Having a body is hard. Like, really difficult. First of all, I didn’t sign up for this – it kind of just happened to me. Rude. Moreover, I have to keep washing, exercising and feeding this thing until it dies? That is why I can’t wait until we hit The Singularity. It will be so lovely to upload my consciousness to a server and ditch all of the responsibilities that come with being a soft membrane in a hard, harsh world. One of those responsibilities includes caring for my biggest organ: my skin.
I would love to tell you, in that smug tone that seems to be required of beauty editors, that I apply sunscreen daily. I don’t. Sunscreen only pops into my head on days when I know I’m going to be standing under the sun for more than a couple of hours, but it seldom occurs to me to include it in my nonexistent routine.
My freckles have really popped this year, and while I’m grateful for them, they make me anxious because they’re marks of accumulated sun damage. There’s no excuse for my lax attitude because I own two bottles of sunscreen and several of my cosmetics have SPF built into the formulas (which is just a marketing ploy because by the time you distribute them on your face, they’re spread too thin to be a sole line of defense).
I should be better. We should all be better at this. Habit formation is a tricky thing, and spikes of guilt tend to be just as bad for motivation as they are for mental health. So I’m going to try little things like leaving my sunscreen in a prominent place that I have to pass before I leave the house, chucking a tube in my backpack, and getting over the fact that I don’t like having greasy skin. Catch me rolling my eyes at the amount that I have to use daily if I want complete protection, and I’ll quit this job and dedicate my life to figuring out where the shot glass recommendation originated. (You’re supposed to be applying one ounce of sunscreen to your whole entire body, enough to fill a standard shot glass.)
To quote Drake: what a time to be alive. There have never been so many different options in the skincare aisle, and while your brocialist boyfriend may be rolling his eyes at the pure, undeniable joy that comes from consuming well, consumables – one of the easiest ways for me to gain a sense of control is by judging tubes of chemicals against one another and picking the one that suits me best.
Choose your formula according to your ~*~lifestyle~*~. Do you have sensitive skin? A formula made for infants may be best for you. Do you get greasy just looking at a tub of Vaseline? Be on the lookout for labels that claim the contents within are non-comedogenic, which is a fancy scientician way of saying that the product does not contain ingredients that are known to block pores. Spray sunscreen is convenient, just make sure that you get even coverage as you apply the invisible formula. Like I mentioned before: some beauty aisle mainstays, like foundation and moisturizer, boast claims about SPF, but you’re better off treating sun protection like a medical product, not a cosmetic. You won’t be able to apply the product liberally enough to get the SPF protection listed on the bottle.
No matter your weapon of choice, make sure it’s broad spectrum. This means it will act as a barrier for both UVA and UVB rays. The sun, which is seriously just chilling there doing its thing, sends off different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation – some are concerning, others are harmless. UVA and UVB fall on different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and you need protection from both. They’re responsible for unpleasant things like sunburn and accelerated aging.
Here’s a rule: don’t tan. Ever. Not outside, not in one of those metal sarcophaguses. I don’t have to tell you how bad it is, right? The only acceptable way to tan involves the spray-on stuff and some very dark bed sheets. There is no such thing as a safe tan, just like there’s no such thing as a safe cigarette.
Apply sunscreen fifteen minutes prior to leaving the house. This leaves some time for the active ingredients to set up camp in between skin cells, if you’re using a chemical sunscreen. Physical sunscreens have chalkier formulas, and block rays instead of absorbing them – think of the lifeguard’s quintessential white nose.
If you do end up getting burnt, here are some ways to soothe your skin and your ego. The first sign of sunburn is usually a noticeable change in skin colour, followed by pulsing pain. Cool the burn as soon as possible; this will help counteract some of the damage happening underneath the upper layers of skin and reduce inflammation. Make sure that any ice you use has a soft towel wrapped around it, to prevent further irritation. Drink water throughout this whole process, and a lot of it, because your whole body is gasping for moisture at this point. Soothe unbroken skin with unscented moisturizers, not those aloe post-sun sprays that get sold next to sunscreen. You’re going to need something with a richer formula to help restore your skin’s moisture barrier, and most gels are too thin and watery for that. If you begin to feel woozy or nauseous in any way, or if your skin feels cold and clammy despite the heat, get yourself to an emergency room. Those are signs of heat stroke, a very serious medical condition.
Writing nearly a thousand words on sunscreen combined a few of my favourite things: telling other people what to do, researching the scientific processes behind familiar beauty and skincare products, and thinking so hard about the rate at which the ozone layer is shrinking that I gave myself a headache. I’m going to try to be better at following my own advice, and invest in my future health and beauty. I never said that I wasn’t vain, and wearing sunscreen is the most I can do now to prevent my skin from wrinkling in the future.