It's on those sun-drenched sandy shores that she developed some bad tanning habits, she says. She cringes at the memory of lying out without sunscreen and many trips to tanning beds in high school.
"I have had plenty of burns, sun poisoning in my lips, which was painful and embarrassing, so I have learned my lesson," she said.
This year, she shares her newfound wisdom as the ambassador of Jergens' Glow in the Dark Cam-paign to benefit The Skin Cancer Foundation. She took the pledge to practice safe sun this summer.
"I'm more of a preacher now. I still have girlfriends at 29 who are laying out without sunscreen," she says. She wears not only sunscreen but also a hat.
The turning point, according to Ms. Bilson, was the sun poisoning on her lip, which she feared was a cancerous bump.
The lips are vulnerable to sun damage because they protrude, says Dr. Deborah Sarnoff, a dermatologist and vice president of The Skin Cancer Foundation.
Women who wear opaque lipstick get one layer of protection, but she'd also recommend a specific lip product, perhaps something like ChapStick or Blistex with a Sun Protection Factor of at least 15. And, she adds, don't forget to reapply after eating.
Other areas that people tend to miss with sunscreen are the ears, back of the neck and the tops of feet, Dr. Sarnoff says.
She reminds sun worshippers to put their sunscreen on 20-30 minutes before going outside -- and that means every day. A few minutes here and a few there without it start to add up, she says, and damage accrues collectively.
Facts from The Skin Cancer Foundation include: About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are linked to UV radiation from the sun, and up to 90 percent of visible signs of aging are also driven by the sun.