Tips for Saving Your Skin From the Summer Sun

Women on floats in a pool

Summer is here and the sun is out! Whether you live in sunny SoCal or rainy Seattle, chances are you’re giving a little more thought to daily sun protection and how you’re definitely not going to get a sunburn the first day of summer vacation—swear to Helios. It’s not that you don’t love the sun, it’s that sometimes the sun doesn’t love you. For all you sun worshipers out there, here are some tips for getting all of the vitamin D without all of the shame and regret.

Choose your sunscreen like you are choosing a life partner.

Let’s face it, if you’re adulting right, you will be wearing a ton of sunscreen this summer, so why not invest in one you actually enjoy spending time with. Do you like how it smells, how it feels, the consistency and texture? Maybe coconut-scented things rule your life, maybe you need something that goes on clear—regardless, find a sunscreen that you would marry.

It helps to check in with your skin here. Is it sensitive to certain fragrances or ingredients? What irritates your skin? What soothes it? It might take some trial and error to find the right sunscreen for you.

Woman putting on suncreen

Decide between chemical or physical sunscreen—or both.

Smarter people than me have written lengthy tomes about the dangers of chemical sunscreen. I don’t really have anything to add to the discourse, but I will say that physical (mineral) sunscreens also have a downside. Ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide tend to leave a white cast on the skin.

Consumer Reports puts out a yearly review of sunscreens rating them on their effectiveness and the bad news is that physical sunscreens consistently perform worse than chemical sunscreens.

That being said, if you have sensitive skin, physical sunscreen might be the only thing that doesn’t make your face feel like it’s being stung by one thousand tiny jellyfish. Some general rules apply—get at least SPF30 and broad spectrum—but the general consensus is to use a sunscreen that works for your skin and that you are willing to apply early and often.

Reapply, reapply, reapply.

I know—no one wants to reapply sunscreen. It’s the worst. But many a sunburn could be avoided if you make this your own personal summer mantra. Set your phone alarm for two hours after every application so you don’t forget.

Invest in a cute hat.

Forget the hot lifeguard and his trusty torpedo buoy, a hat will save you. If you’re like me, you end up with a fishing hat from the men’s section at Ross. If you’re not like me (fashionable), then there are so many cute, SPF-rated hats out there to choose from. Choose one that shades your face, neck, and décolletage. Will you go for sexy lobster trapper in the Hamptons or mysterious, recently widowed software developer on the French Riviera? Your imagination is the limit.

Don’t forget lip balm!

Protect those lips. Get you some lip balm with SPF. If you’re looking for the physical sunscreen variety, check out Sprouts, Whole Foods, or any health food store.

Sun aftercare is the best care.

It’s not just the UVA and UVB rays that will get you, heat can also affect sensitive skin, so be sure to give it some TLC. I recommend using a gentle face wash and moisturizer after a day at the beach, pool, or arboretum. If you do get a sunburn despite all of these stellar tips, aloe is always a good bet.

Download a sun safety app.

As a general rule, the sun is the strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. You can also download an app that will tell you what the UV index is hour by hour so you can plan your day accordingly.

Everything in moderation, even sun protection.

Not to get too philosophical, but a little sun never hurt anyone. It is possible to go overboard with sun protection—take it from someone with an unhealthy sunscreen obsession. Humans love sunlight for a reason—being outdoors on a sunny day can be pure delight.

Now go forth and let the rays of the sun burnish you as you contentedly sip a flavored seltzer beverage and listen to the sounds of the ocean or screaming children. Have a great summer.

Written by: Maylin Tu