Columns share an author's personal perspective.
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“Honey, do we have any sunscreen?” wondered my husband.

“Yes,” I responded. I bought, like, a case of it years ago.”

“You know that stuff expires, right?”
            
I actually didn’t. I thought sunscreen lasted forever like Twinkies and Betty White. So, when I checked out the expiration dates on the sunscreens, I was dismayed to discover that they were all past their prime by at least four years.
                 
Since the weather had suddenly turned warm and sunny, I realized I had to go out and get some lotion. But in the time since my last sunscreen purchase and this one, someone at the sunscreen companies had lost their mind. Maybe it was from spending too much time in the sun.

There was, what could only be described as, a mind-blowing number of sun protection choices. As I looked at what could be no less than 50 different kinds of sunscreens, I realized that I would need a roulette wheel to pick one.

These were a far cry from the baby oil and iodine suntan lotion mixtures I used as a teen. It was now no longer cool to be tan and in fact, it was downright dangerous. As if cancer wasn’t bad enough, you also had to worry about sun damage leaving you looking like a Shar Pei.

Some of it, naturally, is that we are smarter than we used to be. But a lot of it has to do with all that hairspray Duran Duran used in the 80s that finally caught up with us and destroyed the protective ozone layer. Between aerosol cans and cow farts, we were doomed.

And where there is doom, there are companies to profit from it.

Apparently, it is no longer good enough to just get a high number of protection. In my day we got to pick from 0-10. Now they start at 15 and go up to 70 and beyond. There are sweatproof sports versions and waterproof beach versions. There are sunscreens for sensitive skin, for babies, and for old folks who also might have sensitive skin and sweat and go to the beach.

You can buy it as a spray, a lotion, or a stick, fragrance-free, oil-free, dye-free, for your face or your body, and even your scalp, if you are follically-challenged. They contain ingredients like avobenzo-whosiwhats and oxybenzo-whatchamacallit which are for sun protection, and sorbitol, a kind of sugar, which gives your skin a velvety feel but does not make the sunscreen any tastier. And they boast such features as photostability and non-comedogenicy that I had to look up in the dictionary and still don’t really know what they mean, although I’m pretty sure they translate to, “Something that will cost you more money.”

Meanwhile, back at the drugstore, I was stymied. If I got the wrong lotion we could get a sunburn, or worse yet, unflattering tan lines. I knew I wanted UVA and UVB protection, but what about gamma rays, X-rays, and stingrays? They may not be a known threat now, but they could be discovered to be next week. Except the last one, of course. That’s been replaced by “The Real Housewives.”

I finally made a purchase and headed home.

“You cannot believe how many different kinds of sunscreen there are,” I complained to my husband. “It’s impossible to figure out which is the right one.”

“So what did your end up with?” he asked.

I pulled my purchase out of the bag.

“I got us each a hat.”

You can follow Tracy on Twitter @TracyBeckerman and become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LostinSuburbiaFanPage.