My Annual Ode to Sunscreen

Spring has sprung around these parts and with it comes the desire to be outside. And although most of you tuned in looking for my annual ode to Spanx, what you will get instead is my annual sunscreen screed to everyone who has spent all winter indoors and is now looking to get some “color.”

Let’s be clear: there is no such thing as a healthy suntan. Sure, you think you look better and if that’s the case, run—don’t walk—to your nearest health and beauty aids store (the place that used to be called the “drugstore”) and get yourself some spray tanner. I am not very adept at anything that requires you to get naked and spray on with a steady hand, so instead, I prefer the ghostly white look usually reserved for Mary, Queen of Scots and the like. From what I understand, spray tanner has come a long way and you can actually achieve the look of the sun-kissed with a little practice and all for under twenty bucks. What could be better?

While you’re at your local health and beauty aid store, pick up two additional items. One is Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer dry-touch sunblock with helioplex and an SPF of 55. This stuff is the best around, and not just for us gals. Men can wear it, too. It goes on dry and protects your face and neck from the sun’s harmful rays fifty-fives times longer than if you weren’t wearing it. It feels like your favorite foundation and has the added benefit of protecting you from sun damage or worse.

The other item you should pick up is a good sunscreen. Around here, we like Ocean’s Potions (recommended by Dr. Anna, oncologist extraordinaire) or Bull Frog, both of which provide such good coverage that even I, seemingly a descendant of Mary, Queen of Scots, can sit out without risking a sunburn.

You know the rest: get a hat, limit your sun exposure, reapply sunscreen if outdoors for a long period of time or after exertion. Make an appointment now to see your dermatologist for a skin check Or, if you’re like me and never want to hear the word “biopsy” again unless it’s on an episode of “House,” invest in some UV-protectant clothing like my sexy swim tights or my mock-turtleneck swim shirt. Oh, you laugh. I can hear you. But I came back from tropical Bermuda last year with nary a red blotch on my fair skin and that’s saying something.

Over 60,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year and that’s not counting just your garden variety skin cancers. You can’t change what you did to yourself in the past, but you can change how you behave going forward. The environment has made it so that we’re getting more of the sun’s rays than ever before, but we are lucky to enjoy the scientific breakthroughs that allow us to enjoy the outdoors without risking harm to ourselves.

Be sun safe, Stiletto faithful!

Maggie Barbieri

5 replies
  1. Dru
    Dru says:

    Thanks Maggie.

    What is the difference between sunblock and sunscreen and do you need to use both?

  2. Dea, Kia, Jake
    Dea, Kia, Jake says:

    Hey, Dru: I think the terms are interchangeable, but that is a great question. I will ask Dr. Anna next time I see her and let you know. Interestingly, there was a column in the Sunday Times magazine a week or two ago where a doctor/scientist said that in order not to get a vitamin D deficiency, you should be outside 20 minutes a day with your head and face covered (sunscreen and hat) and your arms and legs uncovered. Interesting, right? I fear that I will develop the deficiency because I rarely go outside (the pitfalls of being a writer, I guess) and when I do, I'm covered up. But it sounds like prevailing wisdom is that a little sun is good for you. Maggie

  3. Rosemary Harris
    Rosemary Harris says:

    Having grown up thinking a tan was a sign of good health, not baking myself in the sun has been the hardest thing for me to give up as I've gotten older. I too have a hard time either submitting to the fake tan people who expect me to strip down and um, rotate, while some machine sprays me all over.
    Soo..two product recommendations for those of us who don't want that Queen Elizabeth (or was it Mary QOS) look.
    Jergens Natural Glow daily moisturizer for the face and body. Impossible to screw up because it's so subtle and just takes away the deathly pallor.
    Guerlain Terracotta Spray. Yes it's pricey, but go to Sephora and try this. It's like airbrushing with a little sun.

  4. Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith
    Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith says:

    I have a granddaughter with red hair and fair skin who as an adult in her early 30s has already had two skin cancers removed. The last one required seven stitches. Her mom feels terrible about it because back when the kids were little none of knew about the importance of sun screen.

    And way back when my kids were little we slathered them with baby oil when they went out in the sun. Since we lived near the beach, that was often.


  5. Susan McBride
    Susan McBride says:

    I am also an official member of The Pasty White Club, Mags. I am fairly sure that I glow in the dark. 😉 Hooray for sunscreen! I love Aveeno Baby. And to think that as a teenager, I used to roast like a turkey in the Texas sun. We'd baste ourselves in baby oil, and I'd turn into a lobster before any part of me tanned. Shudder. I wish I could take it all back, but I hope being out of the sun for 25 years means something (and I get yearly head to toe checks by my dermatologist just in case!).

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