Why I Don’t Wear Sunscreen


I am sitting here in this room right now, lights just streaming through the windows, and I’m not wearing a bit of suntan lotion. I’m probably not going to put any on when I go out later today, either despite the fact that living in New York means that you tend to do a lot if walking. I also live on the planet earth, which is a planet where the sun’s rays are always trying to fry your body, so there’s that.

It’s not a matter of vanity. I actually think my skin looks better when it’s a little bit paler, and also, I think it makes vampires more likely to pick me to make immortal, because I assume that’s how vampires work. I do like it when it gets a little flush of color, but I do not, say, hang out on beaches using one of those tinfoil reflector things to try to turn my skin a shade of creme caramel.

It wouldn’t even work. My skin would just go kind of pink, like a lobster.

If I am going to the beach and planning to hang out there all day, I do put on sunscreen. I mean, I do it because otherwise my skin would fry to a crisp and become comically painful. But I’m also aware that you really should be slathering suntan lotion on yourself every single time you go out anyplace. Unless you are a mole person who lives entirely below ground.

I, in fact, grew up on the lyrics of Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen, so I am fully aware that wearing sunscreen is probably the most important thing you can do as a Millennial. It’s right up there with “not smoking” under “things one should really not do.” Here. Listen. Listen to this lyrical masterpiece:

So why do I never actually do it on a daily basis?

For one thing, I think 90% of my reluctance to wear sunscreen has to do with the fact that I have super sensitive skin. Most times I put on suntan lotion, I end up with weird pimples all over my face, just because, it does something weird to my pores. I don’t know what exactly. I bet a scientist would know.

And the sunscreen smell is also pretty awful, right? Maybe this is just again because I also hate the smell of most perfumes, but there’s something partiuclarly artificial about the smell of sunscreen. It’s not really like perfumes, where you figure that once and a while you might luck into one that actually smells like the flower it is supposed to represent as opposed to smelling like a terrifyingly sacchrine cupcake. Sunscreen lotions just have that smell that doesn’t even seem to be attempting to imitate anything that even roughly exists in the real world.

And, while I do love my skin being pale, I feel like I have, more than once, come up against someone who had applied sunscreen in such a way that they looked like a mime. And when I say “someone” I mean, “that person was me.” I seem incapable of using the recommended amount of sunscreen on my face without slathering it on in such a way that I end up looking like I am imitating a ghost.

So, for me, wearing sunscreen means spending that day smelling weird, looking ghostly (I swear, the recommended amount is more than actual normal human beings ever need to use, unless they are Casper) and, when I wash my face off at night, finding that my face is covered in pimples.

It also takes forever to get on. Sometimes it takes two separate people just to get it on effectively. Does that not seem just a tiny bit unduly complicated? I mean, look, to be fair, I’m also annoyed at how long it takes to shower, but I hate having to take extra time in the morning to slather sunscreen all over my body, especially because, while I am outside, I am not lying around outside half naked.

None of which, of course, negates that fact that not wearing sunscreen is extremely dangerous. But when I walk down the streets, I actually wonder if everyone else is really adhering to it that religiously. It doesn’t strike you as a hassle when you’re already late going places in the summer mornings? Do you wear it in the middle of winter, as well? Are you and your significant other slathering sunscreen on one another’s backs in the mid-morning before you set off work? Tell me your ways, sunscreen wearers.

Also, if you can recommend a brand that would eliminate the issues I have with it stinking and taking forever to apply, that would be great, too.

Picture via Getty 

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    • Cee

      I beg you to wear sun screen Jennifer. My friend died of malenoma at age 26 and it has gutted me so much. Yes, wearing it is annoying as fuck. My boss used to make fun of me cuz Neutrogena sunscreen used to leave white marks at the sides of my mouth and eyebrows. I switched to generic sun screen. That solved that issue but it smells like old lady. I wanna find a better one still. Yea its annoying, but seeing someone go so fast and so young has made me very proactive about this.

    • Samantha_Escobar

      I have a few sunscreens that smell wonderful or like nothing at all and never clog my pores! I’ll look at their names when I get home and letcha know.

      But I mostly came here to say: AHHH THAT SONG WILL ALWAYS FEEL SO EPIC.

    • anna

      I really don’t wear it all the time, and I’m paler than pale. I have chap stick and moisturizer that contain spf 30 and so my face is covered, but unless i’m out in the sun I don’t do my body.

      Do people actually do it every day? I sunburn easily and I don’t get sun burned (burnt?) or even freckle just going about my daily buisness.

    • Lena

      I think you may be buying the wrong kind of sunscreen. I also have sensitive skin and am very sensitive to smells so i it took me a while to find what works for me. I wear Ombrelle Face SPF 30 on my face (no perfumes or dyes makes it non-irritant and neutral smelling). I also switch it with a moisturizer with SPF ( I recently received a free sample for Boscia that’s pretty good). If you wear make up just choose foundations or primers with SPF. Body wise, Ombrelle has a gel one (no smells, no whiteness) but I usually use a spray on. I live alone so the spary-on is easy to use and does not have perfume. You do need to buy a continuous spray one.

      • Tania

        I use Ombrelle for my face, too. It’s never made me break out (thank goodness).

    • Kate

      Clarins UV Plus HP SPF 40 is the best sunscreen for your face. It’s light weight, oil-free, smells vaguely of the cantaloupe extract which is one of the main ingredients, and it absorbs in about 2 seconds.

    • Elizabeth

      I know you’re probably sick of hearing suggestions, but I have REALLY REALLY sensitive (and pale!) skin and had some of the same problems. Sunscreens would always be itchy and stingy and break-out-y. I recently got Josie Maran Argan Oil SPF 40 from Sephora, and I love it. It smells pleasant and doesn’t do anything bad to my skin. It’s pretty expensive, but I just use it as a facial sunscreen, and the lack of gross face feelings makes it worth it to me. Also, it has physical rather than (or in addition to) chemical sunscreens, which I’ve heard is better? Maybe?

      • http://caraobrien.tumblr.com/ caraobrien

        I have the same issues and second the Josie Maran sunscreen. I can’t use any chemical sunscreen without irritating my skin. I think it may be mild rosacea that causes the little red bumps/splotches, since pale women tend to be prone to it. Anyway, please wear sunscreen, everyone!

    • Nikola

      For the body, I would say to go with one of the spray kinds of sunscreen. I use the one from Supergoop, it doesn’t seem to smell bad (at least not to me, and I am pretty sensitive to smells) and you just spray it on an mildly rub it in. Easy, peasy. I don’t bother putting it everywhere, because I wear clothing, (am I supposed to put it everywhere?) but I just spray on whatever parts will be sun exposed, except for my face.

      I do use a separate lotion with SPF(coola brand), but I also use mineral powder foundation makeup(bareminerals) that has SPF added. I don’t think either make me break out, but there are a few different powder based SPFs for the face.



      The nice thing about the powder formulas is that they are not visible, easy to apply and reapply, and they can help with shininess.

    • http://helloalle.com/ Alle

      I have a Neutrogena Cooling Effects spray one that takes thirty seconds to apply, has no smell and protects my lily-white skin perfectly. Even though I am fair, I tan really easily which means I know quite quickly when shit doesn’t work, and this works. I also don’t sweat it off when I’m walking my dog in million degree heat and humidity. I spray it on my face after I’ve moisturised, then do my makeup, and I have never once had my BB cream or concealer get messed up because of it.

      The thing that makes most people too pale with sunscreen is the zinc oxide (this is also really good for acne, which is crazy I KNOW). But there are loads of sunscreens without that particular active ingredient, so you won’t look like a mime.

      Also, please wear sunscreen. I am from Australia and I have so many friends who are being treated for melanoma now in their late twenties that it makes my heart hurt. Sunscreen is a pain, but it’s not as big of a pain as cancer.

    • http://poorgoop.com/ Samantha

      I don’t put it on every day, and I bike to and from work. It’s not necessarily a great choice, but going without sunscreen for 20 minutes every day is really good for Vitamin D production, and getting Vitamin D from sunlight is more effective than taking supplements.

      For my face, though, I use BB cremes or foundation that already has an SPF.

    • wanderlust371

      La Roche Posay Anthelios. It’s not as good if you buy it here vs. Europe, but still better than the others. So, European vacation and stock up on sunscreen?
      I don’t like to wear sunscreen either. I just wear it if I know I’ll be out in the sun a lot.

    • Eileen

      I’ve never minded the lotion stuff (we always used Coppertone in my family because we had relatives who worked for the company), especially the “sport” kind that isn’t greasy, but there are definitely spray versions that don’t smell, as others have noted.

      I wear sunscreen if I’m going to spend extended time in the sun – running, bike riding, and obviously anything that involves a bathing suit – but not if I’m just walking a couple of blocks because a little bit of sun is healthy and my skin type takes more than that to burn.

    • Laura

      I would ask a dermatologist to recommend a good sunscreen for sensitive skin. As for your face, a good moisturizer can contains SPF. I wear Neutrogena Healthy Defense with Helioplex (SPF 50) every day on my face, neck, and chest. I get the protection and the moiture for my dry skin. Seriously though, skin cancer is no joke. I’ve been pretty vigilent about sun protection since my grandfather died of melanoma. And cancer aside, nobody looks attractive with an excess of premature spots and wrinkles.

    • S.

      I had the same problems as you, so I’ll just tell you how I deal with sunscreen now. I’m SO allergic to most of the sunscreens I’ve tried. See there are two types of sunscreen: Physical and Chemical. The Chemical kind relies on things which absorb into your skin and affect the way it absorbs the sun’s rays. These have ingredients like helioplex, avobenzone and oxybenzone. The Physical kind forms a barrier on your skin that prevents the sun from turning you into a human leather handbag. These have ingredients like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide.

      So. The Physical kind, I have found, is MUCH better for my super sensitive skin. The chemical kind burns and stings when I put it on and makes me break out, but the physical kind doesn’t.

      Now physical sunscreens can feel mask-like and heavy, but it’s all in how you put the sunscreen on your skin. What I do is put on a bit of Clinique’s Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel. MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE YOU GET THE GEL NOT THE LOTION BECAUSE THIS MAKES A LOT OF DIFFERENCE. Then immediately after, put on a pea sized amount of Clinique’s Super City block in Spf 40. It’ll look like you’re wearing a mask for about 20 seconds, but once it dries, it feels like there is nothing on your skin and you can put on your makeup on top of this.

      I’ve tried a lot of sunblocks to arrive at this formula, and it works beautifully for me. I never tell anyone my real age (I’m 26) but people always say I look 14. Last week a 5 year old boy asked me how old I am, and I told him 20, and he said I mustn’t tell lies because I was obviously 13. At airports, the customs officers mention every single time that I don’t look my age at all. I completely credit applying sunscreen religiously for how ridiculously young my face looks.

    • Iwill Findu

      I hate putting on sunscreen, so I’ve found ways to minimize the use for day to day. As long as I wear a hat out and about I can avoid putting it in on my face most days, and since most of body is covered by clothing all day long it leaves me to only worry about my arms, legs, and maybe ears and noise (depending on the hat). Although at the beach or in the garden then I’m a little more active with the sunscreen, you never know when your shirt is going to ride up well weeding and leave your back to burn.
      But otherwise I never bother putting sunscreen on covered skin. What’s the point it’s not going to see the sun and I’m just going to sweat it off to do what re-apply it in 2 hrs anyway? Most people don’t get skin cancer on their ass because how many of us walk around for hrs on end offering up that bit of flesh to the sungods? So for me it’s easier to keep it covered with fabric then to worry about sunscreen.
      Also you need a little sun to make vitamin d not a lot about less then an hour but sunscreens can block that. Sometimes you gonna take the good with the bad.

    • GarnetHenderson

      I feel you on the nasty smell – try some Neutrogena products. They tend to smell pretty nice or have hardly any smell at all. I use one of their face moisturizers with SPF every day. I also have weirdly sensitive skin, but this stuff doesn’t bother me at all.

    • Allie

      I don’t put it on every day either but for ease (and not making it a two-person job) and not being all ghostly I bought Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist sunblock. It sprays on rather than having to rub it on so it’s quicker too! It is non-greasy, which is the first one that claims that and actually feels that way. They make a regular formula that isn’t a spray that might be good for just your exposed areas (arms, face) for every day.
      I found out after I bought it that they offer a coupon on their website. I recommend it!

    • Dee

      epicuren sunscreen will make your skin amazing and soft and is completely worth the hefty price tag. It also smells like nothing and is made with micronized zinc oxide so it doesn’t give you a white sheen.

    • LJfunstuff

      I found the solution!

      I also cannot handle chemical sunscreens. Every single one bothers my allergies and stings my eyes all day long, even when I’m only wearing it on my arms! And most people don’t realize that a lot must be applied to be truly effective. The spf rating is determined in lab tests, where a super thick coat is used during the testing.

      This is what I use:

      The mineral sunscreen called “Cotz” by Fallene, and a newer one called “Solar Protection Formula” made by the same company. They are SPF 58, slightly tinted so no ghost-look. Cotz is a bit harder to apply as it’s slightly thicker. They’re not cheap ($22.00) and a bit sticky, but I am willing to put up with that.


      On that note – just this year I found a new, cheaper, easier to find mineral sunscreen. It’s Banana Boat Natural Reflect SPF 50 ($11.00). It is almost the same, just thicker, and very white. Most of the whiteness goes away when you rub it in, but I may try tinting it with a bit of mineral makeup to use on my face.


      Good luck!

    • ZanBrody

      I wear a lower spf moisturizer every single day on my face and chest (where I tend to break out) and then slather on thicker higher sport spf everywhere else that won’t break out easily. If I’m going to be out in actual direct sun, I cover my face in a thick layer of sunscreen and wear a hat. Like a layer so thick I just have white crap all over my face and people keep pointing it out politely and I say “Yes, I am completely aware”. Then I use a clay mask that night to prevent an acne explosion. Basically everything you said in this article is true, and it’s kind of a drag. But, I’ve been taking care of my skin this way since I was 13. I’m 30 now, and that shit has paid off!! I did one of the skin damage analysis things where everyone usually walks away in horror (before they forget about it and don’t change habits) and I was pleased!! But, I am also a ghostly shade of pale that a lot of people probably think is quite unattractive.

    • Stephanie

      Eucerin everyday protection. SPF 30. Great for my oily, breakout prone sensitive skin. Seriously. Best. Thing. Ever. No breakouts, no smell, no whiteness (even though it has zinc oxide which is more effective than some of the other sunscreens out there as it physically blocks the UVA and UVB penetration). It’s also a badass moisturizer, and a great base to wear under makeup, not that I really wear any because it all makes me break out

    • rachelbensen

      Is this meant as a satire of “Why I don’t use birth control”?

    • Veronica

      Sunscreen =/= suntan lotion

    • Cheryl Aronson

      Nope – don’t wear sunscreen (unless spending the day on the beach for the same reasons you stated).. but why is it.. that we have an increase in skin cancers yet we’ve been wearing sunscreen? … ever wonder that?
      Why would I put chemicals I can’t pronounce onto my skin for my pores to absorb – daily. That’s worse than a sunburn, in my opinion.
      I just am careful about how long I expose myself to the sun, cover myself with appropriate clothing, and wear a hat. simple.

      • Eileen

        I think the higher skin cancer rates is generally attributed to the depletion of the ozone layer. Ozone absorbs UVB rays and keeps them from getting through to damage our skin.

    • Bob

      I have this Clarins stick for my face. It smells like mango butter. It’s amazing. It’s also for sensitive skin because, I too, have that issue.


    • Tusconian

      I have to say, I don’t wear it all over my body every day, because….it’s seriously expensive. I wear it on my face habitually, but on my body? A bottle of sunscreen costs 7 or 8 dollars at least, and is very small. You can get a bottle of lotion that will last 6 months for that price, but if you put sunscreen all over your body daily and reapply as instructed, sunscreen lasts 2 weeks max. The cheaper ones cause seriously terrible things to happen to my skin (I had to switch from the 9 dollar to the 14 dollar facial sunscreen because it caused horrifying, visible, very painful acne, which hasn’t 100% cleared up after 3 months). It’s honestly not affordable to me to wear sunscreen as instructed.

    • Joe

      Why don’t they just include some form of sunscreen in the body wash or soap people use when they bathe? Of course, that would work for me since I shower maybe twice a month, but most people wouldn’t even have to think about sunscreen.

    • Kiki

      I don’t wear sunscreen because most of them contain harmful chemicals that do more harm than good. Kiki from http://eyesecretsreviewblog.com

    • kate

      I use Neutrogena pure and free. Its fragrance free so no nasty smells. Its hypoallergenic too, so it might not give you that bumpy skin? The only downside to it is that it can give you that ‘mime’ look if you don’t rub it in really well, and since its thicker than most sunscreen it takes a bit more work.

    • Sean Carter

      It can be a really tough task to enjoy summer and avoid using any sort of sunscreen. I can see many reasons people would not want to but it just provides to much good for me to pass up. I have found natural sunscreen is a really great way to go. It offers a ton of protection and less of the downsides of other products

      • Ned Stotesbury

        For me I just try and stay out of the sun. I used to have a convertible but I even sold that a few years ago. I had a spyder and I don’t blame the car. Mitsubishi make some great used cars for sale I only blame myself for always having the top down.

      • Frank Tricker

        It happens