You don’t know s*** about SPF.

Summer comes and goes, but UV damage remains forever.

Not to scare you s***less but the sun can have a real negative effect on your body. Sure, we’re all about baking in the sun and getting crispy AF as much as the next person. But what we’re not into is skin cancer, pigmentation, damage as well as lots of other nefarious outcomes that can come from the skin.

Which is why we need to have a conversation about SPF. That’s right, ES-PEE-EFF. It’s the product that protects your skin from the sun, which emits both harmful UVA and UVB rays.

SEE ALSO: Here’s the best men’s sunscreens to try now

We already wrote about which sunscreens we’re really into at the moment. But here’s a complete guide to sunscreen, SPF and everything you ever wanted to know, just in time for summer vacation, beach whale-ing, and living your best life under the Tuscan Sun.

First off, why TF is it called SPF?

Okay, bruh. Good first Q. At your next party, you can totally tell your friends you learned that SPF stands for “sun protection factor.” It’s basically comparing how long it takes sunscreen-protected skin vs. unprotected skin to get burned. The higher the SPF, the more protection against UVB and UVA rays.

Okay, UVB and UVA? Sounds like a college I’m applying for.

Lol. Indeed, UVB and UVA are both universities, but they’re also names for ultraviolet rays. One is a long wave (UVA), the other is short (UVB). While UVA rays penetrate the skin’s thickest layer, UVB burns the superficial layers of the skin. It’s also the key factor in the development of serious skin cancer. Remember this: every time you get burned, there’s serious damage that’s happening over time.

So, you’re saying me going shirtless on a Sunday afternoon stroll is gonna cause cancer?

Yes and no. We’re exposed to sun all the time (well, unless you live in Svalbard, Norway where there’s no sunlight for months). But continued sun damage can accumulate to skin damage. Just be warned that turning lobster red on weekends is no bueno.

But I TRULY hate that chalky, pasty, substance that’s sticky and not really thrilling to use.

We feel you. You’re talking about physical SPF. That’s why there’s also something called chemical SPFs. The latter goes on smoothly, without any white, pasty substances, and works just as well. It really depends on what you’re looking for.

Here’s the big difference, according to Dr. Marisa Garshick from Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery.

What is a chemical SPF and what is a physical? I totally thought there was ONE KIND of sunscreen!

Same. But when we found out there were two kinds, we totally felt enlightened. Here’s Dr. Garshick’s explanation:

“Chemical sunscreens are sunscreens that contain ingredients such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octinoxate among others) which absorb UV radiation and convert it to heat to prevent DNA damage from occurring,” she tells us. Basically, this means that sun is absorbed into the skin and then zapped back out into the universe as heat.

“Physical sunscreens are sunscreens that contain ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide which actually reflect UV radiation, thereby actually blocking the suns rays from penetrating the skin,” she says. You can imagine this as a basic umbrella that blocks the rays from getting in.

So which one’s for me?

Here’s the simple answer: if you have sensitive skin, go for the physical. Chemical will create heat in your skin and can cause breakouts for some people. But if you hate chalky, pasty, thick creams, go for chemical. It’s great for those who don’t have sensitive skin. But while physical is an immediate umbrella of sorts that you can wear and walk out the door with, chemical takes about 20 minutes to seep into your skin and work its magic. Just make sure it’s broad spectrum!

Broad huh? Broad what?

 “Broad spectrum refers to the fact that the sunscreen provides protection against both UVA and UVB radiation, which together can contribute to sunburn, skin cancer and aging,” says the good doc. “It is important that you choose a sunscreen that indicates it is broad spectrum in order to get full coverage and protection.” Long story short: just make sure you buy a product with BROAD SPECTRUM written on its label.

Cool. Now that I’m totally wearing SPF, do I have to care about that number? What does it all mean?

Good rule of thumb: the higher the number, the greater coverage. But know that unfortunately, nothing will provide you with 100% of coverage. Here’s a really good graph from the good folks at Coola.

(Photo courtesy Coola)

As you see, though SPF is great, the lower the number, the less coverage. The most anyone will ever need is an SPF 50. Anything above is really extra and totally just a marketing scheme.

In fact, studies showed that people who used an SPF above 50 were still sunburned. “Even when using SPF 100 under ‘real world’ circumstances, people still experienced a sunburn,” says Dr. Garshick.

So I’m gonna go for an SPF 50. Do I apply in the morning and just not worry about it any more?

That would be awesome if you invented something that actually had staying power than for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, you have to reapply every 2 hours or so, no matter if it’s a physical or chemical SPF.

Here’s some other very worthwhile tips from Dr. Garshick:

-Reapply every 2 hours; even more frequently with heavy perspiration, swimming or toweling off.

-Make sure to look at the water-resistant label and timing, particularly if will be active or swimming

-Apply liberally. You should be applying the equivalent of a full-size shot glass with each application (Editor’s note: OMFG that’s a lot!). It has been found that people often apply only 25-75% of what should be applied to reach the actual SPF rating.

-Don’t forget your lips, which can also suffer from sun damage and there are products out there that are specially designed for the lips.

What I do when I’m invited as a last-minute party as an obvious backup choice

Everyone has a first-aid kit.

Some people have one-night stand kits.

Then, there’s me, who has a special occasion satchel just in case a friend calls and invites me to a last minute ~fancy~ event. Trust me, I’ve been traumatized before. There was a time I was invited to cover a gala at the Met Museum where I casually walked in, jeans and a t-shirt when everyone else was *actually* in black tie attire. Rest assured, the publicists were embarrassed for me and asked me to quickly remove myself from the entire event altogether.

Ever since, I do not play around and have a bag just for these occasions. Hence, the other week when I was in Los Angeles and someone invited me to some event in Culver City, I smirked because I was super prepared for the unprepared. My face was bare and naked when I received the text message:”COME NOW!!!” but I fretted not. For when in such predicaments – aka when it’s obvious you’re someone’s backup choice and their plus one just canceled – I’m always prepared to leap into my Uber, or in this case, a Cadillac XT5, take my last-minute kit with me, and get ready in minutes in the backseat.

Truly, this may seem extra. And it is. But when you’re going to a red carpet event wearing nothing but a casual sweater, your makeup, at the very least, better be on fleek.

Here’s what’s inside:

1 Burt’s Bees facial wipes

2 Beauty blender

3 MAC Contour stick I use only sometimes

4 LORAC eye shadow

5 MAKE Marine Salve

6 Make Up For Ever Aqua Eyes eyeliner

7 NARS concealer

8 Mini SISLEY Mask

9 Mini Givenchy Hydra Sparkling Mask

10 Travel-sized spritz full of toner

11 Mini Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak dry shampoo

Again, I don’t use all of these products every time. But it’s really good to have a mix between skincare, to makeup items just to feel out your mood. For this night, I wanted to go with a natural face but make my eyes pop with color. Since I have a yellow skin tone, red is my go-to shade as it’s subtle, giving me that pink glow, without being too loud.

5:49 PM

I grab my bag and dash into my Uber.

(Photos by Sarah Yun/Very Good Light)

5:54 PM

After getting in my car, I inform my driver that I’ll be minding my own business in the backseat. I kindly ask that they not disturb my deep concentration. Wiping my face takes all of my energy, I tell them. I’ll cleanse my face of the day’s toxins, dirt and grime with this Burt’s Bees wipe. 

5:56 PM

Afterwards, I mist my face with a toner. The one that I used is from Huxley. I spray two times, press into my skin, then repeat three times over. This softens my skin, allows it to balance out its pH, and gets it prepared to soak any products. My driver comments that it smells like cactus. I tell him it’s made from prickly pear cactus. He asks if I can spritz him, too. I comply.

6:04 PM

While the car is still moving, I kindly ask my driver, who tells me he’s an actor, to switch the music from Chainsmokers to a more fitting song like Justin Bieber’s Despacito. I then massage my skin with the Sisley leave-in face mask. I think about it like a leave-in hair conditioner but for my face. My Uber driver comments how I look like I’m doing White Face. I tell him that’s not a thing. He ignores me.

6:14 PM

While my driver is ignoring my crazy face, we realize the car is now at a standstill in LA traffic. I take out my Givenchy Hydra Sparkling mask. I massage it in again and leave it on for a good five minutes. I know it’s really in my skin when Despacito ends then starts playing again. It leaves me with a slightly sparkling complexion.

6:25 PM

After my skin is in a good place, I ask my driver or friend to hand me my NARS concealer and beauty blender that somehow made it to the front seat. NARS’ concealer is actually perfect for my bag since it’s slender, takes up virtually no real estate and is truly handy for such occasions.

I’ll dab it under my eyes, on my cheeks, my forehead and any other problem area. Notice how my forehead’s blemish is now almost invisible. My driver comments how makeup is making me look like a better person. He tells me how he used NARS once during a commercial he shot for Verizon. I immediately ignore.

6:36 PM

Restless in traffic and now harmonizing with my driver to Despacito, I’ll finally add some eyeshadow. Driver comments how I look very Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is definitely not what I’m going for.

I’ll apply, dabbing only on my eyelids. Then I’ll gently blend upwards and around.

7:00 PM

At this point, I feel as if my Uber driver and I have been through a journey. My left buttcheek has fallen fast asleep and I realize I’m no longer in the mood for a party. I get out just to take photos and post on my Instagram Stories.

7:02 PM

Immediately, I ask driver to take me back home. I’ve had enough partying for the day. I’m worn out. It was truly all for the gram. I text my friend to come greet me. We hug. I then immediately go back to the car. Back to Despacito I go.

Quip is the most stylish toothbrush you’ll ever use.

(Photo by David Yi/Very Good Light)

Sometimes, dear readers (I’m really not gonna lie), my life feels like a total hot mess.

As an entrepreneur running Very Good Light full-time for the past six month, my life has been neither here nor there (between NYC and LA), but everywhere (as some of you maybe have seen on social media). I don’t feel as if I have a steady home because it seems as if being in transit is the only constant in this dizzying life of mine.

I’m definitely not complaining. Though my life at times seems uncertain and in upheaval, it’s also absolutely thrilling to have the freedom to travel whenever and whenever I want to, spend time with friends and family I haven’t seen in years, and work extremely hard from whichever cafe has the best WiFi.

But it also means I have to be completely nimble and mobile when it comes to my stuff. As a beauty editor who’s constantly testing products, schlepping them cross-country is never fun. I try to consolidate as much as possible and only bring the essentials: skincare products, a BB cream, SPF and maybe a compact cushion if there’s room. But when it comes to traveling with my toothbrush, my Sonicare has been a little cumbersome. Not only do I have to find extra room for my charger, I have to force the big electric toothbrush into my extremely small Burberry dop kit.

And so when Quip reached out to test its toothbrushes, I was actually really open to testing it out. The brand told me that there were no chargers, the toothbrush was slim and lightweight, and would completely fit wherever I needed it to.

The price is everything.

Oh, just a toothbrush trying to look sexy on some prickly Californian succulents.

What’s really cool about Quip is that it’s pretty affordable. While my Sonicare brush was upwards of $190, Quip was about $40 for a metal electric brush. If that’s a little too hefty for your wallet, they also have a $25 electric brush that’s plastic. The model is pretty cool as it’s subscription-based, meaning that the brand will send you a new brush head every three months. For $5, you get a new brush head or a 3-month tube of toothpaste. There’s zero commitment and you can definitely cancel whenever. Though, since the toothbrush works on battery via the brush head, users are kind of bound to this subscription model. Love it or hate it, it’s something that you have to subscribe to if you want to continue using the toothbrush.

It’s sexy AF.

Yes, Quip is probably the sexiest toothbrush out there. The brush comes in six colors ranging from copper, slate, silver, gold, to two plastic ones in green and blue. We tested the copper color since it’s a little like rose gold which we’re kinda really into these days.

Don’t mind my dirty mirror. How instantly cute does this toothbrush make my bathroom? (Photo by David Yi/Very Good Light)

The Quip toothbrush is delivered to you in a bright silver bag and includes a toothpaste, toothbrush, and a case/carrying stand. The latter is kinda cool as you can leave your toothbrush on your mirror or standing upright next to your other beauty products. It sure beats a disgusting old cup you use to put your toothbrushes in. Also, the really gross Sonicare charging stand that gets green/yellow with bacteria from water, etc. Quip definitely wins when it comes to saving space. Not having a pesky charger makes it a saver in any bathrooms especially mine in New York City where space is extremely limited.

But does it work?

It’s a tongue cleaner!

Quip’s brush literally vibrates the second you press the front button. It also has a tongue cleaner on the back. Unlike the Sonicare brush, it doesn’t spin around on each tooth, rather, uses the vibration to get plaque off of your teeth. The brush pulses every 30 seconds so that you know when to move to another section of your mouth. This lasts for 2 minutes. Quip is all about gently brushing your teeth. I was instructed to brush slightly side to side. This is a complete departure from what I’ve been taught: Brushing up and down and around.

While Sonicare is all about being lazy AF and allow the brush do to all of the work, with Quip, you have to put in the work. It wasn’t too bad, and dare I say, was enjoyable to use. After an entire week, I felt that using the brush was something I looked forward to. As someone who is absolutely, completely into aesthetics, brushing with something so chic made me feel a little more stylish.

But after an entire week, I did feel that the Quip brush didn’t make my mouth feel as squeaky clean as my Sonicare. For instance, that post-dentist smooth feel wasn’t there. Where as a Sonicare seems to get into the crevices and really work at getting my teeth cleaned, the Quip was about how much effort ~I~ put into it. I do think that it’s much better than a manual toothbrush but saying that it gets my teeth cleaner than Sonicare wouldn’t be accurate at all.

Final verdict: While I love Quip, for deep cleaning, I’m sticking by my Sonicare. That’s not to say I’m disposing of my Quip at all. I truly do love it. It saves space, makes my bathroom look chicer (again, aesthetics), and does do a proper job. If you’re looking to save some dough, definitely get into Quip, it will change your brushing forever. If you have a Sonicare, I’d suggest only switching if you need something more mobile.


-At $25 this stylish electric toothbrush is a great deal.

-Cleans your mouth and does a sufficient job.

-Is completely mobile and very travel friendly.

-Does not clean as well as Sonicare.

-Comes with a 3-month subscription where you get a new brush head.

This moisturizer that smells exactly like dirt is actually amazing

When I was younger, I used to put all kinds of horrible things in my mouth.

There was red and blue Play-Doh, which I swore tasted saltier and more satisfying than yellow. Processed American cheese that I’d put inside two pieces of white bread slathered with mayo (don’t ask, but I remember it being really really enjoyable). But one thing I never did was put actual dirt anywhere near me. That was just disgusting.

Shodai smells exactly like dirt

Unlike other 3-year olds who enjoyed occasionally dipping their feet in mud puddles or going out and scoping out wet terrain for worms, or dousing their skin with ketchup and mustard, I was afraid to get dirty. And let’s not even talk about literal dirt getting on you. Dirt was meant for the ground only and that’s where it should remain.

So you could imagine the irony that I faced one night, layering on a moisturizer that smelled exactly like dirt. I was testing this new brand called Shodai, after being given its face wash and moisturizer. Before using the products, I was warned that it has a “woodsy” smell to it and to not be alarmed. I would realize that was a euphemism for it actually smelling like a mushroom growing on the side of a cedar tree surrounded by wet, muddy, dirt. Yes, there’s no getting around it. Shodai smells exactly like dirt.


Shodai, which means “first generation,” is a grooming brand from Japan. But its founder, Justin Brown, isn’t Japanese. He’s actually British. After foraging for the perfect grooming brand for him, he decided he’d create his own. Having lived in Tokyo for the past five years, he decided to look into Japanese skincare and see what kind of ingredients were best for the skin.


He found the best products from Japan’s own history came from four main ingredients. Hiba oil, from the Aomori Hiba tree, which apparently takes 300 years to mature and is antibacterial, sake, which has kojic acid and brightens the skin, green tea and finally, onsen water. That’s water from natural hot springs, said to sooth and rejuvenate skin.

Being a snob when it comes to packaging, I truly wasn’t impressed with Shodai’s. It looked and felt all so basic. But I realized that packaging isn’t really everything. It’s obviously what’s inside that counts.

First impressions

But why does it smell like dirt, though? I kept asking, as I used the brand’s face wash and moisturizer every day for a week. While some reviewers said they didn’t mind the smell, coming from using brands like Huxley, which smell of fresh, dewy cactus pears, this was quite a departure. I was definitely skeptical at first and was so repulsed from the fragrance (or lack thereof!) that I totally wanted to stop testing the products altogether. Truly, I’m glad I did not.

In a weird way, this product made me feel more masculine, as if I, myself was Bear Grylls, who found his own ingredients to create a moisturizer out in the wild.

The face wash is like any other standard face wash except, it doesn’t leave you feeling dry. It does, however make you feel as if your face is extra clean, almost like a glass cup you finished rinsing soap from. That’s exactly how I felt my face was left feeling. With a mixture of volcanic ash, tanakura clay, silkworm cocoon extract (yes, you heard that correctly), I felt as if I was Bear Grylls for a moment. All I needed was to squeeze elephant dung to hydrate my parched mouth. My face wasn’t soft, like a lot of women’s products, though it wasn’t left with dry patches. It was almost as if it was in its natural state, which was kinda cool, in a rugged kind of way.

Aside from it smelling, well, “earth-y,” the moisturizer was extremely pleasant. It goes on smooth (though sticky just for a few moments before seeping in to pores!), and instantly rehydrated my skin. So much so, that I felt as if I just had a facial. The product lays on thick, which I didn’t mind, and retains moisture for a long period. When I used the moisturizer at night, I felt as if I came out from a spa the next day. It was pleasant, almost as if I, myself, visited a Japanese onsen. My skin felt supple, smooth, soft matte. In a weird way, this product made me feel more masculine, as if I, myself was Bear Grylls, who found his own ingredients to create a moisturizer out in the wild.

On days when I want to smell like a beautiful, blooming flower, I go with my Korean beauty products. But for other days when I’m feeling more down to Earth and want that spa-like feel, Shodai seems to be a good option.


-Smells like dirt but works as an amazing moisturizer. We felt as if we walked out from a spa after use.

-Has a “woodsy,” “earth-y” fragrance that’s definitely not for everyone. An acquired smell.

Buy Shodai’s moisturizer, $24 and face wash for $20 here