Remember when a day in the sun called for baby oil and a reflective screen to maximize your tan? I do, too.
What were we thinking??
The National Cancer Institute reports that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in America. The good news is that wearing sunscreen cuts your risk of developing it in half. If that’s not enough reason to hit the sunscreen aisle (and seriously, it should be), covering up also prevents skin discoloration, dark spots and premature aging.
Ready to stock up on sun protection? You have three main options.
Spray sunscreen is my favorite sunscreen because it’s so simple to apply. Perhaps more importantly, it’s also easy to reapply.
Wind can carry the spray, though, so if it’s brisk in your backyard, spray the sunscreen into your hands and apply it the old-fashioned way. This technique is also how you should apply spray sunscreen to your face, whether it’s windy or not, as well as to children’s skin. Doing it this way avoids accidental inhalation and lung irritation.
My go-to spray sunscreen is Alba Botanica Hawaiian Coconut Clear Spray SPF 50. It smells delicious (although, ironically, not like coconuts), goes on smoothly and provides excellent coverage.
If you want to ensure that you’re thoroughly covered, lotion sunscreen is your best bet for the simple fact that you can see exactly where you’re applying it. Generally, you should slather on roughly one teaspoon to every area or part of your body, i.e., one teaspoon on each arm, one teaspoon on your back and so on.
Two of my favorite lotion sunscreens that are easy to find at virtually any drugstore are Coppertone Ultra Guard SPF 30, which smells like a day at the beach and leaves behind only a little bit of residue, and Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion SPF 30, which hydrates your skin while shielding it from UVA damage.
Mineral sunscreen, often referred to as natural sunscreen, is sunscreen that doesn’t include chemicals such as oxybenzone or avobenzone. Instead, it protects your skin using zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or a combination of the two.
While mineral-based sunscreens are generally less effective than lotion or spray sunscreens, they do block some of the sun’s most harmful rays.
The keyword there is “some.” Often, a mineral sunscreen that offers fabulous UVA protection doesn’t provide enough SPF protection; the reverse is true, too.
Because of mineral sunscreen's lack of active chemicals, more parents are turning to it to guard their kids’ skin against sunburn. My grandkids are fans of Blue Lizard Sensitive sunscreen. This Aussie lotion provides broad-spectrum protection, is available in SPF 30 and SPF 50 and — here’s what the kids love — has a bottle that turns bright blue when exposed to harmful UV rays.
Other Sun Protection
While any type of sunscreen is better than no sunscreen at all, for maximum protection you need more weapons in your skincare arsenal. Whether you’re soaking up the rays at brunch or sweating through another weed-pulling session in your garden, you should:
- Wear a hat that shields your face from direct sunlight.
- Wear sunglasses to avoid the crow’s feet that accompany Clint Eastwood-style squinting.
- Cover your skin, especially burn-prone areas such as your shoulders, with light clothing.
- Stay out of the sun, period, when it’s at its strongest (roughly 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
The sun doesn’t discriminate. No matter how light or dark your complexion is, you need protection. You may not get that deep tan that you got when you were 25, but you’ll also lower your chances of developing cancer or being mistaken for a leather handbag in your golden years. Choose a sunscreen that fits your lifestyle and your budget, and don’t forget to reapply it as directed.