Go by the sunscreen aisle of your local drug store or supermarket, and you will (at least in spring and summer) find a plethora of options for warding off the eeeevvvil UV radiation. Choices range from light sprays to the zinc oxide “Rudy the White-Nosed Lifeguard” creams, with or without scent, moisturizer, critter-repellant, and in more numbers than the Federal Reserve churns out. So what’s a sola-phobe to do?
First off, the good stuff that I like can’t be bought in the US yet. It’s called Mexoryl™, L’Oreal has it, and you have to go to Canada or Europe to get any. The FDA has not approved the testing protocols accepted by the Canadians and EU (yet). I used to have a Canadian friend get me a bottle when he went home to visit, but now I just make do. Mexoryl is a UVA and UVB absorber, and the kind I liked didn’t smell bad or feel too greasy. And it worked really, really well.
My current favorite is Ultrasheer Dry-touch from Neutrogena, in an SPF 55. Yes, anything over SPF 30 is a waste of money (unless you need the opaque paste-type protection), but I like this stuff. It breathes well, doesn’t feel like sunscreen, and while it has a faint scent, I can wear it indoors without people around me noticing.
I prefer the lotion forms of sunscreen to the kind you can get in sticks or sprays. I’ve had problems from the stick because it blocked my pores and my hands looked as if I had some sort of pox. Other people use it without problem, and it is a lot more convenient and neater to reapply over the course of a day’s activities. The spray tends to be messy, IMHO. I’m not covering a large area (that’s what shirts and trousers or skirts are for, so I don’t need the convenience.
If I am outdoors for any length of time (as in more than three-five minutes), even though I’m wearing a hat, I put sunscreen on my face and throat, and usually on the back of my hands as well. Those are the only areas that see sunlight. I don’t wear short sleeves between sunrise and sunset, nor do I wear shorts unless I’m in the gym. For normal people, applying sunscreen to the face, arms, and legs is not a bad idea. Don’t forget the throat and upper chest (open collars lead to interesting triangular sunburns) and the back of your legs. I have sunburned the back of my knees. It makes walking and sitting . . . interesting.
Like the bottle says, put it on about fifteen minutes or so before you go out, and reapply it every few hours, especially if you are swimming. Or working with petroleum products, and if you get gasoline or other solvents on you. The worst sunburn I’ve had in the past 20 years hit after I got avgas on my hands, then didn’t think to reapply my sunscreen. Yes, the backs of my hands blistered, as did my wrists. Yes, it hurt like the blazes. Yes, my flying buddies gave me heck.
I’m not saying avoid the sun. I’m just offering tips for not getting turned into a crispy critter. And I’ll admit, avoiding tans is one reason people think I’m still in my early 20s, not my early [redacted]s. And why I’ve only had one worrisome patch trimmed off (thus far).
FCC/FTC/Whoever else disclaimer: Neither L’Oreal, Neutrogena, nor anyone else mentioned above pays me anything, neither do they give me free samples or ask me to review their products. I buy what I use out of my own pocket.