Summer is now in full swing, and while we welcome the sun with open arms and newly bought swimsuits, the sun isn’t always so loving when it comes to our skin. There are many different ways to protect yourself from the sun’s harsh rays, all in varying degrees of coverage. Each year in the US alone, nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer. It’s up to you to protect yourself, and it’s up to all of us to reduce the instances of skin cancer in our country.

SPF Levels

Sunscreens can be a little confusing, and a lot of misconceptions exist on how well different ones work. SPFs can range anywhere from 2 to 50+, but what does SPF even mean? SPF — or Sun Protection Factor — tells us how much protection a sunscreen offers from damaging UVB rays. Broad spectrum sunscreens are your best bet in protecting against the surface sunburn from UVB rays, as well as deeper damage caused by UVA rays. Understanding what level of protection each SPF offers is difficult to explain precisely because there are flaws within the SPF model; however, it’s best explained by looking at each SPF in percentages:

  • SPF 15 filters about 93% of all incoming UVB rays.
  • SPF 30 about 97%
  • SPF 50 about 98%.
  • SPF higher than 50 can no longer be marketed as such and will be shown as “50+.”

Sunscreen Myths

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of people state these supposedly “known facts” about the sun and sunscreen, and many of my friends (and myself) have accepted them and followed them. However, there are many myths to be debunked when talking about the sun.

One big myth is that if it’s cold or cloudy, you don’t need sunscreen. This is entirely untrue! The Skin Cancer foundation says that “up to 40 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth on a completely cloudy day.” It’s important to understand this because the most severe sunburns often happen on cold or cloudy days since people spend hours and hours outside with no protection.

Another myth is that sunscreen can cause Vitamin D deficiency by blocking the sun. At this point in time, dermatologists have found no evidence to show that this is true; however, it is known that sunscreen can lower your risks for skin cancer.

Recommended Skin Products

Sunscreen is uber important in my life, and it always has been. From my years spent on the baseball and softball fields in the thick of summer to my current summer job where I spend about 40 hours a week in the sun, I’ve learned just how important sunscreen is for keeping your skin healthy. I know sunscreen gets a bad rap for being smelly and greasy, but I promise you that a lot has changed since we were kids. Personally, I’ve always reached for a spray sunscreen because it is quick and lightweight without compromising protection. Coppertone Sport is my favorite because it is more sweat and water resistant. You should apply it about 15-30 minutes before sun exposure, and reapply every 2 hours (or more frequently if sweating or swimming).

When it comes to my face, I tend to be a bit more particular about the products I’m using because it’s a very delicate area. As a person with a generous amount of sun-induced freckles, I like to be sure that I’m fully protected. I’ve absolutely fallen in love with Urban Decay’s Naked Beauty Balm. It’s a tinted, SPF 20 BB cream that blends in nicely with most skin colors (it comes in a light and a dark shade). I love it because it offers slight coverage without the heavy weight of a foundation. No one wants their face to melt off while hanging at the beach or by the pool, or even while working outside like me!

If you tend to have oily skin, or even combination skin, I also highly recommend BareMinerals SPF 20 powder foundation. You can use it alone, but I prefer a light dusting over my BB cream. It combats a little more redness and puts a damper on that T-zone shine.

Lastly, don’t forget about your mouth! Your lips are very sensitive to the sun and can easily become chapped or sunburnt, but you can avoid this with an SPF lipbalm. My favorite is eos’s 95% organic, SPF 15 smooth spheres. There are 10 different flavors, and all of them are equally satisfyingly smooth.

While the bronze-colored, summer glow may be in, baking in the sun is not your best path to achieving it. There are many self-tanners that are gradual and not orangey in the slightest that can give you a tan that only looks like you spent endless hours in the sun. My favorites are Jergens Natural Glow or Tarte’s Brazilliance. There will be no orange palms or streaky limbs this summer with either of these products! Patience is most definitely a virtue when it comes to self-tanner, but the time is well-spent because of how much you’re saving your skin.


When you are in the sun, cover up or lather on that sunscreen. Together we can make smart choices that will reduce the instances of skin cancer and will result in a healthier, happier, sunburn-free you!

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