May 11 2011
Mark C O’Flaherty
I have the kind of vampire-like Celtic skin that can burn in less than 10 minutes in direct sunlight; the best summer tan I can muster is a slightly flushed peach colour. When I’m travelling somewhere particularly fierce of ray, and I can’t be assured of shade, I’ve even taken to carrying an umbrella (or a “gentleman’s parasol” if you will) to protect myself. I’m quite happy to remain forever pale and interesting, but I do relish the beach, the pool and all the other outdoor summertime activities that those blessed with more tolerant, Mediterranean skin enjoy while transforming into a honey brown colour.
Until a few years ago, if I wasn’t wearing long sleeves or supplying my own shade, I’d have to resort to using the kind of high-factor sunblock that usually comes with cartoon images of toddlers with beachballs on the label, squeezes out of its bottle like heavy eggshell emulsion and sits on the surface of the skin like kabuki make-up. Then I bought a container of ultra-high SPF Aveeno sunblock in a branch of the CVS drugstore in New York. It was life-changing.
I’ve been buying Aveeno moisturiser and body wash for years, and it’s one of my most trusted brands. Its sunblock – which has recently been tweaked and rechristened Hydrosport Sunblock Spray ($10.49) in SPFs of 50 and 85 – was a revelation. It sprays as a clear, light mist. There’s no unpleasant smell, and I don’t have to rub it in. It absorbs quickly and invisibly, even on wet skin. And it really works. I never burn. The canister is also very pleasingly designed; the colouring and typography befit a premium, grown-up brand. And unlike other spray products I’ve tried, the nozzle doesn’t become clogged and start spraying erratically.
Annoyingly, even though they are commonly available high-street products in the US, Aveeno hasn’t introduced its sunblock sprays to the UK, so I continue to bulk buy on regular trips to New York, or place orders through transatlantic-commuting friends (although you can buy via Amazon and pay duty on the import). Two cans usually get me through a fortnight of beach holiday. Now if I run out and have to resort to the white emulsion again, I stay firmly in the shade.