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One of my best friends during puberty was a Swede who had a tan addiction. He was traumatized by the dark Nordic winters of his childhood and would overcompensate by doing all the things dermatologists advise you not to do. He actively avoided the shadow. Sometimes, when driving in the back seat of a car, he would roll down the window, close his eyes, and turn his face into the light like a turtle, risking beheading for a quick UV exposure. I must have been impressed by his commitment, because unfortunately I also took away some of his enthusiasm for tanning. I’ve always hated sunscreen and was ready to let my boyfriend convince me that this stuff is secretly bad for me. But although he had the benefit of a dark complexion, I’m at the mercy of my Irish genes. When we got into town after a day of lazy roasting, we would curl up as Charles Bronson and Lobsterman.
Two decades later I am happy to say that I have outgrown this folly. Nowadays I can do pretty good soaping myself when I’m outside for long periods of time. I guess the die-hard skin care givers have finally haunted me with their ominous message about how excessive sunlight can damage my skin in ways that are undetectable early on but will come back later in life. Or maybe I’m just more aware that, despite what the skeptics say, sunscreen is a valuable form of melanoma prevention. And having recently spotted Skinnie’s Sungel, now I hate wearing it a little less.
The big selling point at Skinnies, which launched in New Zealand in 2010, is that you don’t need a lot of it. The product is essentially sunscreen in concentrated form: a “pea-sized blob” is enough to protect the face, neck and ears. (I usually take a marble-sized blob; after my wasted youth, I run my bets.) Unlike your traditional SPF lotions, which tend to be white and runny, Skinnies has a firmer, pasty consistency and continues to go clear. Most of the time I have stubble for a few days that act like Velcro when I try to smear regular sunscreen. Part of my long-standing antipathy for the stuff comes from the fact that I still have white streaks on my face even after several minutes of diligent massaging. Skinnies is practically invisible. In addition to being discreet, it dries very quickly, so you don’t have to languish in the shade for half an hour while your friends frolic in their vitamin A-rich ecstasy.
Skinnies are available in an SPF 30 “Lifestyle” version (water-resistant up to 40 minutes) and an SPF 50 “Sport” version (reef-safe, water-resistant up to four hours). It’s on the more expensive side: the SPF 30 version costs $ 32 for 3.4 ounces, while the same tube of the SPF 50 product costs $ 49.95. This may seem exorbitant, but since you really only need a tiny amount, those 3.4 ounces can go a long way. While it can of course be used as full body protection, I would recommend saving skinnies for your face and neck and bringing an extra (cheaper) product with you when you visit your local nude beach.
(I wouldn’t get too hung up on the lettering either. I know it sounds radical, but you don’t really need the Sport Edition sunscreen to exercise. I have the SPF 30 version for several sweaty outdoor activities. Used workouts and had no issues with burning eyes or accidental burning sensation.)
In case you’re wondering, my Scandinavian friend was finally cured of his habit after another sun-worshiping zealot gave him an ointment that was supposed to speed up the tanning process but temporarily turned it into a raisin. Thanks to Skinnies, I hope I can avoid a similar fate.
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