Sun Protection 101: How to Protect Yourself While Travelling

Sun Protection 101: How to Protect Yourself While Travelling

Your ultimate guide to never getting sunburned again while on vacation.


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We all know that the sun’s rays are extremely harmful and that even in the winter months we still need to slather on the sunscreen to help prevent skin cancer and from sunburns. But we’ve been there — we become a little lax when on vacation (especially when you’re escaping bitter winter in favour of the tropical heat down south) and skimp on the protection sometimes in favour of soaking up some extra vitamin D. And when you’re in relaxed vacation-mode (cocktails in one hand and eReader in the other pool-side) it’s easy to forget just how strong the sun is in other parts of the world and how much protection you need. Chloe McCauley, La Roche-Posay skin expert shares her best tips for sun protection while on vacation with us, so you don’t get burned again.

Hot Destinations Equal More Sun Protection

“When anyone is going to be sun exposed, regardless of location, a broad spectrum UVA-UVB sunscreen recognized by the Canadian Dermatology Association is recommended,” explains McCauley. “UV protectant clothing, as well as a hat and sunglasses help keep the skin, hair, and eyes shielded from harmful radiation.” McCauley also says you need to reapply sunscreen every two hours and always after swimming or you work up a sweat. And keeping hydrated will also help protect your skin by making sure your organs are working properly.  “Dehydration is not fun while on vacation!”

The Sun’s Rays Are Not the Same Everywhere

“The sun’s UVB rays are stronger the closer you are to the equator,” McCauley says.  “These are the rays responsible for a sunburn (UVBuring). However, UVA rays are always at their full strength regardless of location or time of year.” Those UVA rays are the rays are the culprits behind skin aging, and sun allergies (UVAging, UVAllergies) — none of which are fun or wanted. “Both UVA and UVB rays contribute to skin cancer development, and impact skin health and appearance,” warns McCauley. “This is why a broad spectrum sun protection is very important regardless of location or time of year. Remember that SPF does not tell you UVA protection. SPF stands for Sunburn Protection Factor – it is only a measurement of UVB protection.”

Myth: Base Tans Help Protect Against Sunburn

No matter how pale your skin, or how long it hasn’t been exposed to the sun, everyone needs to wear protection says McCauley. “Anyone, regardless of sun exposure level, needs to take the same precautions when sun exposed. A ‘base’ tan does not make some one more resistant to burning. In fact, a tan is an indication of skin damage occurring. Skin colour also does not mean you are protected from premature aging and skin cancer. Everyone must take equal precautions.”

The Best Ways to Protect Your Skin From the Sun

“Limit your sun exposure to 15 minutes daily, and wear sunscreen every single day!” advises McCauley. “Choose shade over full sun, and reapply your sunscreen even if you choose shade.” 15 minutes can seem like a very short time for the sun-deprived during winter months, but McCauley says that if you do stay out inthe sun for longer periods of time, reapplication is key. ” You must reapply every two hours because sunscreen filters begin to absorb less and less harmful radiation. The filters can only absorb a certain quantity of radiation before they cannot absorb anymore. If you are not going to see two hours or more of sun exposure, a morning application is recommended prior to exposure. One application is better than no application!”

Know Your SPF Levels

“For any location and any time of year, a minimum SPF 30 is recommended,” advises McCauley. “However a SPF 50+ is best.”

What to Do if You Do Get Burned

Try as we might, sometimes it just happens — not enough sunscreen or reapplications, and you end up with the dreaded vacation sunburn. “If you do burn, apply a hydrating moisturizer with calming extracts like shea butter, chamomile and aloe,” says McCauley. “Keeping the skin well hydrated helps prevent the skin from drying out and peeling. Extracts like chamomile and aloe help calm inflammation from the burn, and help decrease the stinging sensations. An aspirin taken orally is also recommended to decrease inflammation.” And above all, McCauley says that if your skin does peel — leave it alone and never pick. “This makes the fresh skin underneath more prone to sun damage.” Stick to a creamy, soap free cleanser in the shower, towel dry by gently patting the skin, and apply moisturizer immediately after. “If the sunburn is severe, Cicaplast Baume B5 by La Roche-Posay contains anti-bacterial ingredients to fight off unwanted infections, as well as shea butter and Vitamin B5 to help create the optimal skin healing environment. As a bonus, it is also takes away burning and stinging sensations!”

Must-Pack Sun Protection Necessities

Anthelios SPF 60 Melt-In Cream (Face & Body), and the Anthelios Ultra-Light Fluid (Face) are essential,” says McCauley. “These sunscreens contain Mexoryl Technology, which is the #1 recommended UVA filter technology by Canadian Dermatologists. It is even recommended for people who are sun allergic, have a history of skin cancer, and want to prevent premature aging. Other essentials are a pair of polarized wrap-around sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and a big reusable bottle of water.”

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