It doesn’t matter what your nationality is, how much melanin you have, whether you tan or burn, whether you prefer the beach or the pool — if you have skin, you need to wear sunscreen. Contrary to popular belief, however, the act of “wearing” sunscreen does not mean applying it once and heading outside for hours upon hours under the assumption it’s still working. It is not.
If you have any doubts, ask Julie Nisbet, an avid runner from the U.K. whose traumatic sunburn story is going viral after she magnanimously shared it to Twitter as a cautionary tale. According to BuzzFeed, Nisbet recently ran an ultramarathon, where she clocked 69 miles in 21 hours. An impressive feat, to be sure, but Nisbet fell short in one major way: In the heat of the moment, she only remembered to apply SPF 30 twice throughout the trek. You might think that’s better than nothing — but the photographic proof tells a different story.
Nisbet says that, after completing her run, she felt an intense burning sensation and small blisters forming on the backs of her legs, so she went to an urgent care clinic a few hours later. (She took a nap first, as one does after running 69 miles in 21 hours.) They bandaged her up and told her to come back later — and when she returned the next day, those minor blisters had turned into something… not so minor, and definitely not for the squeamish.
After about a week of recovery, several trips to the doctor to drain the blisters, and frequent updates via Twitter, Nisbet is almost back in fighting shape again. She also wants to make it clear that she’s learned from the experience, telling BuzzFeed, “I'm under no illusion of how negligent I was. Our body is a wonderful and resilient thing, but it also needs constant care, and I didn't pay enough attention during that race to reapply suncream. It's been a harsh lesson to learn.”
If anything, Nisbet’s experience is a testament to the fact that sunburns can happen to anyone, not just the uninformed. Never underestimate the power of the sun, and be diligent and generous with your SPF. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States — but wearing sunscreen daily can cut the incidence of melanoma (the deadliest form) in half. It's definitely worth those couple extra minutes before jumping in the pool — or a marathon.