Rise and Shine: Sunlight, Technology and Health

By Simon Carter | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
Introduction

'DYING FORA TAN?'

This book is about sunlight. It is also about bodies and the myriad of entities that have come to mediate relations between the two. Today it seems that we have a rather complex association between the sun's rays and bodies. For those people living in temperate geographical zones the sun is associated with many (and often apparently) contradictory practices, objects, technologies and artefacts. We seek out the sun in our gardens, our houses and on our holidays, yet we are told that skin cancer is reaching epidemic proportions. When we visit the supermarket or chemist we are confronted by an alarming array of creams and lotions, all offering differing degrees of sun protection, while also promising the 'ultimate tan'. We think and feel that 'getting outdoors and into the sun' is something wholesome and positive - yet we are told that 80 per cent of one's exposure to dangerous cancer causing ultraviolet rays happens before the age of twenty. When we visit gyms, health clubs or even the high street we notice equipment to produce 'artificial' tans but we worry if this may look inauthentic or fake. Even doing something as innocuous as buying a new fridge (and disposing of the old one) may be making the sun's rays more dangerous and damaging to others people's bodies.

If I visit my local city centre chemist (or health and beauty retailer as they like to refer to themselves) I can count at least twenty different brand names of 'suncare' products. Each of these then further divides into a wide product range:1 creams, oils, mousses and sprays each with different sun protection factors (SPFs); protection for different skin types, including ones that are for 'hypersensitive', oily or dry skin; specialist protection for children and babies; suncreams that are waterproof; towels, creams and exfoliants to aid the application of an artificial tan; creams to simultaneously protect against sunlight and wrinkles; products to apply before, during and after being in sunlight; and even products to prolong one's tan for weeks after the holiday has ended. It would seem that a relationship between our bodies and the sun's rays is not advised unless mediated by these complex technologies. Looking at the shelves of this chemist one can choose from an array of artefacts that allow a particular and specific type of bodily access to sunlight - an intimate access by the partially clothed body to 'nature's rays'. So

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