Just reading that headline, half of you have either queued up a classic Beatles song or a Windex commercial; but it’s OK because obviously I have both running through my head.

And honestly, both apply. The classic Beatles song (one of my personal favorites) is about a fresh start after a “long, cold lonely winter,” and we all know that Windex “lets the sun in.” I’m mixing metaphors (and classic songs) again, but everyone has felt the need to start again after hard situations and, well, a window you can’t see through is actually a wall.  

Unfortunately, as is the case so many times in life outside of amazing music or catchy commercials, there is a lot of potential “bad” that comes with the “good.” If the earth is the “big blue marble”, then the sun is most certainly the big yellow bus dropping off light and life as its wheels go round-and-round us. And between the two of them we get “bright sun shining days” and “heat waves.”

Conversely, though, we also get less than pleasant things such as heat stroke and skin cancer. Can’t remember a catchy song for those (my friend Dan might, but I think radio streams directly into his skull), and all the commercials are a bit too serious.

Still, all things considered, a little serious is good. Especially if an ounce of serious thought can eliminate the inevitable pound of cure, we will need later to fix the damage our good friend the sun can cause. While he is spending his time floating in the heavens (and on cereal boxes) and encouraging backyard barbecues, pool outings, and generally everything requiring warm temperatures, bright light, and all-around happy doses of vitamin D, he is also doing some pretty potentially nasty things. That’s because sunlight isn’t just global beams of summer fun ... it’s also a perfect example of too much of a good thing can be bad.

While rays of sunlight dapple forests and inspire poets around the word, UV rays are also doing decidedly unromantic things to exposed skin and causing dermatologists to have a global case of the “willies.” The sun affects everyone differently depending upon genetics and the amount of melanin contained in each of our bodies, but it does affect everyone. Pale, tanned, or somewhere in between, the amazing organ that covers our bodies is constantly fighting off the exposure to UV rays. And for the most part it does a truly wonderful job, so we all don’t burst into flames like Christopher Lee at the end of the old Hammer Studios Dracula Films.  

And because there is always more to the story, UV damage doesn’t stop with the skin. UV rays can cause damage to our eyes as well. Think about it for a second; there is a reason Clint Eastwood squints when he looks into the sun. Sure, it makes him look cool, but he’s also trying to keep the sun from frying his eyeballs. And, UV radiation has also been linked to damage to our DNA — which might explain his attitude in all those spaghetti Westerns. UV must have burned out all his happy cells. Sounds legit to me — I am exponentially crankier after a couple hours in the sun. And though I’m not quite as sensitive as Mr. Lee’s iconic character, if left out in the sun all day, I couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t bite someone.  

People have praised and cursed the sun for centuries and will continue to do so for as long as there are a sun and people. But advances in modern medicine have made dealing with the effects of UV rays easier than it has ever been. For one thing, we know far more about it and ourselves than our fourth century counterparts, for instance. Advances like variable SPF sunscreen, lighter summer clothing that still offers protection and comfort, UV protection eyewear (not just sunglasses), and the knowledge of which medicines interact with sunlight have made enjoying the seasons so much safer and reduced the level of damage.  

Now half of you are picturing Dracula wearing Ray Bans and SPF 10,000, sitting on the beach sipping a Mai Tai; OK, maybe that’s just me. But the reality of it all is that the sun is a good thing wrapped around some bad things. We can overcome the negative effects, however, with just a few precautions. And by doing so, enjoy it for a lot longer. Being safer, in a way, is one means of making summer last forever.

Recommended for you