Sunburn Prevention: 5 Facts and Tips to Avoid Burning and Peeling on Your Vacation

Sunburn can well be considered one of the biggest disasters of a vacation. Get sunburn on Day 1 of your vacation and you’d need to be drunk the rest of your trip to forget the discomfort.

For kids, that’s not an option. Make it one of your top priorities to avoid sunburn.

You may think, "No point in reading this, that won't be me!" Yet every day at least one guest steps aboard as a happy vacationer, and leaves as a fried tomato. 

The Riviera Maya is nearer to the equator — that means the intensity of the sun and UV radiation is more direct and stronger. Not to mention when you're out at sea and the ocean is shining that sun back at you from  every angle below as well.

For some people, even the part in their hair can burn. It’s not surprising. When you’re on a beach or out at sea on a boat, it’s all sun and sea around you. It’s up to you to prevent the effects of the nearly non-stop sun-kissing-skin that happens!

While on charter with us, every once in a while come under our sunshades, or go inside for a bit. It all helps, and you won’t miss out at all! Music can be heard from everywhere and drinks served anywhere!

Most of our guests go on a cruise in the Riviera Maya when it’s winter or soggy spring (in the case of those from Britain, wet summer). That brings us to Fact #1.

1. Our natural photoprotection, resistance to sun exposure, is down during winter and spring.

For those coming from the north with fair skin fresh from the coolness of winter/spring, stepping out of the airport at Playa is like entering a furnace. It feels heavenly, but your skin doesn’t adjust that fast. If you wonder why the expats don’t seem to burn any more, that’s because our skin has adjusted.

What to do: We all know that tanning beds cause skin cancer. But a tan does give you SPF 4, meaning that it would take you 4x longer to burn than when you have no tan.

Build up your skin’s natural photoprotection by getting a tan before your cruise. We’ve heard from guests that this works. They arrive with what they call a “base tan.” Weeks before your cruise, start with 5 minutes’ worth of tanning, increasing the duration on every session afterward. 

Understand that this is NOT protection. You should still be devoted to sunblock, covering up and seeking shade. Think of tanning as waking up your skin and preparing it to not be a wimp when you sit on the sun deck!

Note: We included this tip because we’ve had consensus that it helps. Doctors recommend that we skip tanning salons. Getting a base tan MIGHT help, and it might not, sensitive skin or not.

 

2. Avoiding sunburn on a vacation or charter means covering up.

What to pick: Kimonos have great big butterfly sleeves to relieve your chest, shoulders and back from sun exposure. Just throw it on over your two-piece. Bonus is you can even swim in them.

Maxi skirts won’t billow and harm (or flash) anybody. They look phenomenal worn barefoot or with sandals. Whites and khakis ooze with ‘cruise’. Go for light colors to repel the heat.

Tilley hats get rave reviews for their sun protection. Guys and gals both get great designs. Hats also protect your scalp, ears and nape — the often-forgotten areas of skin that scream bloody murder if you let them fry in the sun.

For snorkeling, fishing, surfing, opt for rashguards that provide SPF.

If you have really sensitive skin that burns easily, stay clothed and hatted. And you’d need denser fabrics than the usual. The trick: Hold it up to the light. If light gets through, you can get burned if you stay in the sun for too long.

 

3. Waterproof and sweat-proof is not wipe-proof.

This is why sunblock and sunscreen manufacturers tell you to re-apply after swimming and sweating even when their product is waterproof or water-resistant. They assume you’d wipe it off. Rubbing against lounges and patting your face free of salt water is enough to remove your sun protection.

What to do: Re-apply.

Re-apply every 2 hours, or after swimming, no matter the SPF. Re-apply every time you could. The 20 minutes you have to wait before you go out in the sun again is good for you, too. If you want the sunburn-protection without the wait, there are lotions with ‘immediate’ protection (Nivea Sun).  

Choose SPF 75 and up if you have sensitive, easy-to-burn skin. Look for physical sun-blocking ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) protection.

 

4. Mid-day means micheladas or margaritas. At the bar. Inside. Or under umbrellas.

From 10am to 4pm, the sun is prime for that glorious Riviera tan. Just remember to be careful and vigilant. Put on some cover-up. Come in the shade for longer periods than you’re in the sun.

Better to slowly bronze over your vacation than to go Full Lobster on the first day.

Trick tip: Stand and look at at your shadow. If it’s shorter than you, the sun is at its peak strength for the day. Have no shadow because it’s overcast? Doesn’t matter. You can STILL burn.

 

5. Chemistry and blood affects your skin.

If you take medications, all it takes is one ingredient, or a blend of them, that makes you ultra sensitive to sun exposure, and all your precautions to prevent sunburn would be moot.

These medications can cause phototoxicity (reactions happen within hours of sun exposure) and photoallergy (reactions happen within days of sun exposure).

Source: Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America

What to do: Months before you go on your vacation, talk to your doctor about your meds. If need be, you might have to temporarily switch to alternatives.

Have any other tips about preventing sunburn during a beach vacation or yacht charter? Let us know in the comments!