The sun is a powerful thing—it can boost your mood, yet it can wreak havoc on your skin and your health. Despite all we know about skin cancer, there’s still pressure to score and maintain that perfect summer glow. You know, the one that declares to the world that you’ve been away on some exotic family vacation, you’re rested and rejuvenated and somehow also younger and thinner. So we’ve put together a list of SPF and skin care tips and advice to get you through the summer wrinkle- and worry-free—because there’s nothing sexy about sun damage.
1. Protect your assets with SPF sunscreen.
Sun protection is mandatory for skin cancer prevention. About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 86 percent of melanomas are linked to exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, per the Skin Cancer Foundation. Translation: Every season is SPF season. If you’re headed outside, start with a water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA rays and UVB rays on your hands and face, like Kiehl’s Super Fluid UV Defense. (Of course, talk to your doctor to see if there’s a better option for you.) Reapply every two hours or immediately after that intense beach volleyball game or dip in the pool: “Water resistant” does not mean you can skip reapplying.
2. Fake what the sun gave you.
A good old-fashioned fake n’ bake, minus the bake, is a flattering look. Urban Decay’s Beached Bronzer comes in two shades and can be worn head-to-toe. Dust it on your face for a just-back-from-St.-Barts glow, or brush it on your shoulders and pair with this season’s trending off-the-shoulder looks. If you’re wearing a swimsuit, it’s also great for cleavage contouring. Coupled with your inner glow, people will need shades just to look at you.
3. Be a shady lady.
Accessorize to shield your eyes. Sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat are easy, affordable ways to protect your peepers, face, neck and shoulders from sun damage. One-piece swimsuits and tankinis are also a great way to stay less exposed. Ditto a fabulous cover-up.
“Many people believe that the sun makes you look better. I once felt the same. Unfortunately, when I was 31, I was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma,” says Melissa Breitbart, a skin cancer survivor and founder of Live4Life, a non-profit that helps those affected by melanoma. “Most people think skin cancer is a ‘light’ form of cancer. It’s not. Protecting myself and my son from the sun is now the new normal. We always reapply throughout the day, wear hats and glasses and try to stay out of the sun from 10 AM to 4 PM, when it’s at its strongest.”
Melissa says she now wears SPF 50 daily, applies sunscreen at least twice to make sure she hasn’t missed a spot and always wears a tinted moisturizer with sunblock, even on gloomy winter days.
4. When it comes to sunscreen, more is more.
To reap the benefits of SPF (short for Sun Protection Factor), you have to load it on. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends an ounce of sunscreen per application. That’s an espresso shot or two tablespoons, FYI. Studies show that most people usually apply only about a quarter of that. So for a day at the beach, with proper application and reapplication, you could go through 4 ounces of the stuff—a whole small tube. To avoid burning, apply early (at least a half hour before sun exposure if you’re using a chemical sunscreen), come prepared with enough lotion to last through the day’s activities, and don’t forget to reapply like it’s your job every two hours.
5. Head, shoulders, knees and toes…do the sunscreen dance!
Sing the jingle or do whatever you have to do to remember that everywhere—even the skin under clothes or a swimsuit—needs a daily dose of SPF. Protect your hands, too: Eventually, accumulated sun damage there will give away your age.
“I’ve found skin cancer of people’s scalps, inside their ears, under nail beds and between their toes, so when you’re going to be outside, it’s important to apply a good SPF all over,” says Dr. Sherry Ingraham, a board-certified dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology in Houston, Texas, who recommends a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen with zinc in SPF 30 or higher.
6. Go nuts for coconuts.
While oiling up is a major beach or poolside no-no—seriously, don’t do it!—it’s an amazing hair and body moisturizer. Coconut oil, like Vita Coco’s organic, unprocessed stuff, is a catchall for your most common summertime beauty needs. Use it to wipe off makeup at the end of the night (pat the oil around the eyes, wipe off makeup with a clean towel and rinse) or as an at-home deep conditioning hair treatment. Cracked heels cramping your sandal style? Yep, it works for those too.
You glow, girl.