By Charlotte Fraser
As an esthetician, part of my job is to recommend sunscreen. I mean, I understand why: Skin cancer is a very real and very deadly thing, sun damage ends up making our skin look like worn leather, and sunburns are just painful. I had an entire day of school dedicated to why sunscreen is so important. I’ve studied the types of sunscreens, how different types of sunscreens work, and how once you have sun damage, there is absolutely no way it can fully be eliminated. I’ve seen my mother have biopsies done on her arm and chest, seen actual basal cell carcinoma be removed from her chest (and I passed out in the process!) and helped her apply the nasty cancer and flesh-eating cream to get rid of any leftover cancerous cells. I finish every facial with a sunscreen because I refuse to let my clients leave without it.
But I never, ever use sunscreen. I hate it. It smells like rotten coconut mixed with butthole. The texture makes me gag. It’s gloppy and far too similar to mayonnaise (which is, honestly, kryptonite for me), but it can never be rubbed in. It doesn’t matter if I sit there for a solid 15 minutes and rub my skin like I’m trying to give myself a “snakebite” twist. So then I end up streaky and smelly and feeling like I’m covered in some greasy mayo-resembling concoction, and I start breaking out, and I burn. It seems completely not worth it. And yet I demand my clients use it! Well, since May is National Sunscreen Month and Skin Cancer Awareness Month, along with just having booked my honeymoon cruise, I decided I needed to grow up and use a dang sunscreen.
A word of warning about SPF: A higher number isn’t necessarily a good thing. According to the FDA, there is no SPF higher than 50. Anything higher than that is a marketing ploy. What’s worse is that anything above a 35 SPF is generally not that great—at any SPF higher than that, studies have shown you’re simply applying more SPF than your skin can absorb, and it can actually make you sick. There are exceptions to this, though, and more brands are trying to find natural ingredients that contain intrinsic SPF properties to avoid more chemical sunscreens (there are links to heavy use chemical sunscreens and hormone disruption, cancer complications, and skin sensitivities). That bit of info is not to make you scared of sunscreen, but rather to make you aware that not all sunscreens are created equal. Unless you have incredibly fair skin, an SPF over 35 isn’t quite necessary, but if it makes you feel better, then by all means go up some.
Back to my findings: First, my face. I know myself, and as much as I’d like to say I always have a full face of makeup to act as a sunblock, I know better than to say this for multiple reasons. First, just because you’re wearing makeup doesn’t mean it’s actually giving any sun protection at all. Your super-thick pancake makeup could easily make you burn if you’re outside all day! So I like to give myself options. First, a regular facial sunscreen for just sitting around the house or for when you absolutely don’t give a rat’s ass about looking pretty (also a solid option for men who hate tinted products). For oily, blemish prone, or combination skin, try this gem from Juice Beauty; while those with more sensitive, dry, or aged skin should go with this esthetician-and-dermatologist favorite from MDSolarSciences:
A tinted moisturizer with SPF is fantastic for yoga, running errands, generally when doing anything that you feel like a small amount of makeup coverage would make you feel great. Plus, for anyone with scarring or breakouts, it can make you feel a bit more confident. These two brands aren’t the cheapest, but are kind to the skin and come in a wide selection of tones and hues, so the fairest and darkest skins can be covered! This one is from Korean giant Dr. Brandt: This product contains Flexitone, a signature concoction that adjusts to your overall skin tone, no matter what it is.
Then comes tinted sunscreen from beloved makeup brand Laura Mercier. Known for having gentle ingredients and dependable formulas, this is a great option for those who tend to break out from sunscreens.
Now, let’s say you like to do your makeup real nice, or you gotta look on fleek for an outdoor event. A primer is a great place to start if your foundation has no sunscreen, and this one by Miracle Skin Transformer is fantastic for evening your skin’s texture:
Or you might rather have your sunscreen to seal in your look? No fear! This one is a finishing powder from BareMinerals that is great for all skin, especially oily or acneic:
But for something a bit more hydrating (or to keep around for a refreshing spritz), this spray from beloved brand Coola is perfect for your purse:
Beyond your face
Oh, the rest of your body needs protection, too! Dr. Jart+ makes a wonderful body sunscreen that rubs in beautifully and keeps skin soft, rather than sticky.
Next comes oil. This is my personal preference for body sunscreen, as it feels great on the skin and absorbs quickly. It’s a high SPF, but this formula is fantastic.
There are plenty of people who are against spray-on sunscreens (the propellants aren’t good for skin or the air) but this brand seems to be better than most. And to be quite honest? The convenience of a spray-on sunscreen is just too great to ignore.
Lips get chapped! This is one to keep year-round since chapped lips can arguably be worse in winter. On the plus side, this stuff is addictive and comes in a bajillion shades (including clear).
Hair can get UV damage, too! This is a must if your hair is colored or processed in any way, it tends to get frizzy and damaged after time in the sun, or you have thin hair (because as managing editor Shandle Blaha can tell you, scalp burn is a thing!). Spritz this on when you’re lathering up.
Talk to any woman over the age of 50 with hands and she’ll tell you that hands show signs of aging before anywhere else. Do yourself a favor and spread this creamy, hydrating goodness on your hands. No need to be repetitive, but you might want to keep it in your hand cream arsenal. (Come on, I’m not the only one with an arsenal, am I?!)
Sport sunscreen is super important. Regular sunscreen for day to day is fine, and can even suffice on a day spent mostly outside. But if you are a person who sweats or plans to get wet, sport sunscreen is your call. This one from Lavanila is fantastic and gentle on sensitive skin.
For more targeted face coverage (cheekbones, nose, and hairline are where sun damage pops up first), this speed stick will do nicely.
Kids have gentle skin and need to be protected gently. Use this stick by Mustela for baby skin, pregnant skin, or super-sensitive skin.
You’ve come inside for the night, and whether you just want to preventative it, treat your skin, you feel your skin is dry from the sun, or you’ve turned into a cooked lobster, you need to help yourself. In a pinch, a lukewarm bath with several bags of Earl Grey tea, followed by a generous glob of aloe vera (bonus points if you add lavender or peppermint oil) will do the trick. Oh, and don’t get the dyed-green crap. That’s not actual aloe. But if you want to without doubt make sure you’re good to go, follow this protocol:
- Take a cool shower and clean off. Use a gentle body wash (baby wash would even work) and clarifying shampoo and conditioner. Pat dry gently. Rubbing makes more owwies.
- Drink a glass of water. Maybe two.
- Okay, now you can open the wine.
- Apply super-soothing sheet mask. If you aren’t one to keep sheet masks around, have one of these in your bathroom.
- If you’re a sheet mask hoarder like me, get this pack and use the aloe mask for burn healing.
- Slather this all over your body. It’s cooling, emollient, and helps take away the burned skin smell (I can’t be the only one who notices that!).
- Comb some of this goodness through your hair. Not enough to be gloppy, but you want it all coated so it can absorb.
- Seeing any blisters? Keep them from getting infected with a nice slather of this yogurt cooling-gel. The probiotics in the yogurt will keep possible infections at bay.
- If you can, avoid clothing until the morning. If that’s not possible, put on your loosest comfies and chill. Reapply the after-sun oil when you feel your skin getting dry, and make sure every last drop of that sheet mask (including what’s left behind in the package!) gets absorbed into your pretty face.
Now, if you excuse me, I have some bathing suits to try on, and some major sunscreen to order!