It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of a favorite beach bag must be in want of a holiday. But what should she pack in that bag for maximum skin protection and comfort? Over the past few years, the health and beauty world has been slathered with stories about the dangers of sun cream, but the fact remains that it is still the best guard against burning, damage, and ultimately cancer. So along with your striped beach towels and glamourous shades, do pack sun cream.
You could almost hear the medical and research communities howling in protest as the backlash against sun cream from non-medical sources grew louder. Economy bloggers and models and Lululemon bags advised us to stop using commercial sunscreens, with claims that the compounds were toxic, cancer-causing, and limited our exposure to vitamin D. But the major research and advocacy organisations are united in their opposition to such unfounded claims. Cancer Research UK and the U.S.–based Skin Cancer Foundation still recommend the regular use of sun-protection products of at least SPF15, and preferably 30, regardless of your ethnicity or colour.
They still recommend limiting your exposure and using clothing, hats, and sunglasses as your first line of defence. If you have sensitive skin, use a zinc oxide–based product, as these don’t use chemical UV blockers.
In case you are wondering: no, developing a base tan and eating antioxidant-rich foods are not reliable means of increasing your natural resistance to ultraviolet rays. Fortunately, the colourful foods of summer, with their vitamins and healthy oils, contribute mightily to your overall nutrition, which will reveal itself in healthy-looking skin. The scientific community is also in agreement that vitamin D deficiencies can be easily and adequately addressed by a healthy diet and vitamin supplements, if necessary.
Remember that if your skin is reddening and you are still in the sun, you are likely to have quite a bad burn, as the real effects of a sunburn can take four to six hours to develop. So cover up as soon as you see it – don’t just reapply sun cream. To reduce the inflammation from a burn, take ibuprofen and use hydrocortisone on the affected areas for the first day or two. Seek medical attention if you show any signs of dehydration, including fever, chills, dry mouth, and a bad headache.
So, what should a woman pack in her favourite beach tote? Those glamorous shades, a great book, and major sun protection.