Of all the regrettable things I did in college—having a long-distance relationship senior year, skipping an Obama campaign rally to do homework, any of the Alpha Kappa Lambda guys—tanning is far up there on the list. This was the era of GTL’ing, and believe it or not, Snooki was something of an icon at my state school in Missouri. We all had poofs. And we all had deep, dark tans—even me, whose natural shade clocks in somewhere between “Casper” and “what could pass for porcelain.” When my friends and I weren’t waiting in lines that wound out the door of Tan Co., we’d be sprawled out on the deck, passing around a brown bottle of SPF 4 tanning oil like it was a bag of Franzia.
It took a few sketchy moles, a trip to the emergency room because of second-degree burns (from the sun and the oil!), and some really, truly humiliating sorority rush photos to finally get a grip on what derms have been saying for years: sun protection is crucial. I’m not saying it’s anyone’s fault but my own, but if someone had pulled the towel out from under me and made me realize that bronzing oil wasn’t doing me any favors—and that pale, too, is pretty—it wouldn’t have been the worst thing.
That’s essentially what CVS is doing with its new “Long Live Skin” campaign, and I wish I could time-travel back and plaster these ads all over MTV. In partnership with Johnson & Johnson and the American Cancer Society, the campaign centers around increasing skin health awareness and the importance of proper skin care. One of its biggest highlights: The drugstore will no longer carry any sun care products with an SPF lower than 15. In their place, CVS is adding new brands to its shelves that offer greater skin-health benefits—ones that are derm-approved as well as natural and organic options.
The brand is also rolling out weekly deals on sunscreens, along with a moving social campaign. You can sneak a peek at the first of ads (which centers around advice you’d give your younger self), below:
This is a brilliant way to make smarter sun protection choices easier. It would certainly have helped someone as careless as me in my teens do at least the bare minimum for my skin. But I’m going to put on my preachy beauty editor hat for a second (in this fantasy it’s floppy and wide-brimmed because SPF): No matter your skin tone, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a product with an SPF of 30+. (The FDA minimum recommendation is 15.)
Also, just earlier today Consumer Reports released its annual sunscreen ratings (a ranking of over 60 big-name products to see if their level of protection holds up to the SPF promised on the bottle), and the results aren’t exactly pretty. Roughly one-third of the sunscreens tested didn’t stack up to their claim; meaning, they aren’t protecting your skin as long as you think they are. (If you want to get real skin-nerdy, you can read more on sunscreen efficacy here.)
So, the moral of this story: Any sunscreen is better than none—and getting it at CVS this summer is a safe bet.
–Your Sunscreen Might Not Actually Be Working the Way You Think It Is—Here’s Why
–The 9 Best Sunscreens for Every Skin Type and Situation
–These Are the Best Self-Tanners at Sephora, According to What’s Flying Off Shelves