Live Healthy

The Evolution of My Days in the Sun

We admit we’re fans of Body Electric, the hit sensation, home exercise series on PBS led by fitness expert Margaret Richard. Impressive with boundless energy, Margaret is an advocate for sun safety, is a believer in protecting your skin, and UPF 50+ clothing is a core part of her health message. With a strong boomer message, Margaret believes everyone can feel strong, and, at 70 years old, Margaret says no one is ever too old to work out or be active. Read about Margaret’s honest story of growing up in the sun-thirsty, golden beaches of Miami, her inspiring philosophy, see some of her Coolibar favorites. She’s an inspiration for us all to love the skin we’re in!

In the 1950’s and 60’s, Miami Beach catered to northern tourists whose vacation goal was to return home with the “golden trophy” of tanned skin. Visitors flocked to the sandy beaches and basted themselves with exotic oils, suntan lotions and the ultimate sure-to-bake formula: baby oil spiked with iodine. To accelerate and promise the maximum skin darkening experience, serious sun devotees added a sun reflector. I grew up surrounded by tourists who proudly wore their sunburns as a tropical paradise “souvenir,” but I knew first-hand how much pain they were in. Their lobster-red skin would soon itch, blister, peel and potentially leave them with a permanent reminder of their days in the Florida sun.

Growing up in Miami Beach, we were not made aware of sunburn prevention or the dangers of overexposure. Other than a thick layer of white zinc oxide covering an already burned red nose, I cannot ever recall protecting my skin while playing all day in the blazing sun. I enjoyed a golden tan throughout my high school and college years in Miami, unaware that sunburns may lead to wrinkles, freckles, age spots, and more serious skin diseases later in life. Looking back, I realize my dark olive skin was the result of endless days in the South Florida sun, burning and tanning my naturally fair-skinned complexion.

My gypsy meanderings led me to Los Angeles, California in 1990, where I promptly joined the ever plush and newly opened, Sports Club LA (SCLA). The SCLA experience featured luxurious amenities, including a rooftop terrace for nude sunbathers. I quickly observed every inch of skin, even sun-tanned derrieres, are not immune to freckles and other forms of skin damage caused by prolonged exposure to the UV rays. By contrast to my beach loving years, I currently reside in New England where the sun does not shine intensely every day. Unlike me, the women in my fitness classes, who have not grown up in sun-prone climates, have unblemished skin on their arms and legs, free from discoloration or freckles. Sunny beach lovers take note, the northern climate does have its perks!

Skin plays an important immunity role in protecting the body because it interfaces with the environment to work as a shield. With overexposure, the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB) permanently alter one’s DNA, creating damage at skin levels where new skin cells are formed. This negative effect on the elastin and collagen fibers in the dermis leads to premature aging. Even more significantly, DNA damage isn’t always visible on the surface and may contribute to skin cancers, including deadly melanoma.

Managing the residual effects of my years of prolonged and repeated sun exposure has caused me to develop a respectful awareness of the sun’s potential threat to the skin, and I’ve actively adopted sun protective measures. I habitually use high quality, broad-spectrum sunscreen to prevent further damage and when Coolibar sun protective hats and clothing came to market, I became an immediate devotee! Wearing garments with UPF 50+ sun protection gives me the freedom to safely enjoy the glorious sun. Today, at age 70, I swim in a Coolibar Active Swim Jacket and Coolibar Swim Tights, both UPF 50+, which means those hard to reach places, often missed by sunscreen, are protected and covered. Yes, I dress differently than other swimmers and certainly more modest, but I feel proud to be the “smart” one during peak sun hours. And, ladies, one other advantage of covering your legs with sun-protective leggings is you can choose to camouflage your legs, even if they are pure perfection!  Shifting my habits to include sun safe practices has allowed me to continue to enjoy my outdoor activities without limitations; pushing myself to be the very best me in the sunshine I love.

Margaret has a daughter, Brooke, 38, a son, Todd, 46, and two grandchildren.  Margaret currently resides in Bridgewater, MA where she is preparing to launch Body Electric streaming videos (on demand). You can also find her past videos on her website

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