A Pale Person’s Guide To Sunscreen

It’s almost here. The three month stretch of sunshine and sunburn. Summer. Or as I like to call it, The Great Hibernation. Yes I am the woman, the myth, the legend. The Whitest Girl You Know. I’m there to make sure that every beige person feels better about themselves, and to spray myself with sunscreen periodically. I own season-specific sunscreens and I buy things from the Solombra catalog. I have heard every Casper the Ghost joke under the sun. I am aware that my hands are cold. I am not a vampire.

Every summer I close the blinds, put the covers over my head and pray for rain. I avoid the sun at all costs. But when I do go out, I make sure that I am prepared. I put on a hat. I cover myself in sunscreen and make sure to cover the rest of me with clothes. I carry backup sunscreen. I wear sunglasses. I stay in the shade.

Being pale, however, has some unexpected advantages. I know a lot about skin care, for example. Because I can’t tan I don’t lay out in the sun for hours, so I don’t put myself at risk for skin cancer, and my skin is unwrinkled. Most people don’t reapply sunscreen when they go out in the sun, thinking that a one time use is enough. This is not true. Even waterproof sunscreens will wear off eventually. Check the bottles, but it’s usually a ninety minute stretch. And use a lot. If you think you’ve used enough, use more. Fill a shot glass full of sunscreen. Use that for your face. Also, make sure you’ve got your neck, chest, and hands, even if you’re going out to the grocery store. Everyday exposure is usually what ends up getting people, so make sure that you apply sunscreen before you go out anywhere.

If you think that the sunscreen in your makeup is going to suffice, it’s not. That’s usually around SPF 15, which isn’t going to cover you. Make sure that you’re at or above SPF 30, which is what the American Academy of Dermatology recommends. If you’re going outside, do above 50. The SPF number, by the way, tells you how much longer it’s going to take you to burn than somebody not wearing sunscreen. So you’re wearing SPF 50, and it takes a non sunscreen wearing person two minutes to burn, you’ll burn in one hundred minutes. A good rule of thumb is to reapply after the amount of minutes on the SPF number. So if it’s SPF 50, reapply after 50 minutes.

If you’re scoffing at this, I understand. You want to tan. You love the sun. Summer is the best time of year, and so help you, you will enjoy it! I get it. I used to wish that I could be tanned too. I resented my mother for basting me in sunscreen every day before school. I smelled like it. I hated this. I still hate it. I’m sure you’ll hate it too.

But here’s the thing. My 50-something year-old mother can still pass for thirty something. And that, my friends, is what keeps me reapplying.

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