Sunscreen is a substance spread on skin to protect from sunburns, which are itchy rashes caused by rays of light of a sunny day. Sunburns make the clothes you are wearing, or the sheets in which you are sleeping, feel rough and unpleasant. But you soon realize these external things are not the problem–it is your own skin you need to shed. Sunscreen takes the form of a lotion, which you squeeze out of a bottle and run into your skin until the last white remnants disappear, or a spray, which works the same way as bug spray, implying, at least to me, the sun is no more than a distant insect easily repelled.

And it is painless, quick to apply, and effective, and yet it almost always becomes the enemy of the summer’s day. You’ll want to rush from the parking lot into the pool, sprint from the house down to the lake, or begin lawn work on Saturday morning. Applying sunscreen means you have to wait, albeit a few minutes, before you can begin. Yet doing so is advantageous not only for your skin but also for your sight and taste. See, if you put it on when you are outside, then it will have no time to dry, and the sweat on your face slides the sunscreen down into the corners of your eyes and mouth.

But more than being annoyed at the time it takes to put sunscreen on, we convince ourselves that we don’t need it at all. We like to believe that we can withstand the power of the sun, but this is exactly why we need to apply it. More than keeping rashes off our skin, we need sunscreen for how it reminds us of a truth: even on a free summer’s day, when we are sharing ice cream on the beach with the ones we love, this world harms us, and we must always be on guard.

Make no mistake, sunscreen is not an individual concern; it is a family matter. You likely can’t reach parts of your back, and if you can it is less likely you can apply the sunscreen evenly. Maturity on a sunny day is turning to me, or Mom, and asking, “Could you put sunscreen on my back?”

And I think this is true, that an important aspect for family life is the personal investment in the state of one another’s skin. We protect each other’s skin from sunburns, inquire when someone’s hands crack from dryness, and in a similar way, care even about the length of toenails. As skin makes up a body, hold us together, so the concern for one another’s skin is part of what makes up our family, what holds us together.