The sun is a strange beast. During childhood, it is a source of joy - a sign of summer and an invitation to get out from indoors. But at a certain age, when one becomes cognizant of its malign powers, the sun mutates from friend to foe. It is only in the past few years that I have come to comprehend all the signs of aging for which the sun is responsible. Big brown spots. Small white spots. Moles. Leathery skin. Deep wrinkles. Tiny blood vessels. All of these lovely skin accouterments have the sun to thank for their existence. And then there's skin cancer, lurking amid atypical moles and scaly lesions stimulated by the sun. When you think about it, the sun is the skin's worst nightmare.

I learned at an early age that the sun is capable of great evils, especially for someone with my fair skin, prone to proliferating freckles and painful burns. Slathering sun block on the younger me often came with kicking and screaming. But it was critical, since I spent many of my days splashing and running around under the Florida sun. I was persnickety about my choice of sunscreen, amenable only to oil-free face sticks and body sprays. Years of applying only the bare minimum of sun protection has left me mottled and moley. I'm not happy about it, but I've learned my lesson.

Nonetheless, there were moments when my judgement slipped. Buying a multi-pack of visits to roast in a tanning booth before prom and during a semester abroad in Ireland were my most flagrant skin abuses. But I was young and vain, more focused on having a healthy tan in the here and now than suffering the health consequences in the far-off future. Nowadays, my sunscreen dilemma combines the prerequisites of providing broad spectrum protection, achieving compatibility with my daily moisturizer (since sunscreen alone is not sufficient for my dry skin), avoiding a greasy sheen or ghostly pallor, bypassing breakouts, and keeping icky chemicals at bay. Yes, it's a tall order.

For daily safeguarding against the sun, I alternate between two favorites. No sunscreen is capable of making my face as wonderfully matte, balanced, and glowing as DoshaCare Sakala SPF 28 ($29). The formula, based on Ayurvedic principles, blends extracts from turmeric, aloe vera, sandalwood, neem, eucalyptus, hibiscus, fenugreek, shikakai, and tulsi. No less than 98% of its ingredients are drawn from the Earth. Another botanical beauty, Lather Botanical Sunscreen SPF 25 is a lightweight lotion that blends nicely on top of my regular moisturizer, though another layer isn't even necessary. Defense against UV rays is managed by micronized zinc oxide, while extracts from antioxidant-rich green tea, grape leaf, aloe, and olive, as well as B & E vitamins, provide extra protection. At $16, it is also a great buy since one bottle goes a very long way.

As for the rest of my body, no part goes uncovered if I plan to be in the sun for longer than my morning commute. My lips get a layer of Mission Skincare Lip Balmer SPF 15, one of the only SPF-charged balms I've found that lasts a long time and doesn't taste like sunscreen. My decollete gets shielded and smoothed out by Skin2Skin Organic Anti-Photoaging SPF 30 ($68), a tinted sunscreen that combines zinc oxide and titanium oxide, along with all sorts of organic wonders. Warning: Do not get this sunscreen near white clothing - it should be treated with as much caution as liquid foundation.

Before my Monday evening beach volleyball games, I spritz on some Supergoop Bug Away Spray SPF 30 ($16)- also essential for summer picnics, barbecues, and hikes. When I need to whip out the big guns for an entire afternoon outdoors, I rely on my new drugstore buys: Neutrogena UltraSheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 70 ($10) for the face and body. The formulas may not win any all-natural awards, but they do incorporate a number of sun blockers for broad spectrum protection. Both sheer lotions are oil-free, fast-absorbing, and sweat-proof, making them worthy opponents to the sun throughout an active day.

My mother could be the poster child for any sun safety campaign. All my life, she would never venture outdoors unless she was cloaked from head to toe like Zorro. Sunscreen - no matter how high the SPF - can't cut it. My mom dreads sitting by the pool, walking on the beach, and going for a boat ride, since each of these activities demands prolonged sun exposure. Playing tennis always entails large-brimmed hats, white long-sleeved shirts, and white leggings under a pleated skirt - even in the middle of an oppressive summer. She would rather get ill from heat exhaustion than risk exposing her flesh to the sinister sun. It makes you wonder why on earth my parents would choose to settle down in Florida of all places.

Though I have never been as vigilant as my mother about my sun protection, once I passed the quarter-century mark, my approach to skin care took a serious turn. I became determined to not just protect my skin from daily UV assault but to also reverse damage already done. I briefly flirted with hydroquinone (in gloTherapeutics gloLightening serum) with the brazen hope that it would vanish my sun spots quickly, without causing the harm that has earned it a black mark in some countries. How silly of me. I learned the hard way that a) my skin is too sensitive to handle this severe irritant and b) the threat of cancer keeps me up at night. After waking up with a patch of flaming red skin, I kicked hydroquinone to the curb. There are so many better, safer alternatives.

I've had lots of luck with PRESCRIBEDSolutions A Bolt of Lightening, which uses an enzyme inhibitor called hexylresorcinol to break up excess melanin deposits and block the production of new melanin. It also draws on plant extracts with proven lightening properties such as koji acid, arbutin, and azelaic acid. In the not too distant future, I will probably pony up for photodynamic therapy to see if I can tone down my hyperpigmentation for good.

Bottom line: my skin will never again be a blank canvas thanks to the sun. I know that my sun spots are, for the most part, here to stay and that they will inevitably be joined by wrinkles, scars, and more freckles with time. Alas, that's all part of the aging process. If you have a favorite sun fighting or fading product, please leave a comment and spread the love!

Ingredients in DoshaCare Sunscreen:
Actives: Octinoxate 7.5 %, Octocrylene 7.0%, Octisalate 5.0%, Zinc Oxide 2.9%
Inactives: Water/Aqua, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Glycerin, Sorbitan Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Dimethicone, Polysorbate-60, Silica, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Azadirachta Indica (Neem) Leaf Extract, Ocimum Sanctum (Tulsi) Leaf Extract, Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Wood Extract, Eucalyptus globules (Eucalyptus) Leaf Extract, Acacia Concinna (Shikakai) Fruit Extract, Hibiscus Sabdariffa Flower Extract, Eclipta Prostrata (Maka/Bhrigraj) Extract, Trigonella Foenum – Graecum (Fenugreek) Extract, Allantoin, Squalane, Tocopheryl Acetate, Xanthan Gum, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Essential Oil Blend.


Ingredients in Lather Botanical Sunscreen:
Parsol 1789, ethylhexyl ethylhexanoate, micronized zinc oxide, deionized water (aqua), glycerin, dimethiconol, caprylic / capric trigyceride, butylene glycol, soja glycine phospholipids, grape (vitis vinifera) leaf extract, DL panthenol, aloe barbadensis extract, decyl oleate, trimethylsiloxysilicate, green tea (thea sinensis) extract, sodium hyaluronate, walnut (juglans regia) extract, laurylmethicone copolyol, dicaprylate dicaprate, niacine, rhatany (radix ratanhiae) root extract, royal jelly, olive (olea europaea) fruit extract, PPG-1 trideceth, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, grape (vitis vinifera) seed extract, tocopheryl acetate, cyclomethicone, sunflower (helianthus annuus) oil, phenoxyethanol, potassium sorbate, ethylhexylglycerin, oxynex K (Peg-8 and tocopherol and ascorbyl palmitate and ascorbic acid and citric acid), tetrasodium salt

Ingredients in Supergoop Bug Away Spray:
Actives: Avobenzone – 2.0%, Cedrus Atlantica (Cedarwood) Bark Oil – 0.4%, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus (Lemongrass) Oil – 0.2%, Octinoxate – 7.5%, Octisalate – 5.0%, Octocrylene – 1.4%, Padimate O – 8.0%
Inactives: SD Alcohol 40-A, Cyclomethicone, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Dipropylene Glycol, Dibenzoate, Acrylates Copolymer, PPG-15 Stearyl Ether Benzoate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A), Lavendula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil


Ingredients in Skin2Skin Organic Anti-Photoaging Sunscreen:
Actives: Zinc Oxide 6%, Titanium Dioxide 6%
Inactives:Water, Lecithin, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Xanthan Gum, Lecithin, Iron Oxide (and) Methicone. O-cymene-5 –ol. (Thyme oil based preservative), Cyclopentasiloxane (and) Dimethicone / Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethicone, Isododecane (and) Butylene/Ethylene/Propylene Crosspolymer.
Certified Organic Extracts of: Punica Granatum (Pomegranate), Rubus Fruticosus (Blackberry/Loganberry) Leaf, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Root, Camellia Sinensis (White Tea), Camellia Oleifera Leaf (Green Tea), Symphytum Officinale (Comfrey) Leaf, Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root, Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail), Rosa Canina (Rose Hips) Seed, Malva Sylvestris (Mallow), Borago Officinalis (Borage) Seed Oil, Sambucus nigra (Elderflower), Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Trifolium pratense (Red Clover), Althaea Offinalis (Marshmallow) Root, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) , Macrocystis Pyrifera (Sea Kelp), Panax (Ginseng) Root, Ilex paraguariensis (Yerba Mate), Fucus Vesiculosus (Bladderwrack), Malva silvestris (Blue Malva Mallow), Porphyra Yezoensis (Nori), Ginkgo ( Ginkgo Biloba ), Humulus Lupulus (Hops), Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit.


Ingredients in PRESCRIBEDSolutions A Bolt of Lightening:
Water (Aqua/Eau), Alcohol Denat., Propylene Glycol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Sorbitol, Kojic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Berberis Vulgaris Extract, Mulberry (Morus Alba) Leaf Extract, Hexylresorcinol, Arbutin, Salicylic Acid (Beta Hydroxy Acid), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Azelaic Acid, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Hexylene Glycol