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Beat the Sunburn: 5 Sun Protection Tips Besides Sunscreen (Travel Edition!)

a portrait of a woman wearing an oversized sun hat

Sun's out, tans out? Not quite! While summer means adventure, it also means protecting your skin from harmful UV rays. Sunscreen is a must, but don't stop there! This travel edition guide unveils 5 sun protection tips beyond sunscreen to keep you cool, covered, and looking radiant while traveling. Get ready to explore and beat the summer burn!

Sun Exposure and the Importance of Skincare

Sunshine can be invigorating, but it's important to remember the aftereffects on your skin. Sun exposure can leave it feeling dry, irritated, and even burnt. Luckily, with a little TLC, you can restore your skin's health and minimize any sun damage.

Moisturize and Soothe: After a day in the sun, your skin craves hydration. Look for after-sun lotions or aloe vera gel that are fragrance-free and specifically formulated for sun-exposed skin. These products will help keep your skin hydrated and cool any inflammation.

Hydration is Key: Sun exposure can rob your body of fluids, leaving your skin dehydrated. Counter this by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Aim to drink even more than usual following sun exposure to help your skin recover from the inside out.

Skip the Scrubbing: Your skin is already stressed from the sun, so avoid harsh scrubs or exfoliating products. These can irritate and damage your already compromised barrier. Opt for gentle cleansers and let your skin heal naturally.

woman in a swimsuit on a beach tanning

Top 5 Sun Protection Tips Besides Sunscreen

Sunscreen is a crucial defense against the sun's harmful rays, but it's not the only weapon in your summer sun protection arsenal. Traveling throws extra challenges your way, with limited space in your luggage and unfamiliar environments. Here are 5 sun protection tips you can easily incorporate into your travel plans to keep that summer glow healthy and sunburn-free:

  • 1. Embrace Sun-Protective Clothing:

Ditch the flimsy tank tops and invest in lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants made from breathable fabrics like linen or cotton. Look for clothes with a tight weave that offers Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) protection. UPF ratings work similarly to SPF, indicating how effectively the fabric shields your skin from UV rays. Opt for neutral colors like white, beige, or light blue, as they reflect sunlight more effectively than darker shades.

*Pro Tip for Travelers: Pack versatile clothing items that can be easily layered. A quick-drying, long-sleeved fishing shirt can double as a beach cover-up and a light jacket for evenings. Don't forget a wide-brimmed hat! A floppy hat with a brim of at least 3 inches shades your face, neck, and ears – areas often neglected by sunscreen. Pack a foldable hat for easy storage in your backpack.

  • 2. Seek Shade Strategically:

Planning your day around the sun's peak intensity is a smart strategy. Aim for outdoor activities in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun's rays are less harsh. During midday, prioritize activities that offer natural shade, like exploring museums, visiting historical sites, or indulging in a delicious lunch indoors.

*Pro Tip for Travelers: Research your destination beforehand. Look for parks with ample shade from trees or look into guided tours that incorporate shaded areas during peak sun hours. Many popular tourist destinations offer shaded walking paths or courtyards – perfect for escaping the heat while still enjoying the sights.

  • 3. Stay Hydrated from the Inside Out:

Sun exposure increases sweating, leading to dehydration. Dehydration makes your skin more susceptible to sunburn, so staying hydrated is key. Take a reusable water bottle anywhere you pretend to go during your vacation: beach, museum, water park, etc..., even if you don't feel thirsty.

*Pro Tip for Travelers:  Be mindful of local water quality. If unsure, opt for bottled water or purify tap water with portable water filtration tablets or a straw. Pack hydrating fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumber, and oranges for a refreshing snack that provides essential vitamins and additional fluids.

  • 4. Utilize Beach Accessories Strategically:

While beach umbrellas offer a welcome respite from the sun, their shade coverage can be limited. Pack a large beach towel or a lightweight sarong to create additional shade. You can use the sarong to build a makeshift canopy over your beach chair or spread it out for a shaded area to relax on.

*Pro Tip for Travelers: Look for beaches with designated shaded areas or cabanas that you can rent for the day. These offer a comfortable and reliable sun escape, especially if you're traveling with young children or elderly companions.

  • 5. Sun Protection After Sun:

Just because the sun has set doesn't mean your sun protection routine ends there. Soothing after-sun care helps your skin recover from sun exposure. Look for lotions or gels containing aloe vera or calamine to cool and hydrate sun-kissed skin.

*Pro Tip for Travelers: Pack travel-sized after-sun products or invest in multi-purpose products that combine sunscreen and moisturizer. Consider bringing aloe vera gel capsules or sheet masks for a quick and refreshing post-sun pampering session.

close-up of sunscreen cream in a hand

Sun Protection on the Go...

Sun safety shouldn't stop at the beach towel's edge. Pack for protection on the go! Travel-sized sunscreens in lotion sticks or spray bottles are lifesavers for easy application throughout the day. When poolside or at the beach, reapply sunscreen generously every two hours, or more often if you're sweating or swimming. Don't forget areas like your ears, shoulders, and the tops of your feet. Keep a small mirror handy to check for missed spots, especially on your back.

Upf Explained: Choosing the Right Sun Protection Clothing

Similar to SPF in sunscreen, UPF indicates how effectively a fabric shields your skin from ultraviolet radiation. A UPF rating of 50, for instance, signifies that the fabric blocks 98% of UV rays, while a UPF 30 blocks 96.7%. Fabrics with a UPF rating below 15 offer minimal protection. Look for the UPF rating on clothing labels, just like you would for SPF on sunscreen.

  • Choosing the Right UPF Rating:

The ideal UPF rating depends on your sun exposure and activity level. For everyday wear or light outdoor activities, a UPF 30 rating provides sufficient protection. However, if you'll be spending extended periods outdoors, especially in intense sunlight, opt for UPF 50+ clothing. This is particularly important for activities like hiking, swimming, or spending time at the beach.

two women on a beach towel

The Main Sunscreen Myth Debunked

Sun protection is crucial year-round, and common myths can leave you vulnerable to harmful UV rays. Forget the idea that clouds offer a shield – up to 80% of UV rays penetrate cloud cover. Sunscreen is your best defense, not a tan. Tans are a sign of skin damage, and pre-tanning doesn't provide any lasting protection. In fact, using sunscreen consistently will help prevent premature aging and wrinkles, giving you a healthy, even-toned glow that lasts.

  • How to Protect Your Skin From the Sun Without Sunscreen?

Sunshine feels good, but overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin, leading to sunburn, early aging, and even skin cancer. While sunscreen is the most effective defense, there are situations where you might prefer alternative methods. Here are some sun-smart strategies to keep your skin safe without sunscreen:

  • Seek Shade: This might seem obvious, but it's an effective way to minimize UV exposure. Plan outdoor activities for mornings and evenings when the sun's rays are weaker.  If you're outdoors during peak sun hours (10 am to 4 pm), find shade under trees, umbrellas, or canopies.

  • Cover Yourself: As mentioned above, clothing is an important barrier between your skin and UV rays. While traveling and visiting tropical countries, make sure to wear long-sleeved shirts, oversized hats, and pants.  Look for tightly woven fabrics with a dark color, as they offer better protection than loose weaves and lighter colors. 

  • Sun-Protective Accessories: Sunglasses are essential for shielding your eyes from harmful UV rays. Pick the right sunglasses that shield from UVA and UVB rays. Wide-brimmed hats are your friend, protecting your face, neck, and ears.  For extra coverage, consider a lightweight scarf to shield your neck and upper chest.

  • Time Your Activities: If possible, schedule outdoor activities for mornings and evenings when the sun's intensity is lower. This is especially important for people with fair skin or those more susceptible to sunburn.

  • Natural Skin Protectors: While not a substitute for sunscreen, certain foods might offer some natural protection from UV rays. Include fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants like tomatoes, carrots, and leafy greens in your diet.

Keep in mind that all these methods are most effective when used together. Even with these strategies, some UV exposure might be unavoidable. In such cases, consider using a small amount of broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on exposed areas. By combining sun-smart practices with occasional sunscreen use, you can enjoy the outdoors while keeping your skin safe and healthy.


So there you have it! With these simple tips in your travel bag, you can soak up the sights (not the rays) and conquer your summer bucket list without worry. Now get out there, explore, and have a sunburn-free adventure!

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