How to Avoid Sunburn At the Beach in 10 Easy Steps (and What to Do if it’s Too Late!)

Travel Tips

Jul 16
Beautiful sandy beach how to avoid sunburn at the beach

How to Avoid Sunburn at the Beach in 10 Essential Steps (And Find Sunburn Relief if That Fails!)

 Let's face it, we'd all like to know how to avoid sunburn, wherever we are in the world.   Even blustery Britain excels in stealth sunburn moments, leaving the unsuspecting in stinging need of some sunburn relief. And nowhere matters more than working out how to avoid sunburn at the beach.

Sunburn, as we all well know, contributes to skin cancer, wrinkles and it just plain hurts.

So here are ten tips to help you avoid sunburn at the beach.

How to avoid sunburn at the beach - image with person swimming

1 - Apply sunscreen often

Get into the habit of using suncream as much as you brush your teeth. Apply liberally before you go out under the rays and make sure that the cream you use has a high SPF (+30 or higher) for UVB protection and a minimum of 4 stars for UVA protection. Reapply every 1-2 hours in bright sunshine (OK, that's where the toothbrush analogy breaks down. But start with the toothbrush habit and work up form there. Applying sunscreen, that is. Not toothpaste. Obviously.)

2 - Take care on the sand

2 - Pay particular attention when on the sand - it can act as a mirror and increase reflected radiation by up to 17 %. 

3 - Avoid the Midday Sun

Try to avoid being out in bright sunlight between the hours of 11 and 3. Think of them as the peak burning hours, not tanning times. Have your lunch in the shade and take advantage of a cool place to relax and enjoy your lunch away from bees, pollen and footballs being kicked your way. Following this advice is probably the best way to avoid sunburn at the beach.

Bonus Tip: Carry sun cream

Perhaps the most obvious move is to slap on the sun cream. But to do that you have to have some with you! We often get caught out in the UK when the sun suddenly comes out to play – sitting in the park at lunch, going for a stroll or reading a good book, we don’t realise we are actually putting ourselves at risk of the sun’s harmful rays – even when it is behind a cloud! Decant some sun cream into a smaller bottle to pop in your bag, your desk drawer or in the car.

4 - Cover up with Clothes (but Take Care in White)

Cover up with clothes but remember that loose weave items and even thin white linen can let the sun's rays through. Also, from personal experience, pay particular attention to lotioning up the areas around necklines and sleeves - those clothes do slip and slide around quite often during the day.

The face and scalp burn easily so wear a wide brimmed hat if you are out and about or lazing in the sun. A wide-brimmed hat can reduce 50% of UV radiation to the eyes, face and neck. Remember to also wear sunglasses with a UV filter. 

5 - Don't be Fooled by Clouds

Clouds are not your friends. According to Soleve, 30-40% of UV will still penetrate through cloud cover. So, still stick with your hat, shades, clothes, and cream routine even if it's cloudy.

6 - Sunscreen After Swim. Every Single Time.

Swimming is great for the heart but sloppy for the skin. Or in other words, 85% of suncream protection is gone by the time you've emerged from your dip and towelled yourself dry. Reapply. Regularly - as in after every time you get out. Yes, it's annoying. But not as annoying as sunburn.

7 - Children's Skin is Even More Sensitive

Double down on protecting the kids. Their skin is even more sensitive (and, hopefully, has more years of protection ahead of it.) Hat, cream, clothes and shades (if you can get them to keep them on. And if you can, let me know how you do it, won't you?! The sunglasses, that is. I don't actually have issues with the hat, cream and clothes ;-) )

Sun safe tip three: Set a timer or a reminder

It’s easy to remember to apply sun cream before you head out for a day in the sun but is also easy to forget to reapply through-out the day. Set a timer or a reminder on your phone to reapply – the British Association of Dermatologists recommends that sunscreen is reapplied liberally ever couple of hours1. Remember to reapply immediately if you have been swimming, playing sports or towel drying.

8 - Keep Babies in the Shade

Keep babies under six months old out of direct sunlight. Please do. You can buy a handy Snooze Shade that goes over prams. It's made of a breathable fabric with a little zip so you can check on them without waking them up. Game changer.

9 - Learn How to Deal with Sunburn

Deal with sunburn properly. First of all, keep the burnt skin out of the sun until it has fully recovered. Second of all, review your suncare strategy - something has gone wrong and you need to adapt before it happens again. 

10 - Be Prepared  - Pack a Small Bottle of Sunscreen in Your Hand Luggage

Expect the worst and pack a travel-size bottle of sunscreen in your hand luggage if you're heading somewhere really hot. Then, should the worst happen and you do actually lose your luggage, you won't need to add being sunburnt to your list of holiday woes.

And on that cheery note, travel safely and have a lot of fun! ;-)

What's next?

Now you've learned how to avoid sunburn at the beach, how about looking at some of our other travel tips and guides. 


Also, while I do have a medical background, this post obviously can't count as individual medical advice - so please don't treat it that way. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any concerns over the ingredients - there are a few circumstances where you shouldn't use this product. 

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.

  • Izy Berry says:

    I’m happy that most foundations have SPF!

    • Abi King says:

      Yes, me too! And that a lot of daily moisturisers have it as well.

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