I'm talking, of course, about sunscreen.
When I was young, none of us ever gave the sun a second thought. I played outside as a child for hours on end, enduring blazing summers with nothing but my Rainbow Brite t-shirt and my own sweat as protection against the sun. In high school, I sported seasonal "band tans," complete with a sock line so stark that it was probably visible from space. After day-long band competitions (during which we'd all sit in the stadium bleachers watching other groups perform), many of us showcased the classic half-baked look -- we weren't under the influence, though. We were just burned on one hemisphere of our faces, with the other half free of that telltale pinkish hue.
And the thing is, I had truly great skin back then. All I ever did was wash my face in the shower with soap and water. I never moisturized, and was strictly forbidden from using cosmetics of any kind, so I was lucky to have skin that could endure puberty without any kind of topical enhancement. So I was one of the ignorant few who breezed through high school and college without ever worrying about makeup or daily skin care.
Enter grad school. My luck held, and once I'd completed my masters degree and started my career, I found that I was approached during my lunch outings to a local restaurant row, on a semi-regular basis, by Mary Kay and Avon reps, wanting to see if I'd consider becoming a rep myself. "You look like someone who knows how to take care of her skin," they'd all say, and I'd nod vaguely, more concerned with how to brush them off gently than by the implied suggestion that responsible women DID take care of their skin at all. During one particularly dry winter, I stumbled upon a light aloe-containing lotion that worked great for my hands, and just took to using a touch on my cheeks and brow after a shower, and for a few years, that was enough.
Then I turned 30.
A couple of years ago, I was touching up my eyebrows and since the light in the bathroom wasn't the best, I was leaning in toward the mirror for a close look at what I was doing. Huh, I thought. I never realized I had freckles. There they are, though -- a few on each cheekbone. How long have I had those? Wait ... maybe they're not freckles. Maybe ... uh-oh -- maybe it's SUN DAMAGE. How did THAT happen? And what the hell do I do now? I was lost. Thinking (stupidly) that a lack of moisture was the problem, I became more religious about my lotion application post-shower, and that did help my overall skin tone. But you know, Internets, that aloe alone won't protect anyone from the brutal Texas sun. And after another summer, I had to admit that I needed more help.
All of a sudden, it seemed, there were commercials about moisturizers on every time I turned on the TV. It boggled my mind to realize that I'd been tuning out these ads for years (DECADES, even), while I blissfully went about my UV-ray-soaking existence. I tried a few different moisturizers with an SPF, and they mostly made me feel like I'd just rubbed a stick of butter on my face, or that I'd slapped on a layer of Sherwin Williams instead of lotion. SPF is some serious sh!t, my friends, and it sat on my face in all its solemnity, daring my skin to take one teeny breath of air through the protective fortress of its presence.
Finally, I've found a facial moisturizer with SPF 30 that I can live with. It's Aveeno Positively Radiant, and it actually doesn't feel like anything is on my face after I've applied it. If any of you guys out there are even still reading, you're nodding and rolling your eyes, but you girls hear me -- THIS IS A BIG DEAL. I've been using it every day for a couple of weeks, and lo and behold -- I've stopped looking like death warmed over. (For a mother who doesn't get more than 2.5 hours of sleep at a stretch on any night, EVER, this is akin to truly high praise.) Instead of my face itching when I smile, ... well, it just doesn't itch.
And so, Internets, I've done it. I've entered the world of product endorsements. If you're a woman and you want to use a facial moisturizer that feels good, protects you from the sun and doesn't smell like a lifeguard's armpit, give Aveeno Positively Radiant a try. It may make you smile, and you'll be able to do it without scratching your face so vigorously that you give yourself dimples you were never supposed to have.
You can thank me later.