It wasnt until I started working on this article that I realized just how little I knew about sun protection.
In the years I attended college in Seattle, where sunshine is relatively rare, it never occurred to me that the suns UV rays could still be seeping through the clouds. And when I am in a sunny place like my first few summer days in Charlotte I thought little about using sunscreen because I dont often get sunburned.
I do use a facial moisturizer with SPF every day, but it has an SPF of 15, below the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)-recommended SPF 30.
So when my editor asked me to try using sunscreen as dermatologists recommend, I was intrigued to see what it would be like to spend the day as someone who actually knows how to take care of her skin.
I found that it can be quite greasy.
I picked up a sunscreen lotion that has an SPF of 30, broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection, and is water resistant, as recommended. Before heading out for the day, I applied it liberally to my arms, legs, neck and face. I immediately wished that Id chosen a lighter daily lotion with SPF, as the grease on my hands made it difficult to grip my pen to take notes.
I waited 15 minutes before going outdoors another AAD recommendation. I took my sunscreen with me to reapply it every two hours, even if I wasnt going to be swimming or sweating a lot. I was in and out of the house from about 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., running errands, going to a park and sitting at a café. That meant three re-applications.
If not for the added grease, I didnt mind pausing for a bit to reapply sunscreen because it only took a couple of minutes.
At some point, I put my hair up without realizing that I exposed my ears to the sun. I didnt think to put sunscreen there. By the end of the day, my ears were hot and tingly.
It was then that I realized I probably saved my arms, legs, neck and face from the same fate by finally using sunscreen properly.
So am I going to wear sunscreen every day? Probably not. But I will consider increasing my facial moisturizer to SPF 30.
Joanna Nolasco is a Kaiser Media Intern in Health Reporting for the Observer.