As the magazine's beauty and travel editor, I wind up in some...unusual situations. From marital maintenance to power-tanning, here's one I couldn't help but write about.

When travel writers and editors hang out, you can count the seconds before everyone's talking about recent trips, upcoming trips—and the art of cramming laundry, bills and marriage into 12-hour stopovers at home. But at last weekend's Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conference (the best one to attend if you happen to be an aspiring travel journalist, by the way), conversation turned toward something totally out of character for this crowd: skincare.

Photo courtesy of Candace Rose Rardon

We were sitting in the San Francisco Bay Area shopping plaza that houses the conference—and watching as one by one, locals of varying degrees of pallor ducked into the neighborhood tanning salon. "Who knew spray-tanning was such a big thing in the land of Kumbaya?" I asked completely naively. "Not just spray-tanning," said a friend who lives in the area: "Cancer coffins, too."

Tanning beds?! People were still turning themselves into entombed blue light specials on the heels of the first ever—and hugely publicized—plea by the U.S. Surgeon General's Office to cut that s*&^ out?

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Photo: Whatshername/Flickr/Creative Commons

To say nothing of the new FDA requirement that all tanning beds bear black-box warnings—the agency's direst kind? (Among other cheery text points within this particular black box: the fact that tanning bed regulars will need routine skin cancer checkups.)

So naturally, I was convinced my friend was wrong about the tanning beds in our midst. What resident of Progressive Central was willing to increase her melanoma risk by up to 75%—let me repeat: 75%! — in the name of looking like JWoww? And to prove the point, I walked into the salon myself.

But sure enough, there was a bed. Worse, there were people waiting for it.

Lordy, was the beauty editor soapbox calling. And while I resisted the urge to stand on it and start quoting from the Surgeon General's warning right then and there, you're going to have to indulge me for a minute here:

"Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, and most cases are preventable. Skin cancer greatly affects quality of life, and it can be disfiguring or even deadly. Medical treatment for skin cancer creates substantial health care costs for individuals, families, and the nation. The number of Americans who have had skin cancer at some point in the last three decades is estimated to be higher than the number for all other cancers combined, and skin cancer incidence rates have continued to increase in recent years."

And that's one of the lighthearted parts of the statement.

But back to the plaza where my travel writer friends awaited the verdict. "Okay, so you were right about the tanning bed," I conceded before launching into a lecture about the ravages of UV rays—my own sad, little rage against the machine.

Turns out, however, I was preaching to the choir: I should have realized long ago that people who trek, ski and snorkel their way around the world for a living become suncare experts by necessity. As do those whose jobs involve reviewing hotel pools, beachside cocktails and cabana boys, of course.


So to give the story a happy ending, I've decided to mine my friends' experiences (and my own) for SPF gold. This is the stuff that holds up to city streets, mountain peaks and everything in between—but not unless you apply half an hour before you go out, use a generous helping (a shot glass for your body, a quarter for your face) and reapply every two hours, or right after swimming or intense sweating.

Now…with all of the above in mind, scroll down, slather up and for the love of healthy skin, don't get in bed with the enemy.

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L'Oréal Paris Advanced Suncare Silky Sheer Face Lotion 50+ is substantial enough to provide serious protection, but ethereal enough to wear under makeup—a nice bonus considering how primer-esque the matte finish feels ($11, at drugstores or


Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream SPF 50+ for Face—if I may be so obnoxious as to quote myself from an interview on the EDWRR website—is something I've sworn by since I tested the formula on an island in the Philippines where the average daily temperature was 300 degrees, with 300 percent humidity ($35.00,


Sun Bum PRO SPF 50 Sunscreen, though not surf-exclusive, is at the very least surf-friendly. Highly water- and sweat-resistant—and not at all prone to slippery palm syndrome—this stuff is a favorite of the Hawaiian Water Patrol, among other lifeguard and beach rescue associations. ($13,

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Kiehl's Activated Sun Protector Sunscreen for Body SPF 50, which borrows Goji Berries and other power-antioxidants from the facial care world, feels as much like a skincare treatment as a sunscreen ($25,


Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Stick Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 70 is easy to apply on the go, and sheer enough that if you're doing so without a mirror, you'll have no telltale streaks ($10, at drugstores).

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Vichy Aqualia Thermal Broad Spectrum SPF 25 is lightweight, non-stinging even when you sweat—and most important, a rare find for dry skin: "This feels good and moist without that sticky, flypaper feel that a lot of sunscreens have," in the words of one loyalist ($31,

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Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 Sunscreen is perfection when you want a bit of coverage with your SPF. Whereas other tinted moisturizers can feel either too "foundation-y" or sheer, this one is just right, plus a little goes a long way ($43,


Aquaphor Lip Repair + Protect Broad Spectrum SPF 30 is an old cult favorite in a relatively new formulation that not only treats chapping—and gamely glosses lips in the process—but protects them from the sun, too ($5, at drugstores).


Beyond Coastal Natural Lip & Face Screen SPF 31—with a blend of UV-shielding minerals—is just the thing for anyone who's synthetic- and sun damage-averse ($7,

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La Roche Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra-Light Sunscreen Fluid—which just nabbed a CEW Insiders' Choice Beauty Award (the skincare equivalent of an Oscar)—is a lean, mean, UV damage-fighting machine. Though featherweight, the formula packs an impressive combo platter of filters, antioxidants and subtle mattefiers($30,