While we realize too much sun is bad, all those warnings to stay indoors during the sexiest season of the year strike us as the dermatological equivalent of abstinence education: mighty naive and no damn fun. This is what a reasonable, sun-loving guy needs to know before stepping into those ultralight beams.
What time of day should I be soaking up rays?
In the morning, before all the sand-flinging children and Pitbull-blasting jerks show up and spoil the fun, anyway. The sun is at its most murderous between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
What should I do during those hours?
Patronize the nearest shady tiki bar. You can go back out in the late afternoon.
Once and for all: Which sunscreen should I buy?
Beverly Hills dermatologist Harold Lancer, whose guest book includes actors, politicians, and other fancy people, suggests Dermalogica Daily Defense SPF15, which is basically the ideal broad-spectrum sunscreen: It's light and fast-absorbing, doesn't leave a residue, and has no fake colors or scents. It's also a moisturizer. About the only thing it can't do is apply itself.
Is there some rule for how much of the stuff I need to put on?
The SPF number assumes you're using a shot glass's worth of goo, so dust off your Señor Frog's souvenir—or, yes, eyeball it—and apply that much, 30 minutes before going outside. Repeat every two hours, more if you're swimming or sweating, which you will be, because you're at the damn beach. “If you're not using SPF 15 or above, you're better off not bothering,” Lancer says. “But anything above 50 is blowing smoke up your butt.”
That's a gross expression. What else should I do?
Grab a hat. One with a nice wide brim, like a bucket hat, in a lightweight fabric such as seersucker. The brim'll shield your face and keep your skin from going leathery, while the breathable material ventilates your scalp and spares it from frying. Bonus: You'll be the best-dressed nearly naked man on shore.
Sweet, so now I'm stylish and cancer-free. When should I call it a day?
Like a steak that keeps cooking even after you pull it from the oven, your skin will keep tanning even after you've packed up your beach towel. Stop earlier than you'd think. Head home when your skin starts to feel dry—not when it resembles a football.