When I grew up in Trinidad, I don’t know how I was able to handle it. I lived in the Caribbean from birth until age 18, and I didn’t wear sunscreen on a daily basis. I don’t even remember really wearing sunglasses to protect my eyes until later in life. I don’t remember ever really getting sunburned until I migrated to Miami – and I can only attribute that to my mom, who has always been one to wear a big hat or sun visor and avoid the sun’s damaging rays as much as possible.

I didn’t get my first real sun burn until living in Miami. I didn’t realize the importance of daily sun protection until then, and now I wear a moisturizer and primer with SPF in it every day. That very act has made a huge difference for me – my skin is now more even toned and I find that I have fewer issues with hyperpigmentation, due to my vigilant SPF use. I’m not saying I won’t ever get a sunburn again but now I know what to do to avoid one, and how to heal myself if I do get a bit too much sun exposure.

Sunscreen photo via Shutterstock

Sunscreen photo via Shutterstock

This post is for the bellas who want to protect their skin from the elements so they can maintain their beauty in years to come. It’s for the moms who are looking for sun protection for their little ones. It’s for YOU because we ALL need to protect ourselves from the sun. ALL of us. Melanin won’t protect you from sun damage, we all need to do our part to protect our body’s largest organ.

As Dr. Brooke Jackson told me in 2012: “The message has come across to the Gwyneth Paltrows of the world, that they need to protect their skin from sun damage. When I look at the demographic of patient complaints, my darker skinned patients come in for issues like hair loss and even skin tone. My first question always is, are you wearing a sunscreen? We take high blood pressure medications that make you more susceptible to the sun. Black people can absolutely get sunburns, and we can get skin cancer. WE are not getting the same attention. Sunscreen is necessary for everyone.”

First things first – some helpful sunscreen info, via Neutrogena:

1 ounce of sunscreen x 2 hours in the sun = optimal protection.

The FDA defines a single sunscreen application for the whole body as one ounce. In reality, people do not typically apply that much, so higher level SPFs provide a safeguard against under-application.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, lower SPFs provide less protection, and over time, the cumulative effect of sun exposure is significant. That’s why SPF 30+ formulas are very valuable in preventing sun damage.

Let me tell you some of the products I’ve tested out, that I can recommend for people of all ages and all shades of beautiful!

Let’s begin with the drugstore brands!

Neutrogena has amazing sun protection products, for adults, kids and babies. I’m a big fan of their UltraSheer line, which absorbs into skin with maximum SPF and minimal trace of evidence. Plus I live for a spray-on sunscreen and their Ultra Sheer Body Mist Broad Spectrum in SPF 70 is my drugstore go-to!

Banana Boat was probably the first sunscreen brand I was aware of, and to this day I enjoy their products. The formulations of their SPF lotions have become lighter and more easily absorbent, and their Ultra Defense Sunscreen Continuous Clear Spray Sunscreens really do spray on clear, and remain water resistant for 80 minutes.

Hawaiian Tropic and I go way back – I remember a friend who LOVED their Dark Tanning Oil back in the day and the fragrance reminds me of Maracas Beach in Trinidad for that reason. That tanning oil has SPF 0. So that is NOT my jam. I really like their Silk Hydration lotion sunscreen, it’s super hydrating and smells amazing (AND it works)!

Let’s talk about department store, higher end sun protection products!

Coola is a brand I recently discovered – I had the good fortune of meeting one of the brand’s founders during an in-store event at Ulta here in Chicago. Coola is all about organic sun protection, and their products aren’t the cheapest on the market but they are definitely effective and luxurious. Their SPF sprays are to die for – with up to SPF 30 protection, they come in fragrances like pina colada and citrus mimosa. I saw Coola sunscreen all over the loveliest spas in Las Vegas during my last visit – and you KNOW they need good sun protection out there!

Kiehls may come to mind for moisturizers and face cleansers, but the venerable brand also makes amazing sun protection products that are lightweight and work great. My husband uses their Activated Sun Protector Lotion for Face to keep the top of his head from burning – and he loves it because it’s light and not thick and streaky when you apply it.

California Naturel is the newest sunscreen line to come across my desk, and so far I like it a lot. Their line of skin care and sun protection is plant and mineral based, and their SPF 30 all natural sunscreen is made with zinc oxide, shea butter, and marigold flower extract for hydration and protection.

Remember, the sun doesn’t discriminate – wear sunscreen and rock a big floppy hat or sun visor to protect yourself this summer!

What’s your go-to sunscreen?



pets says:
July 10, 2014, 12:42 pm
We use Neutrogena. This post is very important as skin cancer is on the rise.
Kimmy says:
July 10, 2014, 3:46 pm
100% Agreed! I bathe in sunscreen, lol. It's funny how you said that up until 18 in Trinidad you never got sunburnt until you moved to Miami. As a child and teenager I never got burnt either (growing up in The Bahamas) and always had a sort of "tan" going on (I'm fair) but when I moved to the States for school, all of sudden my chemistry changed and I got paler, developed freckles and now turn red in the sun. This continues to be the case even after being back home for 10+ years. Weird.
Jess Lee says:
July 10, 2014, 11:27 pm
Same here growing up in Hawaii. Don't recall ever really using sunscreen but now don't leave home without it. Having been burnt a time or two as an adult changes the way you deal with sun. Also knowing the possible consequences makes you rethink being a sun goddess. I still love the sun and warmth, but sunscreen, a floppy hat and available shade are a must.
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D.E. says:
July 16, 2014, 1:02 pm
I find myself trying different ones. Right now, on my Body, I've been using a free bottle of Kiss My Face SPF 30 and on my face De Vita Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30. It's been quite a quest to find an affordable sunscreen that's not loaded with chemicals and one that won't make me look like a 'duppy' as some of us might call it. I'm not entirely satisfied yet but the ingredients list and the price is right.
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