Barbecues, swimming adventures and porch lounging are the highlights of summer. But the mini sundresses, shorts and swimsuits you don to these events may leave you with one nasty parting gift: sunburn. Sun damage causes uneven skin tone, premature aging, wrinkles and, in some cases, skin cancer. Even if you aren’t fire-engine-red after your day in the sun, you may be accumulating damage, and getting just five sunburns in your lifetime doubles your chances of developing melanoma, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

We all want glowing, dewy skin. Summer or not, a flawless complexion is always in fashion, and protecting it is paramount to aging like an angel. I am not saying you have to slather yourself in waterproof SPF 50 on the daily, but you've gotta wear something. Hunting for the right sunscreen, sunblock or a daily lotion with SPF is an endeavor worth a bit of trial and error, and it's okay to spend more on something you're going to wear every day. This is the most important product in your skincare repertoire.

SPF (sun protection factor) represents the amount of UV the products keeps from penetrating the skin. Daily moisturizers with SPF 15 block 93 percent of the damage you might incur while walking to your car or around the block to get that second cup of coffee.

There are mounds of choices when it comes to sunscreens and blocks, and you can find innovative options at CosBar (128 W Water St., 984-2676) where manager Jennifer Sandoval—who's worked in the cosmetics industry for over 14 years—says she sees countless customers spend a fortune to correct damage they could've easily prevented with a good SPF. "Women spend all this money on night creams and serums and lightening creams," she says. "You're wasting all that money if you don't have something to protect from the damage you're trying to repair."

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months wear at least SPF 15, every single day. It's cloudy? Still wear it. You're not going to be outside much? Wear it anyway. Some other excuse? Wear it. You get the point; it's for your health and your vibrant look.

The difference between a sunscreen and sunblock is that sunscreens are lotion compounds made with chemicals (or oils and waxes) that repel the sun's harmful rays. Sunblocks are physical protectants made of minerals, like zinc oxide, which create a physical mask that blocks rays from reaching the skin. Neither keeps 100 percent of UV rays out, but each has pros that could tip you in their direction. I lean towards a screen for full body application, and a block for the face. Sandoval reminds me, "Anything that goes on your face, you should be putting on your neck and chest."

If you're embarking on an outdoor adventure (think spending a day lakeside at Abiquiú), you'll need to apply at least an ounce, or a shot glass full, of SPF every two hours, or each time after toweling off if the product isn't waterproof. Applying the right amount and often enough is as important as wearing it in the first place.


Sun LBD, a unique block made by La Bella Donna ($38), is SPF 50. Protecting from 98 percent of UV rays, the tinted formula, which matches most skin tones, comes in a foundation-like application sponge and would be an easy and beneficial substitute for your daily powder. It has a little mirror on its top and you can pop the small cylinder right into your purse.

Japanese brand Clé de Peau Beauté has an aesthetic as French as its name, and its pricey ($90) UV protective emulsion comes with a very high protection for the body. It's SPF 50 sunscreen that has a ton of ingredients that may sound totally unfamiliar, but also more familiar items such as zinc oxide and ginkgo biloba extract, which act as anti-pollution agents as well. Hours after I tried the sample in the store, my hand felt baby-soft. That's what $90 for two and a half ounces gets you, I guess.

La Montañita Co-op

Baby SPF 30 sunscreen ($13.99) by planet-conscious brand Acure is much more affordable and the right consistency for an all-over product. It's not greasy and has a barely-there floral scent, so you won't smell like that mini bottle of Malibu rum you definitely didn't drink, regretting it for days after.

Speaking of not smelling like the icky kind of coconut, All Good's Coconut Sunstick ($6.99) smells like a real coconut: damn good and not too intense. It's a bit waxy, but gets better when it's warm, goes on clear and is ideal to keep on your person.