Ah, the moment I finally realized that not being a sun-worshipper was cool. I remember it vividly. I was reading an interview in a magazine, years ago, wherein the writer described the subject, Amanda Seyfried, as being “pale and interesting.”
This moment is burned into my brain because up until that point, all I had felt as a person with the kind of stark-white skin that practically sizzles in the sunlight was, well, paranoid. Afraid. Doomed to spend the rest of my days inside, huddled around an AC unit in the dark, playing Scrabble with my similarly fair, freckled brother while everyone else in all the world was able to enjoy a warm, sunny day without the threat of second-degree burns and dappling with freckles right before your eyes. Suddenly, I wasn’t just a weird indoor kid. I was interesting!
This is not true, of course; I am still weird, but my inability to handle sun exposure is no longer something to blame. When I was a youth, older women often told me how smart I was to avoid spending too much time in the sun, which embarrassed me. I know now, of course, that this is a very real thing, and that I have both avoided the trouble of sun damage and dramatically lowered my chances of getting skin cancer just by, like, applying a sunscreen and wearing a hat. Nice.
There’s a downside, though, and that downside is that I occasionally look like an idiot. I can’t turn down each beach outing or lazy day in the park all summer long at risk of totaling my social life, so I must find ways to protect myself while outdoors instead, which often involves an umbrella and approx. ten different types of sunscreen. This isn’t as impossible—or humiliating!—as it sounds, because with skin cancer incidences on the rise and premature aging a hotter topic than ever before, we’re getting newer, better versions of the things that used to make me feel like an alien.
Regardless of your complexion, it’s always a smart idea to stick to the shade, or at least create a kind of forcefield separating you from that very big (too big?) star. And with the existence of high-SPF sunscreens that also make for excellent primers, super subtle bronzers that will make you look alive when a tan is completely out of the question, umbrellas that aren’t stupid, a sick pair of sunglasses to shield your precious eye area, even bathing suits and clothing that you’d never know offer sun protection, you can do the right thing without getting made fun of.
And here’s the real reason you should avoid the sun (other than the fact that it’s bad for you): it’s easy and in style. Just do it—you won’t regret it.
Originally published June 2016. Updated August 2017.