Brain Hack - Forming a Sunscreen Habit

“We should eat more vegetables and fewer fats. We should take vitamins and apply sunscreen. The facts could not be more clear on this last front: Dabbing a bit of sunscreen on your face each morning significantly lowers the odds of skin cancer. Yet, while everyone brushes their teeth, fewer than 10 percent of Americans apply sunscreen each day. Why? Because there’s no craving that has made sunscreen into a daily habit.” (Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit, 59).

Brushing our teeth is a habit so ingrained in our culture that we likely don’t think twice about this hygiene step in our day. But, despite toothpaste or tooth powder having existed in some form since Egyptian times, it wasn’t until the 1950s that brushing our teeth became a part of our daily routine. The change wasn’t due to people suddenly becoming more aware of their bad breath, or from a desire to take better care of ourselves and make more responsible choices. The boom of toothpaste sales was due to the unintentional creation of a craving through Pepsodent’s addition of mint oils to their toothpaste formula.

Mint oil is an abrasive substance which causes a cool and tingling sensation to occur on the inside of our mouths. The addition of mint oils causes a reaction in our mouths, creating a lasting cool and tingling sensation that people associate with cleanliness. The reward of having clean teeth became associated in our brains with the physical sensation of tingling. Individual by individual, this craving for a fresh feeling, cool tingle after brushing one’s teeth lead to a nationwide habit; and it is now a step in our day that we hardly notice.

Ever since I read the above excerpt from Duhigg’s bestseller, The Power of Habit, I’ve been wondering -- How can we hack our brains and create a daily face and neck sunscreen habit for ourselves? As Charles Duhigg tells us, the key to creating a lasting habit is to find a reward that leads to a craving.

Having been coached since my early twenties by a close friend who works in the cosmetic industry, I have been an avid daily sunscreen applier since the day she showed me a slideshow she had just been shown in one of her classes. It was image upon image of the effects that the sun has on our skin, especially as we age, contrasted with images of those who had been using sunscreen daily for at least 20 years. The difference was enough to shock me, and my brain, into forming my current daily habit.

Knowing however, does not always mean doing! Since we don’t yet have tingling sunscreen, how can we reward our brains for doing what is best for our skin? My personal reward when it comes to a daily face sunscreen habit is imagining an invisible mask of protection that will take me throughout that day --- and that day will be added to the last and to the next, and all the days will string together till I look as good as Linda Carter in her 60s.

Image by Crypticnine

It may seem small, and insignificant, but this mental visualization has been enough for me to have created a craving for my daily face sunscreen. Now, if I miss a day due to traveling or the logistics of significant other sleepovers, my face feels naked and exposed without my invisible mask of protection. Now that you have the basic knowledge, what will be your daily mental picture to motivate you into a daily sunscreen habit? 

Image by Stanton Daily

OH! Before you go, another thing I learned from that slideshow of sun damaged horrors -- Don’t forget your neck!! We forget how our neck gets as much daily exposure as our pretty little faces, and is one of the first to be affected by the harsh laws of gravity, so add another dollop and lather up that neck. Your skin and your future self will thank you.

October 18, 2017 by Jessica Nickel

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