Confession: I used to tan in tanning beds—like, a lot. In my teens and early twenties, I thought I looked better with bronzed skin, and I was set on having a tan, despite knowing it could come back and bite me later in life.
I finally saw the light and decided to start avoiding the light as much as possible—which really means I swapped out my obsession with being tan for an obsession with anti-aging skin care. Now, I have a dedicated Retin-A routine, frequently rock sun hats, stay in the shade whenever possible, and wear tons of SPF. What can I say? When I get into something, I get into it.
No matter your age or how much time you’ve spent in the sun over the years, it’s never too late to start wearing sunscreen religiously. Here’s why.
Wear It Every. Single. Day.
To prevent the risk of skin cancer and avoid accelerated signs of aging, wearing SPF every day is crucial. Yes, even if you don’t live in California. And yes, even if you spend 98% of your day indoors. You probably don’t need to be told to wear sunscreen during the summer, but if you don’t wear it year-round, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
In the winter, apply sunscreen to your face, neck, and hands—and any other exposed skin. UV rays can reach your skin through the windows of your car, office, and home. Not only that, but even just five minutes a day of unprotected sun exposure adds up to over 30 hours a year.
Also, in the summer, don’t just slather on SPF when you’re heading to the beach. Just because you’re not wearing a swimsuit doesn’t mean the sunlight can’t damage your skin. Sun is sun, whether you’re at the lake, running errands, or taking a walk. That’s why it’s a good idea to apply sunscreen to any areas not covered by clothing.
What About Vitamin D?
If you’re worried about getting enough vitamin D, the folks at Harvard Medical School can offer some peace of mind. Apparently, although SPF can reduce the amount of vitamin D absorbed into the skin, in most cases, you’ll still absorb some. Plus, you can get vitamin D from a lot of foods or take the supplement shortcut, like I do.
The Thing About SPF
Some people argue that the best anti-aging cream is actually sunscreen because it prevents fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration, and age spots from appearing on the skin. And yet, as Charlotte Cho explains in The Little Book of Skin Care: Korean Beauty Secrets for Healthy, Glowing Skin, the thing about SPF is that wearing it won’t actually make you look better or younger than you currently are. But! If you wear it religiously, it will allow you to continue looking the same.
The fact that SPF is a preventative skincare product (as opposed to something that enhances the skin) might be one of the reasons many people are reluctant to commit.
It Doesn’t Have to Be a Pain in the Butt
If putting on sunscreen every single day seems like overkill, I’m here to tell you that it’s totally worthwhile and not actually that hard. And with the right product, you might even look forward to applying it.
The best SPF products are affordable, easily absorbed, and enjoyable to use. Try a few and see what you like. While SPF itself won’t make your skin look better, you can find lots of sunscreens containing other skin-enhancing ingredients, like beauty oils, vitamin C, or hyaluronic acid.
Right now, I’m on a Korean beauty kick and have been using COSRX Shield Fit Snail Essence Sun Cream SPF 50+ for my face, but I also love Supergoop! Glow Oil SPF 50. For my body, I’m currently into Alba Botanica Hawaiian Sunscreen SPF 45.
See? Protecting your body’s largest organ from UV damage doesn’t have to be a drag, and it’s better to start now than never.
Theresa Holland is a freelance writer and lifestyle blogger specializing in wellness, beauty, relationships, and personal finance. Her work has appeared on Verywell Health, The Spruce, TripSavvy, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, and The Financial Diet. Theresa lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and son.