit from not bathing daily as it really messes with my skin barrier and eczema but I like to shower so I use creams to compensate (which is really dumb and wasteful I know). I am not sure that a level of grime would help that much with sun protection although it could but I think that the social fall-out from such a venture may well put most people off trying.

      Basically the world would be a better place if sensible was the new normal but sensible isn’t all that marketable as what is sensible for you may be unrealistic for me. It’s a personal thing 🙂

      Thanks for provoking a bit of thought.

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