Wednesday, August 20, 2014

summer sunscreen review

If I were going to list my favorite topics of discussion, sunscreen would come in second place (right after the hilarious/adorable/annoying-but-still-precious things my cat does), so this post will be a little longer than usual. I'm very pale, so unprotected sun exposure burns me pretty immediately, but I am ultimately concerned for the long-term health (and, yes, future appearance) of my skin. There have been so many advances in the technology of active ingredients, and even more in the formulas of sunscreens; new versions are no longer chalky, thick, or greasy and some are actually delightful to use. And since we know how damaging unprotected sun exposure can be, there's no reason not to use sunscreen!

Before mini-reviews of the sunscreens I used on vacation, I'd like to make a few notes about sunscreen in general. First of all, I have no trouble using chemical sunscreens (like avobenzone and oxybenzone), though many find them irritating to the skin (they can definitely be more irritating to the eyes though!). Those with sensitive skin might prefer mineral (or "physical") blockers like zinc oxide. These ingredients have a reputation for leaving a white cast on the skin, but newer formulations have decreased that effect. I typically prefer the feel of chemical sunscreens (which work, in simple terms, by absorbing and filtering the rays rather than reflecting them away from the skin, as physical sunscreens do). Most sunscreens these days are broad spectrum, meaning they protect against UVA and UVB rays. While both UVA and UVB cause burns and skin damage (aging and cancer) UVB are primarily responsible for burns while UVA rays can penetrate deeper, causing damage that will be apparent later. SPF is a measure of protection against UVB rays only, and it refers to the number of times longer it will take for your skin to burn than if it were unprotected. I think it's a pretty illogical measure, honestly. For example, on a day when I could get a sunburn in 25 minutes, SPF 50 would protect me against a burn for 1250 minutes, or almost 21 hours. The sunscreen doesn't actually last that long, and the SPF doesn't reflect protect against UVA rays (which are less likely to burn me but are still damaging), and the sunscreen doesn't block 100% of rays anyway. In other words, SPF 30 does not protect twice as well as SPF 15; it actually probably only provides an additional 4% or so of protection. SPF 50 only provides about 5% more protection than SPF 15. That said, I like a high SPF--50 is great. That extra bit of protection seems negligible, but I burn easily and would like to prevent as much damage as I can. Don't let a high SPF mislead you though--you still need to apply generously and apply often. Finally, I'd like to mention vitamin D. A common excuse for not wearing sunscreen is the need for vitamin D, which the body can only produce with the help of UVB rays. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, some bodies need only 5 minutes of exposure per day, and some skin can't even produce the daily recommended amount. Furthermore, over exposure to to UVB rays can even deplete vitamin D levels. Vitamin D can be obtained through diet though, which may be a more reliable way to get enough. It occurs naturally in many foods, and many foods are D-fortified; or you can take a vitamin D supplement. A doctor can tell you if your vitamin D is low, and the best way for you to get enough. They'll also tell you to wear sunscreen!

Now on to the sunscreens!

1. Neutrogena Beach Defense Lotion SPF 70
The fragrance put me off at first; it's a very artificial citrus scent, like a cleaner.  However, I was generally pleased with its performance. I like the SPF 70, it feels great on the skin, and it did prevent sunburn. It stung quite a bit if it got in my eyes, though, and it's a little pricey per ounce.

2. L'Oréal Advanced Suncare Invisible Protect Dry Oil Spray SPF 50+
I love this sunscreen. The sunscreen comes out in a good, directed mist (nothing like the useless aerosol cloud of the Quick Dry Sheer Finish) and is slightly viscous. It rubs in easily and feels lightweight and wonderful on the skin. The longevity is great, as is the actual sun protection. The scent is kind of strange, but pleasant; it has a mild "sunscreen-y" smell (like the Coppertone Water Babies I used as a kid), but with a good dose of an artificial almond-lemon fragrance and a hint of carrot. (I'm not crazy, I promise.) I would not call this a "dry" oil though; after rubbing it into the skin it won't be slick, but it will feel like you've applied a rich moisturizer. So, wearing it on the beach meant a layer of sand was sure to stick to me. For everyday use, I love to use this on my legs and arms.

3. L'Oréal Advanced Suncare Silky Sheer Face Lotion SPF 50+
This stuff has been my favorite for about a year now. (I mentioned it here; it has since been renamed and repackaged.) My facial skin can be a little picky, and because this provides such good protection I didn't feel the need to switch to something with a higher SPF for a week at the beach. It's lightweight, not greasy, and absorbs completely. I use it daily on my face, neck and chest, arms, and the backs of my hands.

4. Coppertone Sport High Performance Lotion SPF 50
The Coppertone is very no-frills, but highly effective. It is truly water-resistant, and kept my skin protected whether I was in the water or just sweating on the sand. Lightweight, with a light classic "sunscreen" smell.

5. Aquaphor Lip Repair + Protect Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Finding a lip balm that offers more than and SPF of 15 is a challenge, so I was pleased to come across this one, especially at a great price. The squeeze tube is great for summer, too, since it won't melt like a stick or pot.

6. NO-AD Sport Lotion SPF 50
This was my boyfriend's pick. In his words, "it's simple and it works." It takes some effort to rub in, but it isn't too perfume-y, it's lightweight, and has a great SPF. Plus, it's a great value; a 16-ounce bottle is about the same price as sunscreens half its size. NO-AD is a little hard to find in stores around Louisville, but it's easy to find online and in stores near beaches.

7. L'Oréal Advanced Suncare Silky Sheer Lotion SPF 100
I found bottles of this sunscreen with its old name and old packaging on sale, but the formula is unchanged. I love the high SPF, and the fragrance is nice and this lotion feels lovely on the skin. It is pretty thick, and takes a little bit of effort to rub in. I had two big problems with this product. First, while it leaves no white cast on the skin immediately after application, after a while it starts to...seep back out of the skin. Then you're left with bright white sunscreen on your skin, especially around "bends," like the crook of your arm or at the wrist. Second, that effect was exacerbated by sweating, which isn't exactly helpful for heavy-duty summer needs. This stuff is also pretty pricey per ounce. However, I will continue to use it for something like my afternoon commute, when I need short-term sun protection and won't be sweating. I won't repurchase this at full price.

8. L'Oréal Advanced Suncare Quick Dry Sheer Finish Spray SPF 50+
I thought the spray might be convenient, but it's just the opposite. It requires a lot of shaking (with that metal mixing ball clacking around), it can't be applied directly to the face, and the product comes out in a large cloud rather than a directed spray, so a ton of the sunscreen is lost to whatever is nearby. I like the scent and the way it feels on the skin, but I will not repurchase this. This spray is also really expensive per ounce compared to other, better options.

Monday, August 18, 2014

et cetera

long exposure of the beach at night 

boats along the dock in Morehead City 

pretty sunset on our last night

boats on the sound

rainstorm over the ocean
A handful of shots from our vacation a few weeks ago.

Friday, August 8, 2014

fancy finds: marble

While marble has always been a highly sought-after material for flooring and countertops, lately we've been seeing it crop up all over the place in many forms. From the light switch plates (that would look great against almost-black walls) to the somewhat unconventional pendant lights, here are some of our favorite marble finds.

1. graham and green pendant lights
2. cb2 marble shelf
3. crate & barrel french kitchen utensil crock
4. menu & andreas chunk of marble candleholder
5. floor & decor light switch and outlet plates
6. ckp marble knob
7. fort standard trivet
8. west elm clint mini task lamp
9. h&m tray

Thursday, July 31, 2014

amaretto sour ice pops

The amaretto sour has a perfect blend of sweet and tart that is ideal for a frozen treat. This version isn't too sugary, though, so there's no need to worry about overloading on the sweet before it melts.

Amaretto Sour Ice Pops
1 cup water
3/4 cup sour mix (recipe below)
1/4 cup amaretto
1/4 tsp grenadine

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Distribute among the wells of your pop mold and freeze overnight. Enjoy!

Sour Mix
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Heat water and sugar in a small pot on the stove. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Add the lemon juice, cool, then store in an airtight container in the fridge.

We had so much fun putting together this series of boozy ice pops (and eating them), and we hope you enjoyed it too. See the whole series here!

Friday, July 25, 2014

piña colada cream pops

Coconut cream pops are one of my favorite frozen treats so I knew we had to try a version with rum. These cream pops taste exactly like a piña colada but with a smooth, creamy texture studded by coconut shreds.

Piña Colada Cream Pops

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup sweetened coconut cream
1/4 cup pineapple juice
juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons rum
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Add coconut milk, coconut cream, pineapple juice, rum, and lime juice to food processor. Blend until smooth. Add shredded coconut and pulse until incorporated. Pour into ice pop molds and freeze overnight. Makes about 10 pops.

See the entire boozy ice pop series here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

simple summer salad

When summer's at its hottest, I often have a hard time motivating myself to cook anything. I like to have a couple dishes that I can throw together without much time or thought when just the idea of cooking exhausts me. I used tomatoes, cucumber, strawberries, and peaches here but this salad works well with almost any summer produce you have on hand.

Simple Summer Salad

  1 cucumber, halved and sliced
  1 peach, sliced
  1/2 quart strawberries, halved
  1/2 quart cherry tomatoes, halved
  1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
  2 teaspoons orange bitters
  black pepper

Add chopped fruits and vegetables to a large bowl or dish. Mix vinegar and bitters in a liquid measure and pour over fruits and vegetables. Toss until evenly coated. Top salad with freshly ground black pepper and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

raspberry and bourbon cream pops

We still have two more boozy ice pops to share, but we really considered stopping at these, because there is probably nothing, ice pop or not, that could be better. In fact, we really considered stopping after adding bourbon to vanilla ice cream and just eating that. While that's certainly a fine idea, go ahead and make these pops--the raspberry is the perfect companion for the vanilla-bourbon creaminess, and they are super simple to make.

Raspberry and bourbon cream pops

2 cups raspberries (we used frozen berries)
1/4 sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup vanilla ice cream, softened
2 tablespoons bourbon

1). Puree the berries, sugar, and water in a food processor. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the puree into a measuring cup or other container that is easy to pour. Discard the seeds and rinse the food processor bowl.
2). Combine the ice cream and bourbon in the food processor and pulse until mixed well. Transfer this to another measuring cup.
3). Distribute the raspberry mixture among the wells of the pop mold.
4). Add the ice cream mixture to each well of the mold.
5). Using a wooden skewer (a chopstick, knife, or something similar also works), swirl the raspberry and ice cream together in each well.
6). Insert sticks and freeze overnight. Run the mold under warm water for a few seconds to release the pops. You can wrap each unmolded pop in freezer paper, then put in a plastic bag, and freeze for enjoying later. Makes about 8 pops.

See the entire boozy ice pops series here.