Fact: I Don’t Use Sunblock

It’s true. I do not use sunblock. I do not own sunblock, and if I were to disregard the fact that my mother would slather up my sister and I on beach days when were wee ones, we can say I’ve never used sunblock. Why? Because I’m an idiot.

Thanks to my French, Irish and Swedish heritage, I spend the majority of the year pale. Being pale in January is fine, but once the spring hits, I want to be less pale; I want to be tan. However, my complexion does not allow for insta-tan as it would if I were of Italian or Spanish decent, so instead I burn, baby, burn (disco inferno). In my life I have had so many burns that have resulted in severe blistering that I’ve lost track. The worst one was in high school when I thought it appropriate to lay out on a warm March day, in the middle of the snow that remained on the lawn, so as to get a “jump-start” on the summer ahead. What followed was a blister on my left cheek so severe that the doctor said it would result in massive scarring once it finally healed. But days and weeks later, there was no “massive scarring,” so I continued about with my usual stupid behavior.

A few years later while in Punta Cana, my sister and I decided to cover ourselves in the coconut oil we bought from the locals, then take to the beach. By the end of the day we were both so severely burned and blistering, that the resort’s doctor told us to stay out of the fucking sun for the rest of the trip. We spent the next several days fighting over what to watch on TV and ordering enough room service for a small army of very large people who cannot survive unless their intake is upward of 10,000 calories a day. Again, we both recovered and my love affair with the sun continued.

I’m well aware of the damage that can come with too much sun exposure, not only because of my own history, but I have loved ones who have had run-ins with melanoma. I’ve also taken into consideration the wrinkle factor every time I lay out, but since I actually don’t have any wrinkles (yet!), it’s hard for me to take this concern seriously as well. When I tell my mother I’m headed to the beach or a friend’s roof deck, she always asks if I have sunblock. I lie and say, “Yes,” to which she responds, “I know you’re lying, but it’s your life — skin cancer isn’t going to be pretty.”

The thing is that because of my complexion, I don’t even get tan — if we’re to compare me to those who actually tan. I get tan for me, which is roughly two or three shades darker, but I don’t get brown, nor would I want to like crazy, obsessed tanning woman. I think what it comes down to is that I love the sun, I need the sun to be happy, to keep my emotions in check and for some reason, I have it in my head that sunblock will stand in the way of fully soaking in all that goodness. I’m also a beach bum at heart. As a New Englander, I’ve always gone running to the beach the first warm day of the year, even if it’s as early as March, and I don’t fully abandon it until late September. Without even a slight exaggeration, it is indeed a love affair.

As I sit here, once again lobster-red from laying out on a friend’s deck this past weekend, I’m finally starting to contemplate just how irresponsible I’m being. Eventually the wrinkles will catch up with me and I fear that skin cancer is pretty much a guarantee; it’s not only the most common cancer in the U.S. but with statistics like “one in five Americans will develop some form of the disease in their lifetime” and “nearly 800,000 Americans are living with a history of melanoma and 13 million are living with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer, typically diagnosed as basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma,” it truly does seem inevitable.

So as a gift to myself and a promise I made to my mother yesterday on Mother’s Day, I plan to use sunblock for every outdoor event going forward. It will be tricky, mostly because I’ve seen my friends look weird and streaky because they didn’t apply it correctly, but I will absolutely make a valiant effort.

Any tips on how to avoid the streaky sunblock look? And am I really the last one to not use sunblock or is everyone lying to me?

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    • Teeny


      Get yourself some of the spray sunblock. Sure it usually as worse chemicals in it then lotions, but it is very easy to apply and you don’t get streaks. Banana Boat Kids Tear-Free SPF 30 Continuous Lotion Spray is actually pretty good, cheap and gentle on the skin. Who cares if it is for kids, just put it on before you leave the house and no one needs to see the bottle.

      • Somnilee

        I second spray on stuff, I use Ambre Solaire Clear Protect, it says not to use it on your face but meh. I’m Irish/Scottish/English/my grandmother’s an albino, so you’d better believe I put suncream on. It’s not something I’ve ever though about not doing, as soon as the sun’s out that’s it, I put sun screen on. My roommates laugh that I’m the only person they know who can catch the sun walking back from uni, but I’ve not had a proper burn since 2005 (when I trusted someone else to put my suncream on).

        And that’s just for “every day”, by the way. If I’m going actually out, to sit in the park or whatever, I put the actual lotion on. Again Ambre Solaire Protection Milk – for the record I don’t find the named brands better, they were just on offer. Put it on 10-20 minutes before you head out the door (like you’re supposed to anyway), and you’ll have time to let it sink in and see what needs a bit more rubbing.

    • scb

      I don’t use sunblock either! Well, not 100% true, in the last year I’ve started putting it on my face. And when it’s stupid sunny out, I do the tops of my shoulder blades with 15 and my nose with something a bit stronger.

      But I’m also one of those total assholes who naturally ends up looking all california blonde and rarely burns.

      sooo… got your back on the no sunscreen, but mostly cuz I don’t burn, so what’s the point? (yeah… definitely an asshole)

    • Jamie Peck

      Sunblock doesn’t make you streaky if you apply it evenly. I use the non-pore-clogging kin, and I put it on my tattoos pretty much every time I go outside on a sunny day. I paid a lot of money for these, dammit.

      • Amanda Chatel

        Good point about the tattoos… I really am an idiot.

    • Maggie

      Do you like your eyebrows? Every time I go out in the sun I think about my eyebrows since my mom lost hers when she had to use a topical chemical to treat some skin cancer on her face. They NEVER grew back. I think of that and always reapply!

      For spray sunblock I love Nuetrogena since it doesn’t clog pores and you can get specific ones for your face. I also recently discovered the Aveeno spray sunblock (on sale at Target) and it had less of a chemically smell than any of the other spray sunblock I’ve tried. No streaks with either of these brands.

      Good luck on your new sunblock goal!

    • DebMoore

      I also have fair skin that Maybe gets a couple of shades darker (I live in So CA and EVERYONE is tan!) here is what I do:I also like to “tan” without sunscreen but I limit it to an hour max (so I don’t burn) and when it’s going to be more than an hour I use Coppertone sensitive skin 15. Still get some sun, but without the burn. The sunsceen smell is minumal and it’s not as greasy.

    • Niamh

      I could barely read this… how can you be so stupid? As a fully 100% Scottish person, I have ridiculously pale skin and I have never tanned in my life, but I don’t see that as a challenge. I never leave the house on a sunny day without full on sun-cream, my skin is just far too precious. Burning in the sun every chance you get is pretty much the equivelent of binge drinking every chance you get and totally fucking up your liver, and you end up looking just as stupid. Please just wear any kind of sun cream and pray to god it isn’t too late.

    • Mike

      You never think about skin cancer until someone you know dies from it for which I am one of those unlucky candidates. A little precaution goes a long way, and think about someone besides yourself when your dying in bed from that shit with your family all around you and trying to figure out how to cope when your dead.

      Not worth the summery glow for a couple months.

    • Jessica Pauline Ogilvie

      You should splurge on the good shit! I didn’t used to use sunblock all the time but now I’m obsessive about it and I think it’s partly because I started buying Neutrogena. It’s a little more expensive but it feels more like nice lotion and less like stinky, sticky goo.

    • Eileen

      I love the feel of sunblock, actually (except on my palms) – it feels like summer. It smell like summer. And yes, I wear it regularly (not as much as I should – I don’t put it on to go get the mail or if I’m going to be in the car, and I’ll often ignore it if it’s after five or six in the evening), despite the fact that I rarely burn.

      But most of all – what’s with wanting to be tan?? I don’t get it. Fair skin is just as pretty. I know so many women who seem to think that being darker will make them look better, and it rarely does.

      • Amanda Chatel

        Honestly, I don’t know, Eileen… maybe it’s just some more self-destructive behavior and I’ve yet to fully recognize it?

    • Sam

      Please get some sunblock! We found out my aunt had stage 4 melanoma last year, she died less than four months later. She just went to the dermatologist to have a mole removed when they discovered it. If you have any weird colored or oddly shaped moles go to the doctor. If they had found hers sooner she might still be alive.

    • Amanda Chatel

      So what I’m gathering from all this amazing input/advice is to try the spray stuff, the expensive stuff (Neutrogena), although both Coppertone and Banana Boat Kids (spray) should do the trick as well… and I should be kinder to my tattoos.

      Oh, and that I’m stupid. I love it when commenters and I can *finally* agree on something.

      Thank you everyone! Obviously, more suggestions are welcome…

      • Maggie2

        I’m unfortunately pale and always have been, so I have the same problem: I don’t tan! At most I get a couple shades darker, but really freckly and pink. Apparently pale skin is coming back into fashion though, so… yay? I did scar after a really bad burn once though; I neglected the sunblock and got 2nd-degree burns over almost all of my exposed skin and still have burn lines from my tank top, and it happened like 6 years ago. Sunblock is worth using!

        As for your tattoos, I use a sunblock on mine that you can get at most tanning salons: It’s a “Miami Ink” brand and has some special compound made to keep your colors from getting dull and your blacks from running/fading.

    • G

      I don’t know if you have Napoleon where you are, but I am just as pale as you, and this is the most amazing fake tan. Not orange at all and people actually compliment you on how you smell immediately after application. This isn’t an add, this is my gift to you as a fellow Irish Scottish heritage female. Please use it and never feel the need to sunbathe again.


      • Amanda Chatel

        I’ve never heard of it, but did click on the link… it looks like I may have to give it a whirl and the good smell adds to my interest. Thanks, G!

    • Sonsy

      My mom lay out with baby oil all her young life and as a 16-year-old I realized I didn’t want to look like an old boot too. I have worn sunscreen every day (and night usually) of my life since. I won’t leave the house if for some reason I cannot find and apply. That said, I tan the shit out of my legs. With 40 SPF on.

    • Hana

      The spray sunscreens are suppose to be banned soon by the FDA!nGet it while you can, but honestly there are reasons spray is being banned because they just don’t coat you evenly. One of the most important things to look for when choosing a sunscreen is the term “uva/uvb”. This will soon also be FDA regulated. Uva rays burn us, and are the easiest rays to block because they don’t penetrate as deep as the uvb. Many sunscreens don’t factor uvb in, but these are the most damaging long-term and the mot responsible for destroying collagen production (causing wrinkles!) so whatever sunscreen you choose, make sure it is UVA UVB.

    • Christa

      I use the sensitive zinc-based sunblock everyday rain, shine, plans indoors or out, on my face and neck at least – it is a part of my routine, I use it instead of a primer, and find it works pretty well like that! The only thing to be aware of is that you don’t want to put on sunblock, esp the invisible zinc kind when you’re planning on photos, as the SPF reflects the light and can wash you out (same reason lots of makeup artists use foundations etc without SPF). So I usually wash my face before a night out and reapply moisturiser etc without the sunscreen. But yeah, replacing primer with sunscreen has made it almost foolproof for using it everyday :)

      • Christa

        Oh yeah, I use Neutrogena sensitive sunscreen, love it!

    • Elizabeth

      Streaky? I don’t think I’ve seen it be streaky. I’ve been wearing sunblock pretty much every day since I went goth at 12. I wish I’d started earlier, since there’s some spots on me that my dermatologist said wouldn’t be there if I’d never been in the sun, and I’m pretty sure the damage was done when I was younger than 10. Le sigh.

      I’d recommend one of the Eucerin daily protection SPF 30 things. They go on nicely and I’ve never seen anything streaky from them. That’s what I use every day. Once you go up to SPF 50 some of them look chalky, but I’ve tried an Aveeno SPF 55 for babies that went on like butter, but in a good way.

      And yes, always on the tattoos.

    • EKS

      Glad you’re going to use sunblock from now on.

      re: the emotional/happiness compoent – Something you might find a lot safer (and useful year-round) is a light therapy lamp, the type made for seasonal affective disorder (try looking up phillips blue led light therapy lamps on amazon or northern lights technologies). It’s obviously not going to give you color (just get a spray tan for that), but it will help with the emotions. Also consider getting more vitamin D in your life.

    • Katie

      As a very pale human, I came to a similar opinion a few years ago and just stop doing the tanning thing. I jumped into the world of sunscreen and that went poorly to say the least.

      I’m allergic to multiple sunblock ingredients. The only kind I can use on my body is the oil based sport spray, and my sensitive skin on my face will even react to that.

      I’ve traded sunblock and insane breakouts for lightweight summer cardis, maxi dresses, big hats, and just staying in the shade. These choices have not only resulted in lack of sun damage but a real improvement to my wardrobe!

    • B

      Get yourself some super goop! http://www.supergoop.com/?reload

    • jess

      if you can apply moisturizer without looking streaky, you can apply sunblock without looking streaky :D
      i use aveno positively radiant with spf 30 for casual sun exposure (read: everyday) and basically ANY waterproof spf 30 when i go to the beach. (i get one for face that’s less oily cuz the only thing worse than wrinkles is wrinkles WITH ZITS) and just a run of the mill one for the rest of the bod. DOOOOOO IT! it’s good for you! :D

    • Alyssa

      Geeze, some people have a lot of hostility about not wearing sunscreen.

      I don’t wear it either. Plain and simple. I’m not what I would consider “pale” and I do tan very easily (to the point where I can spend about an hour out in the sun and be 2 shades darker the next day) but I still f*cking hate wearing sunscreen. Ever since I was a kid I hated the feel of it on my skin and the smell of it. And that smell does not come off, even after a shower. It gets in my pores and lingers in there after endless amounts of scrubbing. I hate the greasiness of it and the fact that sand sticks EVERYWHERE on me when I’m wearing it. Also, once it’s on your hands, forget trying to eat anything while your at the beach… it gets all over your food and in your mouth and it’s all you taste all day. Miserable. I guess it seems like a very superficial, stupid reason not to wear it, but it is my body and if I don’t want to wear it I don’t have to. People lecture me about it all the time, but hey guess what? I take care of my body in other ways, and if I want to go out in the sun for a few hours a couple of times during the summer to get a tan, then I’m going to do it. If I get cancer, I guess I’ll deal with it then. Whatever the statistics are regarding how many people get cancer, I have a chance potentially to get it from 100 billion other things, so why not live my life the way I’d like to live it. Maybe one day I will regret it and smack myself for not wearing sunscreen, but again, that is MY choice. That’s great for the people who do it religiously… props to you, but most people do not want to be lectured on what to do to their bodies.
      So, maybe I sound like a dick… but you’re not the last human on Earth to not wear sunscreen.