This is one of those posts that I’ve been meaning to do all summer long. Maybe in the back of my mind, I’ve been feeling like the season lasts forever. Lord knows July and August dragged on long enough. But all of a sudden it’s supposed to be over, the kids are back at school, magazines are talking about “new fall tones”, and every storefront window is changing for new cold-weather fashions.

As someone who comes from a two-season climate (rainy and dry), I object to this seasonal rush. I say, as long as it’s hot and sunny like summer, it’s still summer. Can you still get a sunburn walking across the mall parking lot where you are? Did you get baked and sweaty outside at all yesterday or over the weekend? Well then there you go, you’re still dealing with summer beauty issues. So again, sorry it’s taken me so long to review these — here’s some hair and beauty products loaded with SPF to keep those harmful rays at bay. Better late than never, right? Right?

The concept of hair products that offered sun protection was kind of new to me — I used to slather my hair with deep conditioner when I went to the beach back home, and I always bring a wide-brimmed straw hat or sun visor when I’m going to spend some hours in the sun. But recently, I was noticing that my hair looked… shall we say, extra crispy after an outdoorsy afternoon at Crandon Park. The highlights I got last Christmas are totally grown out, and when my hair gets dry, the blond bits look like straight-up tumbleweeds. Not cute. I jumped at the chance to try some hair products with built-in UVA and UVB protectors to help filter the sun’s rays. Between Miami and Trinidad, I can use them pretty much year-round!

Redken’s UV Rescue Shimmering Defense is a creamy, citrus scented potion that leaves a shiny shield on your locks to protect against color degradation and drying sun rays. It left my curls looking super shiny and feeling a little greasy, but I was cool with that because a.) isn’t all sunscreen kinda greasy? I have yet to encounter a sun protection product with a mattifying texture. And b.) I figured having a moist (but not TOO moist) product would help me keep my hands out of my hair. Seriously, I play with my hair all the time. I need to stop. The back of the package says “reapply throughout the day,” but I was fine with just one application, and I lay on the sand for a little more than two hours. When I rinsed my hair with sea water, it felt slick and thick and soft. I like this Redken stuff. Now the Fresh Curls line is on my radar, too.

I’ve got mixed feelings about Frizz Ease Thermal Protection. In general, I don’t do so great with John Frieda serums — they work well for bellas with more relaxed curls, I think, but in the past they’ve just given me a gloppy fro. The formula seems to be a bit lighter now, but it was a fresh spin on the ol’ Frizz Ease issues — hair that just felt coated but not moisturized and left my hand shiny with oil after running my fingers through my hair. I think it’s a texture thing — I have white and Latin friends who swear by the Frizz-Ease, because it weighs down their light flyaway hair. After wearing this stuff on a day at the beach, when I washed it out I found my hair to be tangled and I needed a second wash to be sure all the product was rinsed clean. So until Frizz-Ease serum comes out with a “just for naturals” formula that features more natural oils to moisturize below the surface, I’ll give this stuff a break. (I have different feelings about the Curl Around shampoo and condish and will review those soon).

Let’s talk skin protection. When I find a good suntan lotion I tend to stick with it, which is why I’ve been working my Kiehl’s Vital Sun Protection SPF 25 in the handy-dandy spray bottle. But life on Miami Beach is all about a “sexy tan,” and if that’s what you’re seeking, Kiehl’s might not give you what you’re looking for. If you’re heading on a romantic vacation for two, or you’re hoping to ask a sunbathing suitor to rub some lotion on your back, a spray bottle won’t cut it. Carol’s Daughter Gelee de Soleil Browning Oil will. This stuff is decadent, rich, moisturizing, sun protecting, and will leave your legs and arms with a luminous glow. It’s loaded with palm kernel oil, cocoa, shea, mango and avocado butters, and offers SPF 15 protection. Not to mention it smells divine, like coconut and mango. None of that traditional suntan lotion scent here! And I’m pleased to report my afternoon in the sun resulted in happy, brown, unburnt legs. This cheapskate says the bottle’s a bit teeny at $14, but the quality of the product excuses the price/size ratio.

When it comes to face protection, I tend to go for a higher SPF. My face is pretty much always exposed to the sun, and I know there’s truth in the adage “black don’t crack,” but I figure I shouldn’t take any chances. I already have teeny wrinkles around my eyes, and I don’t need to go for that leathery texture that so many Miami women seem to adore. Every day I use a moisturizer with SPF, and my recent favorite is Ambi’s Even and Clear Daily Moisturizer.

Growing up, Ambi was the one-word skin lightener that everyone talked about in hushed undertones. But now that hydroquinone is banned from over-the-counter products, Ambi’s put on a new face. Their Even and Clean line aims to even out skin tone and reduce discolorations with natural soy and antioxidant Vitamins C & E. The daily moisturizer is a thick white cream that goes on a bit heavy and takes some rubbing in, but leaves your skin feeling baby smooth and powder-soft. The Skin Cancer Foundation recently gave it a Seal of Recommendation for superior product technology and lasting sun protection. I’ve been using it daily for two weeks. First of all, the usual pore-clogging, heavy cream feeling that suntan lotion usually has, isn’t an issue. It rubs in thick but absorbs well, which is key to enjoying fun in the sun in any hot climate. You won’t have sunscreen sweating into your eyes with this stuff. With an SPF of 30, it’ll keep your face extra-protected, and I also started using it to protect my neck to good effect.

In terms of clearing up my skin… I’m not so sure. I’ve been sampling so many skin care products recently, that I can’t honestly pinpoint one mark-lightening cream and say YES, this was the stuff that helped reduce my hyperpigmentation. But I will say that Ambi has helped in my efforts to have a flawless, uniform-colored skin tone. So I definitely recommend it for bellas who are seeking a solid, reliable, daily sun protecting moisturizer.

Wanna try it yourself? Write in and tell me your favorite fun-in-the-sun skin or hair remede, and I’ll choose ten winners to recieve their very own Ambi Even and Clear SPF 30 Daily Moisturizer! Please make sure you’ve used your REAL e mail address — nothing’s more frustrating than trying to contact a prize winner and your e mails keep bouncing back. I’ll close the comments on Thursday and announce prize-winners over the weekend! Yay, Tuesday giveaway!

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Mrs518 says:
September 4, 2007, 8:24 am
Hi Bella great post. I use this stuff called the orginal bombshell Spf 30, from sephora, it works great and doesn't smell to bad either.
Imla says:
September 4, 2007, 12:38 pm
Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera Gelly not only protects my face, keeping it soft and moisturized during the summer, I get that same protection for my wash-n-go hair. Love this stuff!
calming corners says:
September 4, 2007, 6:49 pm
I love Ambi's even and clear moisturizer. I started using it this summer along with the face wash it works wonders. Great Post!
M.L. says:
September 4, 2007, 9:58 pm
I am a frequent reader who isn't an afrobella, more like an italian/spanish-bella, and I just wanted to let you know that I have the same dilemma with frizz-ease products! My very coarse unruly hair just seems to get goopy looking when i use it, and my hands always feel gross. I am still hunting for a product that will deal with the frizz without that feeling.
ladybugfromthechi says:
September 5, 2007, 8:31 am
Hi Bella, I received my bronzer yesterday. Thank you very much. I love it! Thank you again!...ladybugfromthechi
Mrs518 says:
September 5, 2007, 10:57 am
Hey M.L. you should try the CURLS line, its for all types of curly hair and it smells and feels great. Here's the website:
ednita says:
September 5, 2007, 1:49 pm
Hi Afrobella! So far, my tried and trusted daily Spf moisturizer is Olay complete for sensitive skin. I prefer this because there is no fragrance and it seems to last all day. And my skin stays well moisturized during the hot and humid months. I've been eyeing AMBI though, so It would be cool to try. Also, for my hair, I just try to keep it moisturezed w/ oil and covered with either a scarf or wide brimmed sun hat if I know I'm going out doors. Have a Great Week!
Tameir says:
September 5, 2007, 7:24 pm
Hello Bella, My favorite fun-in-the-sun product is my foundation, Bare Escentuals Bare Minerals. I'm not one for going bare-faced, even on the hottest and most humid of days. I get a light, luminous, not-too-made up look and SPF 15 sun protection all in one. ~*T*~
Angela says:
September 6, 2007, 9:50 am
I like to use a little carrot oil mixed with a little olive oil on my hair after it has been in the sun for a little too long. I use a brand I get from the beauty supply store; I cannot remember the name. It comes in a little tube, and I use it for hot-oil treatments as well. Thanks for the giveaway!
Peajai says:
September 6, 2007, 10:21 am
Unfortunately, I haven't had much fun in the sun since going natural. I plan to go on a nice sunny vacation every year though so that will change soon. Having natural hair would have saved me tons of time spent blow-drying when I went to Hawaii three years ago. But I do know that the Fantasia IC Hair Polisher Gel that I slick over my hair every day has sunscreen in it, and I haven't noticed any ill effects on my hair from the time I have spent in the sun this summer.
Catrina says:
September 6, 2007, 11:12 am
I'm a mixed afrobella who uses the tiniest amount of coconut oil, (to protect the cuticle), and the Ion line, whether it's a blow out or natural. It's like, works with the frizz & has UV protection. Also, I've taken to using the Citre Shine (fresh fusion) for the additional frizz & UV; plus the smell is great. My curls look healthy, not weighted & my blow outs actually have a ton of movement. Finally, no split ends!
Afrobutterfly says:
September 6, 2007, 11:40 am
i've been think about trying ambi for some time, but in the mean while i use aveeno sunblock on my body and black opal dail fade cream with spa 15 moisturizer. i doesn't do any fading, but it's a pretty nice moisturizer. and for my hair well i'm wearing box braids now, and the best hair tip for that is to wash it every week like you do with your normal hair and to use a leave in conditioner, i use the generic infusium 23 leave in every night. and to oil my scalp i use Wild Growth Oil on my scalp it absorbs easily and is made of natural oils.
Prettyladybug says:
September 6, 2007, 11:59 am
I had been using Aveeno Clear Complexion Cleansing Pads (great for exfoliating!) to clean my skin and afterwards I have been using Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer with SPF30. These were good to even the skin tone and it really did improve the darks spots I was seeing but it suddenly stopped working! I would love to try the Ambi though.
amanda says:
September 6, 2007, 12:05 pm
i love the site...i didnt realizeyou had to spf your hair i do love the site especially for a transitioning, just getting her feet wet in beauty products bella like me..thank you for all you do :)
hpy2bnpy says:
September 6, 2007, 2:40 pm
bella! Hair - On Saturday mornings after my shower but before I go out to run my errands I rub a dollop of Miss Jessie's Rapid Recovery Treatment into my twa or what's left of my tired twist out. The product gets absorbed into my hair all day long then when I rinse it out my hair is softer than I've ever seen it, without any oliy or greasy residue. Skin - Trader Joe's Purify Grapefruit Chamomile Sea Salt Scrub is a high quality exfoliator with a fresh, happy, clean citrusy scent at a price that is less than half that of other scrubs. hpy2bnpy
Melinda says:
September 6, 2007, 3:52 pm
Hey Bella. My fun in the sun tip is not really a tip...but a way of living.... Living in Harlem, NY...a fun in the sun day would be to grab a blanket with my boo, walk through Central Park (we are both teachers) find a perfect spot, and just chill. We might have a bottle White or Rose, some Spinach Dip, some brownies... And with the sun's glare, I'll have my Chinatown designer shades...and that's about it. So I guess my fun in the sun tip would be to make sure that you make the time to enjoy the sun. I'm one of those black people who really doesn't put much emphasis on protecting my skin from the sun. Could be ignorance on my part; but worrying about skin cancer or premature aging or crows feet is the last thing on my mind when I'm out there enjoying the gift that is the sun. It is possible that I feel this way because I'm brown to dark skinned. And...yes I know that black people can get skin cancer.... For the most part, I'll moisturize my skin with Oil of Olay ( a littel dab), and dust my face off with some nuetral powder to prevent that Pork Chop shine. (smile) M.
AJ says:
September 6, 2007, 4:33 pm
Hey Bella, I would love to try that Ambi too. My summer skin remedy is to keep bug spray every where I go. Nothing irritates my skin more than summer mosquitoes. I still use the Avon Skin-So-Soft, or OFF Deep Woods if I don't mind smelling like DEET that day. Also, it's pretty hot in my apartment, so I keep my sprays (perfumes, hair oils) in the fridge. It gives me a little refresher in the morning when I'm getting ready for the day (and usually the most flustered and hot). I hope I win! AJ
Crystal says:
September 6, 2007, 5:56 pm
My fun in the sun tip(s) are: Hair - Conditioner even if its not a leave in leave it in :) face - Oil of Olay moisturizer spf 15 skin - baby oil (i know its awful but i still tan like its 1985 lol)
styleosophy says:
September 6, 2007, 6:55 pm
I have curly, short hair. Since I wash, gel and go, it's easy to add a little sunblock (or better yet a hat) during the warmer months. I use Phytomist by Bath and Body Works. You just spray it on. Works with damp or dry hair. For my face I use Oil of Olay Regenerist, with UV. Then for my body I just pick up CVS brand suncreen. If you are applying enough sunscreen on your whole body every day, you should be running out just about every month.It's inexpensive, unscented, and glides on pretty well. Because it's unscented, and I love perfume I can scent it myself and still get the moisturzing benefits.
Latoya Peterson says:
September 6, 2007, 9:21 pm
Favorite hair repair - Bath and Body Works Manoi Oil. Nice scent, and works great on relaxed, overly dry hair (though it is really supposed to be for the body.)