Life is full of challenges and we're about to throw another one at ya: Wear sunscreen every day. Sunny, overcast, whatever. We don't even care if it's ours! (That'd be great, but hey—live your life.) Just make sure you wear some sun protection. Sound good? Great. To inspire you, we threw this obstacle at three of our favorite New York women—along with a care package full of some of the top-rated and most-talked-about sunscreens to grace this domain. (The list: Coola Classic Sunscreen, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer, La Roche-Posay Anthelios, Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream with SPF 25, Elta MD, and Glossier.) Then we asked them to keep a diary of the trial period. The first guinea pig was stylist Ilona Hamer—now up to bat is writer Marjon Carlos. Take it away, Marjon:
Wednesday, April 26th
I awaken on the first day of my sunscreen challenge to discover that the sun is hiding behind a thick collection of cumulonimbus clouds, while a fog of humidity has settled over all of New York. I find it all really poetic and the irony is not lost on me. Still I persist: I have plenty of meetings in the city. I’m no dermatologist but aren’t they always talking about how even on the most overcast of days, you still need protection?
I’m wearing more makeup than usual, so I grab for Glossier’s Invisible Shield: I can’t play around with the chance of appearing ashy underneath an onslaught of cosmetics. It glides on smoothly and immediately evaporates—for women of color, this is a godsend. I then apply a subtle coating of Dior’s Airflash Spray Foundation, Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer in Tan, brush MAC’s Mineralize Skin Finish in Dark Golden all over, and apply a hint of Make’s Blot Pot Blush on my cheeks. I meticulously pencil in Maybelline’s Unstoppable Eyeliner and swipe an application of Diorshow Pump’N’Volume on my eyelids. My eyebrows get some love/help with Anastasia Beverly Hills’ Brow Powder Duo in Medium Brown. Then MAC’s Verve—my go-to lip, a brown, natural lipstain.
I’m in the back of a Juno, it’s late, I’m buzzed off multiple free cocktails, and my face feels...oily. True, my makeup and sunscreen have endured back-to-back meetings, a panel discussion, and a dinner event, but my face feels coated in a thin, grimy film. The sensation of my makeup dripping off my face cannot be shaken. Is it the weather? Is the sunscreen too oily? I get home, wipe off everything with Urban Skin Rx Cleansing Bar and feel like my skin can breathe again.
Thursday, April 27th
New York still hasn’t decided whether it wants to be spring or not, making this experiment increasingly more interesting. I look in the mirror to discover I’ve broken out, which could be blamed on my hormones (hello, period!) or...too many products from yesterday. I apply Aesop's Primrose Facial Cleansing Masque, hoping this will fix whatever the hell is wrong with my face, and I get ready for another day of running around the city. I decided to ease up off the makeup today—just a tinted moisturizer—and reach for the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream Sunscreen. It’s thick, smells like paint, and the packaging looks great on my credenza. Shallow, I know, but it’s also such a familiar product—I’ve been using the line since I was in high school—that I feel optimistic about the results.
Zooming down from Harlem on the D train, it’s late by the time I get back to Brooklyn and I feel—again—as if my entire face is sliding off. The weather had of course wavered between sunshowers and a light, muggy mist, but I think Kiehl’s has far too much oil. Somehow I had been roped into an impromptu speaking engagement that afternoon and felt more than a little self-conscious talking to a group of kids about fashion when I myself looked like I had been dipped in cooking oil. I wash everything off with Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser and hit the sack.
Friday, April 28th
I want to give my poor mug a rest today. In recent months I had been taking my skincare rather seriously. Prior to turning 34, I decided I couldn’t alone rely on the adage “black don’t crack” as my beauty regimen. A microneedling session with aesthetican Rachel Roff and the Urban Skin Rx product line had completely transformed my complexion, and so I became nervous that this breakout was a setback in my skin’s health. So I decide upon La Roche-Posay Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid—the words “ultra light” of course have my full attention, and I notice it also smells faintly like paint, which I like. After washing my face with Urban Skin’s Cleansing Bar, I apply La Roche. It’s not as translucent as Glossier’s, but its watery consistency evaporates quickly and leaves me feeling my skin unfettered. I’m relieved and apply my Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer and a small dusting of MAC powder. Taking off for meetings and drinks, I feel weightless—I sit outside for hours and enjoy the balmy weather.
I'm covered in mosquito bites after sitting al fresco far too long, but my skin feels attached to my face. Progress!
Saturday, April 29th
What joy! A real spring day! Hovering somewhere around 80 degrees, the day provides a real excuse for sunscreen and so I decide to show off plenty of skin for a museum visit. My friend texts me to ask what I’m wearing and I reply, “A slutty spring dress.”
I slather EltaMD’s UV Clear Broad Spectrum all over my face and across my exposed clavicle, and slip into a plunging-neckline number. I noticed that NY-resident dermatologist, Dr. Carlos A. Charles of Derma di Colore was singing Elta’s praises on their IG earlier, so I feel confident this lightweight coverage will be perfect for a day of galivanting. When we get to the UES, the winds are wild and whipping up plenty—I pretty much bask in the sunshowers and low key side eye every single person who claims it’s too hot. New York is a different city in the warmer months—hell, I’m a different person in the warmer months—and I can feel my skin quite literally opening up in response to the rise in temperature. It’s glorious.
I arrive home around four in the morning after walking all the way home from a party in Bushwick. I feel sunkissed, like my skin has been left with an imprint of heat. What I don’t feel is any evidence of film or product build-up, which is impressive considering I have been out all day. For me, I’m realizing that it’s all about coverage that lets my skin breathe and doesn’t make me look ashy—far too long sunscreen companies have left WOC out of that equation—which is why Elta is topping my list half-way into the challenge. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror that night/morning and I see I’ve gotten a little sun (which I love). Dozing off, I think about all the tanning I plan to do this summer…
Sunday, April 30th
I rouse late and brunch beckons, but it looks...cold outside. I am immediately depressed and wonder what sick joke this is. Throwing on a fleece-lined track suit and trenchcoat, I keep my beauty super natural. Just a few dollops of Coola’s Classic Sunscreen, my tinted moisturizer, and throw my hair up into messy bun. The blue metallic top of the tube reminds me of surfing and the fact that touching water is more far off than previously thought. I feel myself slipping deeper into a fit of S.A.D... My friend and I attempt to eat outside under heat lamps, but it’s too frigid. We retreat inside and I am soon returning home under late April’s gray clouds.
Sunday nights demand masks, so I apply Aesop’s Primrose Facial Cleansing Masque again and watch horrible Bravo television programming to detox. I apply Urban Skin Rx’s Aloe Cort Calming Cream, Barbara Sturm’s Darker Skin Tones Hyaluronic Serum, and Nuori’s Facial Cream afterwards. My face feels happy, moisturized, and soft—the breakout is a distant memory.
Monday, May 1st
The sun is bright and while there is a slight chill to the air, I decide to use perhaps the most beach-ready of sunscreens: Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Dry Touch. Its buttery mixture is that drugstore staple that all parents slather on their children while they play absentmindedly in the sand. Its smell stings and reminds me of the pool; I can already tell I’m not going to be into this. I apply my regular makeup routine and take off.
By dinner, I’m over smelling like a beach ball and keep thinking about Elta MD’s odorless, weightless formula. I resolve you need something to really take you from day to night when you’re in the city. Neutrogena is weightless, though, and my makeup doesn’t feel caked—a relief. I retreat home after dinner and clean off my face with Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser and a few dabs of Urban Skin Rx’s Aloe Cort Calming Cream.
Photos via Marjon Carlos.