Sunblock party

In this edition of our monthly Gadget column, we examine methods of sunscreen application.

Banana Boat Sport Performance

There are countless articles detailing the importance of a sunscreen’s SPF level against deadly cancer rays; this isn’t one of them. For our purposes, SPF stands for Slimy, Practicality, and potential Food ruiner. An Irish nerd, I go from pale white to lobster red when exposed to the sun for more than five minutes. However, I absolutely hate sunscreen. It’s slimy, sticky, stains your clothes, and coats your hands so the beach picnic—already sprinkled with sand—tastes like UV protection. The classic application, lotion, is tedious but reliable. The best part of using a lotion sunscreen is that you know exactly where it’s been applied. The worst part is that men know exactly where it’s been applied because it congeals in hair. After applying the lotion, my facial hair resembled a fake snow-flaked, plastic Christmas tree. And forget about trying to apply it to the part on top of your head. It’s incredibly slimy—I squirm like a fussy toddler when it’s applied. It’s practical as long as you forego fur and fuzz, but, despite the promises of ‘non-greasy,’ don’t lick your fingers after snacking. There’s a reason that it’s the dominant form of sunscreen, and as long as you’re not a hairy toddler, like me, you’ll be fine. (3 ounces for roughly $8.)

Neutrogena Ultimate Sport Spray

Neutrogena’s spray immediately addresses my slimy lotion concern with an aerosol application. In execution, it’s a cross between hairspray and sunscreen. Unfortunately, it also smells, tastes and stings like hairspray. Applying it to your face directly can prove to be problematic as getting it in your eyes, mouth, nose or ears can be a very unpleasant experience. If I had read the directions or used common sense, I would have learned this before blinding myself from a point-blank spray. So, this leaves you with spraying it into your hands to apply to your face. Sure, it’s not oily or slimy, but it is sticky, and it will often soak into your hands before you can fully apply it your face. Multiple applications leave your hands over-saturated and capable of tanging up finger foods. There is one aspect where a spray is undeniably better: The part in your hair. One spray and you’re good. Aside from your face, this is by far the easiest and least cringe–inducing application. A few quick passes on your chest, back and legs, and you’re done in a tenth of the time it takes for a lotion sunscreen. Most will find the application convenient; squeamish people like me will consider it a lifesaver. (5 ounces for roughly $12.)

Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Stick

Ever wanted to rub a glue stick over your body? Nope, me neither. Yet, here we are: Sunscreen in a stick. Intended as a child’s product, the gimmick is to make application fun. Since I behave like a child around sunscreen, I was optimistic, but I forgot one thing: Surface area. The size of a glue stick, this applicator may make quick work of little ones, but for a grown man, it’s like highlighting every line in a Shakespeare play. It takes forever and, in the end, you question what the point was in the first place. Still, this would be forgivable if the sunscreen didn’t go on as if it were an actual glue stick. After protecting both arms with this stick, my skin was sticky and filmy, and I was bored, ready to go in the water, and resembled a shiny, matted Wookie. If the hook works on your kids, great, otherwise stick with the spray-on variety. Whatever you do, wear sunscreen this summer: It’ll allow you to read your Kindle and play your Nintendo 3DS on the beach that much longer. (Approximately $5 gets you a 0.6 ounce stick.)