Tommy Lloyd
Author: Tommy Lloyd, Managing Director

Tommy has over 15 years experience within the insurance industry, and his primary focus is helping travellers find the right cover for their medical conditions.

7 min read

How to protect your skin from the sun when travelling

Are you planning a warm weather holiday somewhere sunny? Dreaming of lying on the beach with a cocktail in hand? Looking forward to spending a family holiday enjoying the pool with your little ones? Although a sunny holiday is great for your mood, you’ll need to take extra precautions to keep yourself safe from the sun. Read on to discover how to stay safe in the sun whilst travelling.

Always use sunscreen

The first and most important rule for staying safe in the sun is always using sunscreen. Did you know that even if it’s not sunny, you should wear sun cream to protect your skin daily? But it’s not enough to just put on any old sun cream in the morning and call it a day; you need to make sure you are using the correct sun cream and reapplying consistently.

READ MORE: About Sun Awareness Week

What SPF should you be using?

It would help if you always opted for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to protect yourself from the sun’s rays. Anything under this is only seen as mild protection. It might be okay to protect you on an overcast winter day, but if you’re enjoying a holiday in the sun, opting for 30 or above is necessary. And making sure it has a broad-spectrum label ensures it can help to limit sun damage from both UVA and UVB rays.

The number that follows SPF refers to the number of UVB rays it absorbs. When properly applied, an SPF 15 will block 93% of UVB radiation, SPF 30 97%, and SPF 50 98%. So, although you can buy a higher SPF than 30, it doesn’t make a massive difference to the protection offered AND can make you feel more secure and less likely to reapply frequently.

We spoke to Lauren of Lauren’s Lighthouse travel blog, who recommended her favourite: “An absolute must-have on all your travels, whether to sun destinations or any place you'll be outdoors, is the COSRX SPF50 PA+++ Aloe Soothing Sun Cream. I've tried every sunscreen under the sun, and this one is by far the best, leaving little to no residue on your skin and making the perfect base for any makeup.”

You also need to ensure that your sunscreen is in date, as once it isn’t, it won’t be able to protect you. If you are flying to your holiday destination, one thing that might be worth doing is picking up a brand-new bottle at the airport after checking in. That way, you can know it’s in date and has a powerful SPF.

How often should you reapply sunscreen?

So, you’ve got an excellent SPF sunscreen that’s in date; how often should you apply it? You should try to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, as the sun will dry it off your skin. However, if you are swimming or sweating heavily, you should reapply it more frequently. Just jumped out of the pool? Towel off and add another layer. Even if you have “water resistant” sun cream, you must reapply it to ensure you’ve got a proper application. The last thing you want is to have missed patches.

Limit how much you are in the midday sun

Limit how much you are out in the midday sun if you can. You may think midday sun means just the sun around 12 and one; however, the UV rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm. This doesn’t mean you have to stay cooped up inside, but it means taking an umbrella to sit underneath on the beach so that you are in the shade or trying to sit inside for a meal rather than outside in the sunshine. Just making a conscious effort to be in the shade as much as possible will be something your skin will thank you for.

Selfie Of Young Couple Smiling In The Sun

Cover your skin with light clothing

Whether you cannot stay out of the sun or want to add another layer of protection to your arsenal, wearing light clothing that covers more of your skin can be helpful. Wear thin clothes that cover your skin, such as long sleeve linen shirts and floor-length skirts. Although it might be seen as counter-intuitive, and we usually opt for as little clothing as possible in the heat, this means an increase in the amount of skin on show and an increase in the potential areas at risk of skin damage.

This is a tip that Christa from The Spirited Explorer recommends: “Though I'm a cold-natured traveller, I do find myself spending several weeks at a time in sun-drenched destinations like Italy or Costa Rica. So, I always bring long-sleeved linen layers to protect my skin. That layer and a lightweight sun hat give me the added protection my fair skin needs without making me feel hot. Honestly, I've found that a linen layer actually helps regulate my body temperature and keep me comfortable in even the hottest places.”

Be aware of your medications

Suppose you are someone who takes medication, as well as ensuring you have travel insurance with medical conditions included before you travel. You should also take time to understand how your medicine might interact with the sun. A wide range of medications can cause photosensitivity, which could make you more sensitive to sunlight than you usually would be.

The medications that can cause sensitivity to the sun include antibiotics, antifungals, antihistamines, pain relievers, diabetes medications, and more. It’s not the case that everyone on these medications will experience increased photosensitivity. However, it’s wise to know before you travel somewhere hot that it might be something you’re more likely to encounter.

READ MORE: What medical conditions get worse in hot weather?

Young Woman Smiling And Wearing Sunglasses

Wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB lenses

Making sure you pack your favourite pair of shades is essential for looking and feeling good on holiday, but you also need to ensure your sunglasses are working for you and protecting your eyes from the sun. It’s all well and good having sunnies that make you feel fabulous, but if they don’t protect your eyes, they shouldn’t be in your rotation.

Most sunglasses you buy today will have UV protection embedded, but to be confident, you’ll want to ensure that your shades are labelled as either 100% UV protection or have a UV filter category UV 400. If you have an old pair of sunglasses, many opticians can check what UV protection they provide.

How to protect your skin from the sun:

  • Always use sunscreen
  • Limit how much you are in the midday sun
  • Cover your skin with light clothing
  • Be aware of your medications
  • Wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB lenses

Practising good sun safety is essential, and not only can it prevent painful (and sometimes embarrassing) sunburns, but it can also reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Are you looking for more articles with helpful advice to help you make the most of your travels? Check out our travel blog.

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