Beauty Throwback: Memories and Sunscreen

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Misty, coconut scented childhood memories

As summer dwindles and burns to its end, I am caught up in a bit of nostalgia. Blame it on Throwback Thursday and Social Media; blame it on the ‘70’s. Every time I see a Facebook or Instagram posting of a yellowing photo from a pocket camera, an old snapshot likely developed at a Fotomat from 110 film, I can smell that time so long ago when my bike still had training wheels.

My summers in Pennsylvania circa the mid-70’s had a distinct smell of Hawaiian Tropic or Coppertone mixed with fresh mown backyard grass, petals from our dogwood tree, and blooms from our rose and lilac bushes. What happened to all those?

I wondered, does Hawaiian Tropic still make its SPF 0 in today’s melanoma-conscious world? Does Coppertone still make the lotion in the flat-faced squeeze bottle with the silhouette of the little girl with the compromised bum? I think that particular lotion (I remember the sides of the bottle had a texture of tiny raised bumps) may have had a slightly higher SPF—it was targeted toward kids, after all.

And remember QT? It was my sister’s (then my) go-to self-tanner for those late summer-to-fall days when the natural, baked tan began to fade. Oh, how our routines have changed! Oh, how they have stayed the same.

Hawaiian Tropic does indeed still make its Dark Tanning Oil in SPF 0 and 6 (but no longer sponsors bikini pageants). Billed on its website as containing “exotic moisturizing ingredients” and “antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E” along with its “classic coconut fragrance” it seems as though many still covet that old-timey, coconut scent. These days the Dark Tanning Oil might be better used as an out-of-shower moisturizer. There is, however, good news for us beach dwellers since Hawaiian Tropic has recently introduced a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen in SPF 30. Phew!

Not to be outdone, Coppertone also still carries its SPF 4 and 8 lotions, now in a sleeker, more millennium-type bottle. When I was a kid, this protection was pretty much as good as things got. Every day at the pool or the beach was followed with a heavy dose of Noxzema and Solarcaine.

Today’s Coppertone Kids have a Tear Free Lotion with an SPF of 50, Sport spray goes up to SPF 70, and their Ultra Guard Lotion has 100+ SPF!. It’s nice that Coppertone has something for cancer-seekers as well as the high-anxiety sun-o-phobes.

Disclaimer: I make no judgments on either of those categories since I myself fall into either group on any given Sunday, dependent upon the marine layer and my anxiety level. And yes folks, Noxzema and Solarcaine are also still available for your digressions.

As for QT, the self-tanner that promised we’d all sport a golden tan in about three hours without need of the sun’s rays? That was from Coppertone! Of course, this early tanning foam was super-streaky and super-orange. But what novelty. That orange glow was, to me, the look of late September.

Today Coppertone has divorced itself entirely from its QT days, instead going with its Gradual Tan Sunless Tanning Lotion. I haven’t tried this one, but if it’s anything like Jergen’s Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer, I’d give it a go for sure.

Sherri-and-Greg-Hawaiishown: the author and her husband in Hawaii with a low spf “We knew better at this point but were lured by the cocoa butter and naive shades of brown.”

Well, the house I grew up in is long sold. I pass by when I go back home to visit and wonder about the rose and lilac bushes in the backyard. The dogwood tree is still there, though. I can still picture the kiddie pool out by the old lamppost that strangely sat smack in the middle of our yard “down back.”

The hose stretched from the back garage, past the old 50’s Studebaker and Hawk, and trickled into the pool or onto heavy-gage plastic for our homemade Slip and Slide. There I sat with my sister sometimes, her transistor radio blaring AM stations, awed at her ability to lie still and sizzle to a crispy bacon-color. The sun made me lightheaded, being still made me bored. But I will always love coconut tinged with cocoa butter, mixed with cut grass and rose petals. Folks, that’s summer to me.

we heartsters – Does the smell of Coppertone make you misty? What smells like summer to you?

Sherri is co-author of What Would You Do With This Room? My 10 Foolproof Commandments to Great Interior Design, and of course, a wht writer!
skin tone: NC 25
skin type: oily/sensitive
favorite beauty product: anti-aging anything


  • sherrishera

    Sherri is a writer, dog lover, old movie fanatic, history detective, political junkie, fashion pundit and social media consumer advocate. “A fancy dinner and expensive champagne are better than writing a rent check any day of the week.” skin tone: NC 25 skin type: oily/sensitive favorite beauty product: anti-aging anything

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  1. @sherrishera — Great post! This sure does bring back childhood for me. Let’s just say it was a different level of consciousness. I do love the memory of how Coppertone smells. There was just something about it back in the day that was almost magical.

  2. Thank you, @sherrishera , for a post that made me feel so happy! The smell of Coppertone and Hawaiian Tropic, and even the Oompa Loompa orange of a QT tan take me right back to my fearless childhood. I love the big hair and crocheted bikinis in that Hawaiian Tropic ad, and you and your hubby are so buff and bronze! Here’s to sunshine and innocence… I just hope I don’t end up looking like the There’s Something About Mary lady when my past catches up with me!

  3. My Mom used to have what was essentially a tin foil blanket that she used to lay out on. And I would too, whenever she wasn’t on it. God, even that term “lay out” – you don’t say that anymore! I laid out a LOT in the summer. Honestly, I totally miss laying out. I’d time it by album sides, flipping after I went in to flip the album. (Man, I feel very old right now.)

    We also didn’t call it sunscreen. We called it “suntan oil.” You didn’t want it to screen anything, you wanted it to help you get tan!

    Never was a QT girl, though. The smell and color was always a big turn off for me. But also, I’m Italian and tan even if I just look at the sun.

    I think my skin looks much better than it should for someone who used to wear SPF 4 and lay on tin foil. I think that’s where the Italian comes in again. My oily skin is a blessing in this case.

    But the smell of Hawaiian Tropic? I would bath in even now. Nothing smells more like summer to me than that. Except maybe a grill, but I wouldn’t bath in that smell.

  4. I miss the smell of Sea and Ski. I used to think i was so protected when I used spf 6 which was as high as it went in the 70’s and early 80’s. But I went to the So Cal beach almost every day back then and most of my friends used nothing. I still have sun damage. I’m 56.

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