Sunny Skincare: Read Before Hitting the Beach!
Before the Beach
- SPF is your friend. Sunscreen is critical for sunny beach days, but what does "SPF 30" actually mean? SPF stands for "sun protection factor," which is a measure of how well this particular sunscreen will protect your skin from damaging UVB rays. For example, if you can sit in the sun unprotected for 10 minutes before burning, an SPF 30 sunscreen will protect you for up to 300 minutes (a factor of 30 times longer). This isn't always the case, though--if you have sensitive skin, you're heading to a white-sand beach with reflective surfaces, or you'll be spending a lot of time in the water, you'll need to reapply sunscreen more often. SPF 30 is a good choice for non-sensitive skin, but younger kids, infants, and people with a higher likelihood to burn should invest in at least SPF 50.
- Pack in the ice. A clever trick to keep cool during hot beach days is to pack your sunscreen and other supplies in your cooler with your sodas and water bottles. Applying sunscreen while it's cool helps lower your body temperature and reduce the risk of heatstroke, especially for children. Before you head out, make sure you're packing plenty of ice packs and enough water for the whole family.
- Plan for mornings or afternoons. Generally, the sun's rays are at their strongest from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. If you can, plan your beach time for the early morning or late afternoon--or be prepared to bring plenty of shade if you're heading out during the hottest part of the day.
- Double-check your expiration dates. It's important to check your expiration dates BEFORE you hit the beach. Sunscreen is only designed to last a summer season, so if you're using last year's bottle, you might need to replace it. A good way to tell if sunscreen has gone bad is if it's begun to separate into its oil and lotion parts. If you have to mix your sunscreen together before applying, it's probably not going to do a very good job.
- Ask your doctor about your medications. This is a small tip, but it's an easy one to miss. Many medications can cause an increased sensitivity to sunlight, meaning rosy cheeks or even awful sunburns if you're not prepared. Ask your doctor about sun sensitivity side effects associated with some antibiotics, anti-depressants, acne treatments, and heart medications.
While You're Enjoying the Sun
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours. Or, if you've got sensitive skin or you'll be spending a lot of time in the water, make sure you're reapplying at least every hour. The SPF in sunscreen is designed to increase the amount of time you're able to stay in the sun, not protect you completely from harmful UVB rays. If you're sweating, swimming, or playing in the sand, you can rub away important protection--reapply often, and well!
- Cover up. Sometimes sunscreen just doesn't cut it. Especially for infants and young children, it's important to have bathing suits and beach outfits that cover sensitive skin. A hat, sunglasses (we can suggest a few!), and a long-sleeve shirt go miles toward protecting sensitive skin from the sun.
- Stick to the shade. Beach days are all about that Vitamin D, but you should take breaks in the shade every so often. This is good to protect your eyes from glare (sunglasses will do that too!), let your body reach a cooler temperature, and offer your skin a break from the sun while you reapply sunscreen.
- Keep an eye on Baby. Kids are highly susceptible to heat, particularly infants and toddlers who are still growing. You'll find most baby beach outfits offer long sleeves and leg coverings, but in high temperatures, it's easy for Baby to get overheated. Keep an eye out for rosy cheeks and chapped lips, and make sure everyone is drinking enough water. If your infant is getting too hot, strip off his outer layers and let him hang out in the shade for a while. A baby pool under an umbrella is a great way to keep your baby safe from the sun while experiencing all the fun of the beach.
- Practice the "shadow rule." The intensity of the sun is directly related to the angle at which light rays hit you. The "shadow rule" helps you identify when you're getting hit the hardest with UVB rays: if your shadow is shorter than you, you're in the hottest part of the day, and should take more breaks or apply more sunscreen to avoid a burn.
After the Sun Sets
- Hit the showers. There's nothing quite like a cool shower after a long day in the sun. It's important to wash your skin after spending time in the sun, to remove any grit and grime built up from sweat, sand, and salt. Getting clean is helpful for avoiding acne breakouts or other irritation associated with your first beach day in a while, but it also starts the healing process for skin that's already burned.
- Exfoliate--carefully. Exfoliation removes the top layer of dead skin, grime, and gunk that might be clogging your pores. However, if you're sunburned, exfoliating can expose parts of your skin that are already damaged from the sun. Be sure to exfoliate after a beach day, but be gentle about it--if you notice your skin starting to sting, you're scrubbing too hard.
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. And we don't just mean your skin! It's just as critical to stay hydrated after the beach as it is to stay hydrated all day. You've expelled a lot of moisture sweating and exercising, and it's important to bring that back into your body and your skin. After washing up, apply a gentle moisturizer (something containing aloe, if you've got a sunburn) and make sure to drink plenty of water.
- Don't forget your lips! It's easy to skip your lips during your skincare routine. But have you noticed how chapped they get when you've got a sunburn? To protect your lips, make sure they're part of your exfoliation process, and apply a lib balm with SPF while you're moisturizing.
- If you're burned, apply some after-sun. There are plenty of over-the-counter "after-sun" lotions that will get the job done, but make sure you're picking something that contains aloe extract. Aloe has natural cooling properties that soothe a sunburn and help it start to heal. If you're a green thumb, you can also consider growing your own aloe at home--to apply the extract, all you need to do is break open an aloe leaf and rub the great-smelling goo in a thin layer over your sunburn. To restore moisture, you might also consider an after-sun skin mask for ultimate beach day relaxation!
Memorial Day Weekend is just around the corner! If you're hitting the beach, don't forget to prep for time in the sun. For many of us, this is the first opportunity we'll get for full-body sun this year. Stay safe, stay covered, and enjoy those well-earned rays!