This is the image.coppertone2

It was everywhere in the 1960’s, in the time before sunscreen.

The Coppertone baby.

I grew up in a family that tanned easily. Except for me.

I freckled, burned and peeled. Every year of my childhood.

If I worked on it really hard, sweating in the hot, humid summer air, I’d get some color.

But mostly, it would wash off with a good bath, or fadeΒ after a cloudy, rainy day.

The summer vacations at the Jersey shore were especially challenging. Mostly everyone could be out on the beach all day. I had to limit my time there, or duck under the boardwalk.

SolarcaineEven so, the nights with the cool ocean breezes, on freshly burned skin, painful.

They lied.

Solarcaine did not work.

When I moved to Salt Lake City as a young adult, I decided to take some time off during the summer, for the first time since the early teen years.

There is little or no cloud cover in Salt Lake’s near-desert climate. I was used to the ethic that said if the sun was out, you should be as well.

After a week or two, I was tanning for the first time in my life, increasing exposure until I could stay out for a few hours without a burn.

I gave up on tanning lotions, turned to using Crisco shortening. I was really cooking now.

I began to pray for a rainy, cloudy day. It never came.

I developed that brown, leather-like tan. I also developed pre-cancerous skin lesions.

It was the first and last time I had a real tan.

It was just not meant to be.

And I’ve come to a place of peace with the freckles.


This entry was posted in Beauty, Childhood, Family, Health Issues and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

84 Responses to Coppertone

  1. Sue Vincent says:

    I like freckles… always wanted them. And a tan… but I burned too. Haven’t sought out the sun in years…and now, when I don’t care about that ‘healthy glow’ any more. I tan… just walking the dog.

  2. Ritu says:

    Bless you! Somethings are jyst not meant to be!!! 😊

  3. Thank you for a great post on the dangers of the sun. I had a basal cell carcinoma removed from my nose last autumn. It was quite large and grew very quickly. I was always careful in the sun but I now wear a hat and ALWAYS an SPF on my face.

  4. kingmidget says:

    I went through a period of sitting out in the back yard working on my tan. It last for a few years while I was a teenager. My older siblings had done it, it just seemed like the thing to do.

    And I’ve spent a lot of time out in the sun over the years since — not intentionally to work on a tan, but just because. Running, bicycling, at sporting events. Doing things. I’ve generally shied away from slathering up no matter what, but if I know I’m going to be out in the sun for more than a couple of hours, then I put something on my skin to protect it from a burn.

    I’m convinced, however, that the chemicals in sunblocks and sunscreens are just as likely to be the cause of skin cancer as the sun is.

  5. my mom would always tell us best prevention for a sunburn is ‘get a tan’ πŸ˜€

  6. I like freckles too, Van, and always wanted some. I was a baby-oil sun-worshipper as a teen and regret it now as I think back to my grandmother’s beautiful skin. SPF 70 for me these days. πŸ™‚

  7. I’m not a tanner either, though since living on the boat, I seem to have white bands where my rings and watch usually are! I also sport a luminous red beak, and panda eyes, but I look healthy!
    The only time I ever used sunscreen (and one of the higher factors at that) I got sunstroke and was violently ill. Hubby couldn;t bring my temperature down, so he threw me in the bath and turned the shower on! A bit drastic, but it worked!

  8. I tan easily too. I remember those ads, and people using a combo of baby oil and iodine as a tanning lotion. I always feel better with a tan but a tan isn’t worth skin cancer. It’s SPF and swim shirts for us now.

  9. Only once in my life have I been able to tan instead of burn. It was the summer I was able to stay home with my kids and spend all day “around the pool” (you know, that inflatable 18-inch one). The tan came AFTER the second-degree blisters disappeared.

  10. I find freckles cute to look at and it’s just so comfortable being comfortable in your own skin as you have. Even for a black person, too much Sun is definitely not good.

  11. I remember those ads. I have freckles and I used to be able to tan. But these days standing under florescent lights might be about as close to getting a tan as I can get. In any event, I think your skin will stay younger because you weren’t able to stay out in the sun for long periods at a time. And that’s not a bad thing. Have a safe and happy 4th of July, Van. :O)

  12. George says:

    Good, because the alternative is not an option. But I do remember those commercials..)

  13. C.E.Robinson says:

    Van, I can relate! Freckles, sunburns, basal cell lesion! Yep, that’s my story too! I stay out of the sun now! Walking the dogs is enough exposure! Have a safe, relaxing 4th. πŸ’› Elizabeth

  14. Some unprotected sun exposure (for most people and animals) is good and healthy. Baking in the sun (with or without protection,) not so much! Finding alternative sun blockers to commercial products containing dangerous chemicals is highly recommended.

  15. TanGental says:

    I used to go pink. Indeed I was called pinko for a time but that may have been my insistence of collective tanning and having a five year plan for my exposure to the sun…

  16. Joyful2bee says:

    I always thought freckles were cute. Now I just use sunscreen. Lol

  17. Val Boyko says:

    I must admit, coming from Scotland ( at a latitude around NewFoundland) we never have strong sunshine. I recall going very pink and getting excruciating prickly heat as a child when exposed to sun and over 70 degrees! My freckles in the exposed part of my body are not as legendary as my alabaster thighs….
    25 years ago I came to the USA. The land of tanned summer folks! I decided to build up gradually with major sunscreen …. And 4 years later I had accomplished a tan. I
    was actaully a pale golden color with freckles … And not really a tan at all!

    There is a moral here. I was never exposed to a lot of sun as a child and have always been wary.
    My Italian American hubby never thought twice about it as he and his family took on a glowing almond tone every summer.
    Last year he developed a dry patch on his ear which turned out to be cancer. From skin cancer it metastasized into his neck lymph nodes. After ear reconstruction and neck resection, we recently found out it had moved into his lungs.

    I don’t mean to be a downer, but this is serious stuff for everybody who didn’t know as children, and who don’t take care nowadays.
    Please wake up to sun screen and use it often!

  18. I get it. Just had my first melanoma spot removed this spring….:/

  19. LaVagabonde says:

    Crisco?! Oh dear. I used to use baby oil and iodine. I’d start lying out as soon as it hit 60 degrees. I look back at my high school photos and shudder – I could get so dark and my hair was so blonde. The Michigan look. Haha. I outgrew it when I moved to California. Now I use 50 mineral sunblock and avoid the sun. It gives me a nasty headache now. No skin cancer…yet. Wouldn’t be surprised if it shows up.

    • I think about it often each year, Julie, as the sun spots make an appearance. Those of us who burned/peeled seem to be the most vulnerable. I’m watchful. The dermatologist has become very popular these days.

  20. shwetadave09 says:

    What should I say…I am naturally tanned? And I love it too πŸ™‚ the post is so wonderful and I am glad to be here πŸ™‚

  21. That image is so familiar and I remember it so well! xxx cool post!

  22. amommasview says:

    I love freckles, have some myself and they multiply in the sun too. I get some color when I’m in the sun but I tend to not be out for too long and put sunscreen on on a regular base. Especially here in Australia… The sun is different. It burns you faster…

  23. That’s kinda sweet. Thanks. ☺

  24. writerinsoul says:

    Oh geez Van, no wonder my post today resonated – I hadn’t yet seen this one of yours. It takes a lot of effort to avoid the sun. Tan = sexy. How long have we been told that? Hard to stop thinkng that way, but then again, skin cancer isn’t sexy. (And wasn’t Jodie Foster a Coppertone baby?)

  25. Nurse Kelly says:

    Wonderful wisdom stated in a gentle, entertaining way… as always, Van. πŸ™‚
    Used baby oil once or twice, but never reached for the Crisco! You didn’t mess around! lol

  26. My brother would freckle and peel as well! I just got super dark myself… must be half chinese! πŸ™‚

  27. lbeth1950 says:

    Good skin health!

  28. joey says:

    Yes. Me too. When I lived in Georgia, I put that sunscreen on every day, and I still eventually got tan. I had no idea who I was when I was tan, it was so strange. It took me a good six months to not be tan anymore. I worry about sun exposure, I do. Very careful about it, since living there.

  29. I don’t use tanning lotions, and so long as you dont go baking yourself we are just fine.. But then again here in the UK we do not get the HOT heat as elsewhere.. xxx xx

  30. Sadie's Nest says:

    Lubing the kids with sunscreen is like a 20 minute event (no one wants to stand still), just to play outside. Heaven forbid they play in the sun without a layer of protection! My mother, the teenage sun queen recently had a section of her face removed, as did her mother before her.

  31. My eldest daughter comes out in a beautiful crop of freckles in the sun – we call her little Cookie 😊

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