The Best Product Innovation of the Last 20 Years (Nominations Welcome, But I’ve Already Made Up My Mind)

Photo by Jens Mortensen

I’ve just spent the last two weeks on vacation, which means I’ve had a lot of time to ponder life’s big issues:

  • am I a good mother?
  • just how important are good grades in the grand scheme of things?
  • why is my family so messy?
  • is the choice that I have made—to just let my family be messy, instead of being the only person of the five of us who ever picks things up—the right choice?
  • can I live with the way my house looks, having made that choice?
  • is a flock of crows that seems to follow you around for a whole afternoon trying to send you an ominous message?
  • why can’t my kids ever tell which of their clothes are clean and which are dirty?
  • is there a way to be vacation-relaxed without needing a prescription?
  • why do I hate sunscreen so much?

But as I pondered that last one, I had a revelation: I no longer hate sunscreen.

First, some background. I do not tan; I simply burn and peel. Sometimes my skin gets a bit browner if I’ve been in the sun for days on end, but it’s not so much a tan as the freckles all deciding to run together. So I have had a lifelong relationship with sunscreen. And it’s a relationship that has brought me nothing but unhappiness—well, that and a reduced likelihood of skin cancer.

But over the last two weeks I came to realize that I actually love sunscreen! Really! It was wonderful enough when, a few years back, I discovered the sunscreen face stick, which meant I never got sunscreen in my eyes and reduced arguments with my children by 25%. But it wasn’t until I spent the last two weeks in the sun that I came to realize just how much I need spray sunscreen in my life, and I mean forever. Honestly, why would you buy any other kind? It doesn’t smear off on your clothes, it doesn’t leave your skin deathly white, it doesn’t smell bad, and it goes on in about 5 seconds. And, best of all, your kids don’t complain about it. There is the slightly creepy and possibly toxic situation of the sunscreen covering the floor in a weird little film when you’re done applying it all over, but we won’t focus on that.

Spray sunscreen has revolutionized my life, improved family relations, and perhaps saved thousands in dermatologist bills. So I would hereby like to nominate it as the best product innovation of the last 20 years. And yes, that includes the iPhone.