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Raisin’ In Minnesota: Beige Ain’t Brown.. A Sun Tanning Tale

I have never had sunburn; there I said it! I love getting browner in the hot sun! My skin becomes a rich shade of mahogany and underlying red tones even out my skin color! I feel my best “Essence” self! I get a little swagger and I can hear the poem “Phenomenal Woman” being recited in my head to the tune of Indiya Arie’s “Brown Skin”; I am down right cute! After showers, I heighten my glow with solid cocoa butter and enjoy the rich scent as my summer perfume.

So, imagine my surprise when my two, darling daughters after two days of sun and fun on our family vacation, were red and blistery? What is this? I needed to protect my cocoa-colored babies from mommy’s beauty ritual? Who knew? No, I’m not an idiot I have heard of sunscreen, I have heard of sunburn, I just had no experience with either, pardon me. I assumed that my beige babies had inherited enough of mommy’s melanin that the sun would be of little harm. Wrong!

Itching, burning and whining children, was a wake-up to my reality that the girls had inherited more traits from their father than slightly straighter hair! Oops, my bad! So, I went running to my husband asking what one does with sunburned children? He smirked and shared with me the aisle of sunscreen, the one I used to skip, and then pointed me to the Aloe Vera gel. I purchased that and SPF 70 in a heartbeat. I spread the cooling gel all over my babies after giving them a cool bath. I then retreated to the Internet to learn all I could about sun effects on skin and sunburn. Turns out even Black people can burn; who knew?

Skin care was something I always got away with minimal attention to. I had clear skin through puberty and very little sensitivity other than allergies or my bout with poison ivy at camp. I was a firm believe in the “Black don’t crack” principle. Well let’s just say if a ray can find it’s way through my continuous reapplication of SPF 70 on my children, I will send them out in Burkas! Mommy knows better now and I don’t play! My babies may not have inherited my age defying skin but I’m gonna do my darnedest to make sure they never hurt again from mommy’s ignorance.

I was reminded of this when a dear friend of mine, who I believe was texting while drinking, sent me a message recently. It simply read “Black people don’t tan do they?” The answer is absolutely YES!

So GEMnation, what say you? How do you protect your babies in the sun? Have you ever had an experience like this and if so, can you help a sister out?

More from GEM:

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Hillery Smith Shay, is a proven leader in Visual Communications and New Media Marketing. She holds a MBA, from Bethel University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Haverford College. Shay is an award-winning photographer who has worked for the Associated Press and various newspapers. Hillery resides in West Saint Paul with her husband Jeff and their daughters Jenna and Hayden. She is also the proud stepmother of Erin, Ginger and Jack. Read more about her at hilleryshay.com and follow her Twitter @crazphotochick.

1 Comment

  1. TJ

    May 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    I grew up in a really hot climate, so I’ve been a big fan of sunblock for a good deal of my life. I also use it on my kids. They didn’t like the whole rubdown/spraydown ritual at first, but since they know they have no choice, it is a part of Summer life for them.

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