• Thu, Apr 1 2010

NerdGlam: What Old-Lady Porn Taught Me About Skincare

When I first joined the “system of tubes” that now connects us all, I became somewhat addicted to a website I’ll call Repulsive.com. Every week, they’d post links with titles like “Man’s Head Eaten by Maggots,” or “Village Eating Elephant Placenta.” I would click, hesitantly, and as the photo loaded (this took time — these JPGs were nearly 70K, and it was 1997!), I would squint at the screen, blurring the image to protect myself in case it was more odious than I had expected.

One day, I clicked on an ambiguously titled link and found myself looking at a porn photo of an old lady. A really old lady. Granny hair, sunken jawline, scoliosis. There was a young man in the picture, and some sex act — I forget the exact logistics — was making kittens and Jesus cry.

But the important part was the lady’s torso. Her head looked like a leather change purse that had been left out in the rain. Her upper chest — the part that shows above normal clothing — looked just as leathery. But her tits? Like a fifty year old’s.

OH MY GOD, I said. I AM PUTTING SUNSCREEN ON EVERYTHING. This lady had a line of demarcation between her upper chest and her actual cleavage that was so dramatic it might as well have been a galactic singularity opening a rift in time and space. (Well, at least time). We’re talking about a thirty-year age difference that began about five inches above the nipples.

Here are some fun facts about why you should wear sunscreen, and what, exactly, you should be putting it on (and this isn’t just for white girls!)

  • UVA light breaks down collagen (as does crystal meth!) Collagen is the main ingredient in pretty. Seriously, you need your damn collagen. If you don’t protect your skin now, later you can have collagen-mimicking products such as Restylane injected into specific wrinkles at $1,000 a pop, but trust me: it won’t be the same.
  • Anything less than SPF 15 is bullshit. You need SPF 30 or higher if you’re actually planning an outdoor activity, or if you care about not wrinkling anytime soon. You need 50 or higher if you look like Nicole Kidman.
  • The sunscreen in your moisturizer (probably) doesn’t count. It’s mixed in with, obviously, the moisturizer, so you’d have to wear a really ridiculous amount to actually get the advertised level of protection. How to compensate? You need an actual sunscreen in addition to your moisturizer, or a sunscreen that doubles as a moisturizer. Try La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Face Cream, SPF 60.
  • For the rest of the body, many people enjoy Neutrogena’s “dry touch” sunscreen (although I personally like to look slick and shiny, like a dew-goddess from the moisture paddies!)
  • Your sunscreen should say “broad spectrum,” ensuring that you get both UVA and UVB protection. UVB rays burn; UVA rays age you; both damage your cells, including your DNA, and weaken your immune system.
  • Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours, and even more often if you’re swimming or exercising outdoors, sitting in the steam room, doing hot yoga, or otherwise sweating it all off. Which means that even if your daily moisturizer has SPF 15 or higher, you need to reapply at some point before you leave your office, and definitely after the gym.
  • Concrete reflects light, so even city dwellers are getting fried in the summer months. If you have an outdoor subway stop (or drive a convertible), prep your skin as though you will be competing in Distance Hiking at the Desert Olympics.
  • Don’t forget your neck and the tops of your ears. And your lips! You need a lip balm with sunscreen, and you’ll need to reapply it basically every time you lick your lips or perform any other human activity. But seriously, who needs aging lips to worry about?
  • A typical white T-shirt has SPF between 3 and 8. Not good enough. So put sunscreen on your upper chest even when it’s going to be covered by clothing. Denim, in contrast, has an SPF of 50 or more. Better than wearing denim all summer, though: you can actually give your regular clothes an SPF of 30 by washing them with a laundry additive called SunGuard.
  • Bodies have something called “pheomelanin.” It’s pink, women have more of it than men, and it’s primarily concentrated in the lips, nipples, and genitals. When exposed to ultraviolet rays, it may become carcinogenic. That’s right: don’t shine direct sunlight on your ladyparts, or they will turn to cancer.

If you’ve watched Arrested Development, you’re been privy to the recurring jokes about Mrs. Bluth’s neck surgery. Allow me to say this: whatever top-shelf stuff you can afford to put on your face, you can afford to put on your neck. And your upper chest. And the backs of your hands.

One caveat — don’t wear sunscreen on film. Those particles that are reflecting the damaging rays of the sun will also reflect theatrical lighting in a way that will make you look chalky. Of course, if you’re going to be on TV, you’re probably the lucky girl who gets a makeup artist, so you can wear your sunscreen there and wash it off (with makeup removing towelettes) when you arrive so the makeup artist can get a fresh start.

And lest you think this was all for white girls, I asked Dr. Susan Taylor of Brownskin.net, what sunscreen advice she offers to those with darker skin:

As an expert on Skin of Color, I encourage all of my patients with darker skin tones to wear an SPF 15 sunscreen on a daily basis and apply it to all areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun. Why sunscreen for darker skin tones? Darker skin can and does burn, discolorations and uneven skin tone are caused by sun exposure and existing discolorations will darken with sun exposure. Hence, sun protection is key. One last word of advice for everyone protecting their skin from the sun, have your Vitamin D level checked.

In summary: sunscreen keeps you pretty (and alive!) You should be wearing way more of it than even your well-meaning mother ever though to suggest. Actually protecting yourself from the sun requires a dedication to sunscreen that is largely considered socially unacceptable. (But the people who think that are wrinkling, even now, as we speak, so in the long-term pretty stakes, heavy-duty sun protection makes you a winner! Think of it that way next time you’re slathering stuff on your face in a falafel joint bathroom).

To see if you’re going to want a Vitamin D supplement, go here. For more information on skincare for dark skin, go to brownskin.net. For more information on fake-and-baking light skin to look darker but hopefully not so orange, check out Jennifer Wright’s recent How to Use Self Tanner and Not Look Like Lindsay Lohan.

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