I moved out of Arizona for good. And as a parting gift, I have some sunburns and premature wrinkles to show for my years in the desert sun. I have done some foolish things with regards to sun protection and observed the consequences of it. I was caught up in finding the best sunscreen to use. But sun protection is much more than buying one. Some observations :

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sunscreen

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1. Buy one that you can really afford.

One that you can afford to throw in the purse, to slather without cringing, to share with people around you. The ones I have been trying over the years are expensive luxury products from established fashion houses costing 30-60$ a pot. It was a lot of money and I was using it sparingly. Also, I was saving the good stuff for the face and had a drugstore product for the body. When time got scarce in the morning, I always would smear some on the face and run out of the door. Best thing I did for myself in the last year was to walk into Whole Foods and buy the biggest bottle of chemical sunscreen that I could afford.

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2. Have one in your handbag at all times.

Like you carry your wallet, phone and sunglasses. Have one that isn’t super expensive and one that you can share. Because every time I re-apply, I have folk around me who immediately want some too.

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3. Avoid spray sunscreens

Rated the worst form of delivery. Very easy to miss coverage on eyes, nose, ears, neck, decolletage, etc.

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4. Give it enough time to react.

The instructions on the back are not to be ignored. The reaction between skin and the chemicals need to occur to form the protective barrier. Wait the 10 minutes before you step out. If you are always head out of the door in a hurry, switch to physical sunscreen.

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5. Apply an SPF 15  when at home at daytime.

If sunlight streams into your home, so do the UV rays. They penetrate through glass and bounce off the surfaces. If it’s day time, use a sunscreen.

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6. Shake that physical sunscreen

Jessica Alba’s company was sued last year after a kid got barbecued ( literally ) after using her sunscreen. And company’s response was to blame the parent for not shaking the bottle before use. Most of us don’t realize how important this is. The Zinc particles tend to settle at the bottom. When they say shake, they mean ‘vigorously shake’ it.

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7. Use enough

My husband has this habit of putting some sunscreen on his palm, rubbing the palms together and applying what ever is remaining to his face. I don’t think he gets the needed amount. Most of it disappears into his palms. Be very liberal. Smear as much as you can handle without looking smeared up.

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8. Misc

Hats are a wonderful addition to the summer wardrobe. They also protect your scalp and hair from the UV rays. Sunglasses, lightweight fabrics that cover the hands, …. help too. Avoid outdoors during noon. Sandals can aide sunburn and your feet are not immune to skin cancer. Espadrilles, ballet flats, canvas loafers, wide legged pants that cover your feet. Layoff strong exfoliants that made your skin sensitive. Add berries to your breakfast and consume it an hour before exposure for internal protection. Eat carrots, tomatoes, citrus, yoghurt, mushroom,…. Make sure your lip balm has at least SPF – 15 in it.

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9. Sunscreen under the moisturizer

If you ask beauty industry professionals who are not from a science background, they say moisturizer first and sunscreen next. DO NOT LISTEN to them. The folks who actually formulate and test sunscreens are chemists and pharmacists. And they understand molecular chemistry. Chem sunscreen needs to react with the bare skin. Imagine creating a barrier between the skin and sunscreen and then hoping for the reaction. That is what you do if you put a moisturizer under sunscreen. You can argue that every molecule of your moisturizer is absorbed by the skin but they disagree that is even possible.

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10. Vitamin C serum

You will hear folks argue that Vit C is not stable and will break down with sunlight etc. That is the natural property but they have figured out a way to stabilize it. My father attended a conference about it when it was first achieved. Skinceuticals C serum is my holy grail product.

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11. Let your pets be  ( dirty & hairy )

Animals need UV protection too. They get it by smearing themselves in dirt and from natural oils that their skin generates. Elephants, rhinos and buffalos get it from their mud bathing tendencies. Dogs and cats use their mane for protection. Pet owners who trim the coats during summer should be considerate of the amount of sun exposure they get. Also, Zinc Oxide is poisonous to the dogs. If your sunscreen contains it, please don’t let him lick your face after you wear it.

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12. After sunburn

Aloe vera. Honey. Oil. I was foolish enough to think I wasn’t getting enough vitamin D. For the past few years, I stopped applying sunscreen to my body to collect some sun. My neck now has wrinkles and sun spots. My hands have a few sunburns which are almost healed. When you bike, certain areas of your hands get over exposed. I had one that got out of hand and kept getting worse.  The infected area was itchy, the skin cracked and started bleeding. I used the natural remedies from the kitchen but it didn’t help. It got worse with every day exposure and I suffered for a year. Finally, my father showed up with some steroid cream and it healed in two weeks. If it’s bad, get the help.

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13. Men

The attitude towards sunscreen should shift from vanity to health. None of the men I know wear it. My dermatologist dad included. My husband has a million funny things to say when I ask him to wear some. He makes me feel like a mother asking her child to eat raw broccoli. The men who take pride in their zero maintenance grooming also need sun protection.

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14. Great-grand-ma

When she used to work on the farm, she worked from 7 am to 11 am. And from 3 pm to 5 pm. Those are the hours my grand father currently works. Men would wear a make shift turban on their head. And women would drape their sarees around their head for sun protection. She says oil on the hair protects the hair.

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Do you know they made sun pills ? There is evidence to support the claim that a good diet can provide a fair amount of protection. That is how the generations prior to invention on sun creams did it. Drink enough water and eat a well nourished diet. Is there anything I left out ? Anything I should add to this list ? Do let me know if you disagree on anything. Disagreements are far more interesting !