May has ushered in some consistently summer-y weather (finally!)—and since it also happens to be Skin Cancer Awareness month, now is the perfect time for a refresher course on safeguarding skin from the sun. Skin cancer affects 1 in 5 Americans, and there are more new cases every year than breast, prostate, and lung cancer combined.
We sat down with Jennifer Garner whose glowing complexion is a true testament to diligent sun protection. As a spokesmodel for Neutrogena’s Choose Skin Health Skin Care initiative, which promotes skin cancer education and offers free screenings in partnership with the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, Garner schooled us on self-screening, her trick to a sunless glow, husband Ben Affleck’s own skincare habits, and her “scare ’em” parenting tactics:
How do you protect your skin from the sun?
I’m just boring about it. There’s rarely a big hat. I think all those things are great but I’m boring in that I just use sunscreen every day. I don’t mess around. I put it on first thing. I have it on now and I’m sitting inside.
Do you put it on before you apply makeup?
For sure. I usually don’t wear makeup and if I do, it’s later in the day, if I have to get my act together for work for some reason. If I don’t have time to shower before I get kids out the door then I [put SPF on] then and I’ll put it on after the shower again. So I just am diligent about it. That’s all you can do.
What do you look for in an SPF product?
Because I have my hands on all of them—for my birthday Neutrogena sent me a box of sunscreen, all different sunscreens, and I was like, “la la la!”—I get to try them all out and I know them all very well. But I’m really into Ultra Sheer Dry Touch, SPF 45. And the reason is that it just disappears. You don’t have that gross feeling.
I use it! It’s amazing.
It’s really good! But I also have the stick. I have all kinds of things to reapply and I let my kids choose from a whole bunch of different options.
How about your husband? Is he into it too?
Thank goodness he is not a spokesperson for Neutrogena because he is not the most careful when it comes to sunscreen.
Do you use self-tanners and bronzers for a sunless glow?
I am not above either. I can definitely benefit from a self-tan, although I cannot say that I am the best at applying it. I’m just not gifted at those kinds of things! But bronzer for sure. Also just using blush that has that kind of a sun-kissed color, as opposed to a bright pink. I would rather have it be really sheer and just right where the sun would hit you. When I was younger, everyone did Nike stripes.
Like the old version of contouring!
How do you take care of an accidental sunburn?
Bite your tongue! I don’t get a sunburn. When Ben gets a sunburn, I use some after-sun lotion and I, you know—
Yell at him.
Are there any other methods or tricks you use to make sure that your skin is protected?
Really it’s just about having [sunscreen] available when you think of it. So I always make sure that there’s something. The sticks are really good because they don’t leak, so it’s having one of those sticks in my bag or having something in my car; having something by the back door, just making sure that it’s around.
How do you teach your kids about sun safety?
It’s just a non-negotiable. We talk about it, but it’s more than talking, it’s just doing. And they’ll learn from the fact that it’s always been done to them. I think they think that they would crumble into a pile of ash if they went outside without sunscreen because they’ve never done it. [Laughs]
Good! Gotta start ’em early.
Beyond SPF, what’s your typical skincare routine like?
I wash my face at night for sure. If I’ve had makeup on I wash it twice. And now that I’m old I use the Rapid Repair moisturizer, which has all the stuff in it—retinol, alpha, whatever, all of it. And I do use a Neutrogena eye cream, which I didn’t used to. That’s kind of it.
What else do you do to take care of your complexion?
Drink water, drink tea. I find that if I drink tea I can make myself think that it’s something special, because you know how you just really want a glass of wine at the end of the day? So sometimes I can really want a glass of wine but talk myself into believing that tea is as nice, and that’s one thing to do to be nice to your skin. Actually, two things: you’re not have the wine and you’re drinking water. Also just working out. All the things you do to be healthy in your life help your skin.
What other advice have you picked up while working with Neutrogena?
I will tell you that one bad sunburn as a child doubles your chance of getting skin cancer. So I’m probably surprised I’m still sitting here. It’s one of the most preventable cancers and still there are more new cases of skin cancer every year than lung, breast, prostate, and colon combined. How crazy is that? So get your little moles screened and don’t think that you don’t have to wear sunscreen just because you’re young and pretty–you do. I’ll tell you one more thing: When you turn 35 you will wake up and you will see the sun damage that you thought somehow wasn’t going to affect you, so just do it. Just listen to me and you can write me a note then.