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About the Author

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Mary Mills Barrow

My name is Mary Mills Barrow. I’m a wife and mother of three, a full-time writer and sun protection activist. I studied in the United States and in Australia and it was in Australia that I first became aware of the problems caused by unprotected exposure to the sun. (Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world.) When I returned to the U.S. with my entrepreneurial husband, I was horrified at the epidemic of preventable skin cancer here.

With my husband, I co-authored “Sun Protection For Life: Your Guide To A Lifetime Of Healthy & Beautiful Skin” (New Harbinger Publications). Although certainly not a best seller, the book provides the framework for skin cancer prevention and detection habits and introduced the acronym “SunAWARE” which was later endorsed by a number of not-for-profit organizations working in the field including the Dermatology Nurses Association, the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation, and The Melanoma International Foundation. The book also won our first Gold Triangle award from the American Academy of Dermatology.

In addition to “Sun Protection for Life,” I’ve written two books aimed at children and teens which incorporate the SunAWARE acronym and will help educate young people about the importance of beginning good sun protection habits early in life. These books won the Gold Triangle Award from the American Academy of Dermatology this year.

In the meantime, my husband and I founded Coolibar, a sun protective clothing company. Although I am no longer active in the running of the company, I believe Coolibar offers the best sun protective clothing on the market today and I will occasionally discuss its products, although always with the caveat that I do have an interest in the company. In that spirit, I’ll mention that Coolibar was just awarded the Seal of Recognition for its clothing from the American Academy of Dermatology, the first sun protective clothing company to be so recognized.

Currently, I’m working with a variety of organizations, including the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation to develop classroom lessons for each of the five steps in the SunAware acronym.

The Author's web site

Best Boomer Towns Columns

5 Common Myths of Winter Sun Protection

5 Common Myths of Winter Sun Protection

This fall, as people head outside for their favorite activities or start planning a sunny vacation getaway, Coolibar, the nation's leading sun protective clothing manufacturer, offers health-conscious boomers a guide to winter sun protection myths.

There are many misconceptions about what is healthy behavior when it comes to sun protection. We want people to have access to all of the information necessary to protect their skin year-round and to make educated, healthy decisions for themselves and their families. In that vein, I want to clarify a number of common myths about winter sun protection, a time of year when many people leave their sun protective guards down.

Myth #1 - I don't need sun protection in the winter.

FALSE. The intensity of UV rays varies with the changing seasons and is strongest during the summer months. However, indirect or reflected rays add to the amount of UV exposure received. These rays "bounce" from surfaces such as snow, sand, water, concrete and buildings and can still cause burns-especially during winter activities like skiing.

Myth #2 - I need to tan to ensure healthy amounts of Vitamin D.

FALSE. Tanning is not necessary to achieve vitamin D requirements. Studies show that a few minutes of exposure to the sun, two or three times a week is sufficient. Vitamin D supplements are available and as always, speak to a doctor if you are concerned.

Myth #3 - Getting a "base tan" before heading out on a sunny winter vacation, will minimize the risk of sunburn or sun damage.

FALSE. All tans are damage to the skin. What is called a "base" tan would equal an SPF of about 2, which is so low it is counterproductive. You may prevent burning, but you have increased your chances of getting skin cancer.

Myth #4 - You can't get a sunburn on a cloudy winter day.

FALSE. Cloud cover reduces UV radiation levels, but not completely. Even on a winter day with full cloud cover, exposed skin can burn.

Myth #5 - SPF ratings measure sun protective clothing.

FALSE. UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) is the correct rating for clothing. UPF is a similar concept to SPF for sunscreens. UPF is the ratio of how much UV radiation passes through a fabric. If a garment isn't UPF rated, then it isn't guaranteed sun protection.

No matter what the season, Be SunAWARE and Be Safe!

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