Are you heading to Disney this year? Or the beach? Even if you’re hiking on cloudy days or hitting the ski slopes, sun protection is critical for avoiding an untimely sunburn or even longer-term sun damage. The right skin protection will shield your skin from the harmful UV rays that can accelerate aging and increase health risks. Here, we’ve put together a quick, no-nonsense guide that will keep your skin safe no matter your destination.
Here, we’ve put together a quick, no-nonsense guide that will keep your skin safe no matter your destination.
Table of Contents
Packing the Essentials
In a way, sun protection begins before you even leave home. What you pack might vary a bit based on your destination, but here are some essentials that every checklist should include.
- Sunscreen: A broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 is a must. It protects against UVA and UVB rays, preventing burns and long-term skin damage. Remember, you’ll need to reapply every two hours and more often if swimming or sweating.
- Lip Balm with SPF: Our lips are just as susceptible to sun damage. A lip balm with SPF 15 or higher will keep them protected and moisturized.
- Protective Clothing: Pack lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants. Clothing with built-in UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) is available and highly effective at blocking UV rays.
- Hats: A wide-brimmed hat provides shade for your face, ears, and neck — areas highly exposed and vulnerable to the sun.
- Sunglasses: UV protection sunglasses are also crucial. They shield your eyes and the delicate skin around them from harmful rays. Check the details when you buy sunglasses for travel to make sure they’ll block 100% of UV rays.
- Portable Shade: Consider a lightweight, portable umbrella or a pop-up tent for beach days or times you’ll be sitting out in the open. It will offer a break from direct sunlight, giving your skin the occasional necessary break.
- After-sun Care: Aloe vera gel or after-sun lotion can help soothe any inadvertent sun exposure and keep your skin hydrated. There’s nothing worse than having itchy, uncomfortable sunburn and no relief, especially if you’ll be away from civilization for a bit.
Sun Protection While Out and About
Once your travels are finally underway, it’s time to put all those essentials you packed to work.
Wear Your Sun Protection
You went to the trouble of packing it, so now it’s time to use it! Even on cloudy days, it’s worth it to wear your protective clothing, including wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses. UV rays can penetrate cloud cover, so it’s best to be safe.
You also need to stay on top of the sunscreen application. It’s sometimes easy to forget to reapply it, so be super diligent about it. Apply it before you head out for the day’s adventure, and set a timer on your phone for reapplication after two hours. If you’re swimming, sweating, or towel-drying, you’ll need to apply more frequently.
Be extra mindful of beach time and other water activities since water and sand reflect sunlight and leave you with an unexpected sunburn. Waterproof sunscreen that has at least SPF50 is best, and consider wearing a rash guard if you’re going to stay in the water for a while.
Watch the Weather
Check the UV index wherever you’re travelling so that you can plan some indoor days when it’s high. Higher levels indicate a greater risk of overexposure to UV rays. If you’re scheduling a trip to a theme park or similar, avoid tickets in the peak of the summer heat.
It can’t always be avoided, but if you can, try to be indoors during peak hours when the sun is at its strongest. If you’re camping or adventuring outdoors, this is a great time to pop that portable shade and read a book or play cards with your travel companions until it’s safer.
Carry a water bottle and be sure you keep yourself hydrated while travelling. This is less about skin damage, but still protects you from those sunny days when you may be at risk of overheating, especially if you’re hiking or doing a lot of walking.
If You Get a Sunburn While Traveling
Sometimes despite your best efforts, you’ll still end up with a sunburn. If this happens, you’ll likely be in some discomfort for a few days, but if you’ve prepared ahead of time, it won’t ruin the rest of your trip.
If you remembered to bring aloe vera, this will be your first line of defence against the painful itchiness of a sunburn. Cool baths or showers can also be helpful, especially if you’re having trouble sleeping at night due to the constant heat of the burn.
If you need something more, find a pharmacy and pick up some ibuprofen or aspirin (it really helps!). You can also check for hydrocortisone creams or other moisturizers that will help calm the burn. Just try to avoid anything with petroleum which will just trap the heat and make you feel worse.
In the case of a very bad burn, you might get blisters. If this happens, just let them heal without popping them to prevent infection. And, of course, If your sunburn covers a large area or results in chills, headache, or a fever, seek medical attention.
Once you’re back from your travels, if your sunburn is severe, it’s a good idea to check in with your dermatologist. They can assess the damage and provide guidance on how to soothe and repair your skin. They may also want to follow up once those blisters heal up, just to keep an eye on any changes.
And then, you can start planning the next trip. Safe travels!