Getting a tan as a healthy thing to do.

Since a recent trip with a group of friends to Onjuku in Chiba Prefecture, I have rediscovered the joys and cautions of getting a suntan in the summer.

Most of my career has been spent in an office environment of one sort or the other, and I am not much of an outdoorsman. Nor am I much of a beach goer. So I am a white guy who is usually pretty thoroughly white.

But since I have the time and opportunity, I have been heading out for some sun. In fact, I have been disappointed when there’ve been sets of days where the cloud cover just hung over Tokyo all afternoon.

I usually use an SPF 50, which seems to more than do the trick. Somewhere I read that if you don’t apply the sun screen (suntan lotion, back in the day) right, you end up with only the square root of the strength. So an SPF 50 would just be a bit over SPF 7. Seven minutes in the sun with it equals one minute in the sun without, instead of 50 minutes protection like on the label.

I do the math, but it doesn’t seem to matter. It’s more a question of: Did I use it?

People warn me about skin cancer the same way I get warned about beer. But for most of my life, I haven’t done this. So if I spent a total of 25 hours shirtless out in the sun this summer, that’s the same exposure as one hour over 25 summers. (Let’s not worry about cumulative exposure—yes, if it were a straight 25 hours, it would be a bad thing. But an hour a day . . .)

I hear what the skin doctors say, but, like I mentioned earlier this month, there’s an opinion out there that you need sun exposure to stay healthy. We are designed to live with that zany yellow star so many of us have been taught to fear nowadays. So I don’t think a more thorough summer tan is going to be the end of me.

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