Body + Soul: Land of the Rising Sun

It’s more important than ever to protect your skin. Here’s how.
Sunscreen is being applied to a person's back.
Illustration by Chloe Zola/Indianapolis Monthly

ACCORDING TO the World Resources Institute, while the overall greenhouse gas emissions in Indiana are on a downward trend, they’re still the eighth highest in the country. “The impact of climate change on the skin is enormous and includes higher rates of skin cancer, brown spots, and wrinkles due to an increase in ultraviolet radiation,” says Carmel dermatologist Keeter Sechrist, who is on the board of Outrun the Sun, a local melanoma education and research nonprofit. In short, Indiana is becoming more like a Southern state. “I am sad that I may never get to use my cross-country skis here again,” Sechrist laments.

The sun’s radiation damages our DNA, opening the gate for abnormal skin cells to form. “While our immune system repairs our DNA, over time the damage accumulates, and the immune system can’t keep up. In this way, our skin can become more sensitive to the sun with age,” notes Christy Waterman, a Zionsville dermatologist and board member at Outrun the Sun.

Sechrist urges using a broad spectrum, SPF 30, water-resistant sunscreen all year long. If you don’t like the idea of a chemical sunscreen, pick up a mineral one (look for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide on the label). UVB radiation, responsible for sunburns, is blocked by glass. But UVA is sneakier. It causes skin aging that’s invisible—until it’s not. UVA radiation doesn’t fl uctuate by season, and it passes through glass. “You may work in an office, but if you sit by a window, you’re gett ing UVA damage,” says Sechrist. For a pool day or a weekend at Indiana Dunes, try sun-protective clothing, like Lifa’s Active Hoodie. It’s easier to wear a shirt than to reapply sunscreen every two hours. “Such garments, now stylish and comfortable, have come a long way,” adds Waterman.