Sun Health and Safety Tips


Paradoxical thing, the sun. It brings life to our planet and makes our holidays warm and enjoyable, but at the same time it also ensures that the most menacing threat around the water actually comes from the sky. Overexposure can lead to skin cancer, but also to some pretty disgusting wrinkles, brown spots, and other nasty damage down the road that will make you look back with regret even if you manage to escape melanomas and carcinomas.

And although obviously you’re more at risk in areas closer to the equator (meaning tropical, subtropical, and desert areas popular for holidays) as well as at higher altitudes (around mountain lakes, for example), effects can be felt even through clouds. Follow these tips to maximise your protection from the sun:

  • Minimise extended direct sun exposure during hours of direct sunlight.  The sun’s UV rays are particularly harmful between 10AM and 4 PM, so try not to spend too much time exposed to them during these hours. If you are out during these hours, seek shade, wear a broad-brimmed hat and apply sunscreen.
  • Apply and reapply sunscreen. And furthermore, plan on applying it at least 30 minutes before exposure to the sun. Go for an SPF of at least 15, and make sure to reapply often, especially if you are spending time in the water. If you find that chemical-based sunscreens irritate your skin, try a natural sunscreen that uses zinc oxide.
  • Cover up. The best way to avoid sunburn is to avoid exposure in the first place. Sunscreen is no substitute for an opaque, dark-coloured fabric. This will block out most of the sun’s harmful UV rays. If there’s a nice sea or mountain breeze, it’s unlikely that you’ll overheat, and of course, if you’re in the water, you don’t have to worry about staying cool.
  • Keep sunbathing to a minimum.  This is a tough one for sun bunnies to hear, but just about every form of sustained sunbathing is unhealthy, and as much as you may love that golden tan, you need to stop and think about the long-term consequences of laying around too long in the sun (see above).

Enjoy! It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny stay…

Phil Paoletta
 lives and travels in West Africa, where he teaches camel drawing while running a small restaurant in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. You can follow him at, and he also offers travel health advice on his site  

image | IainBuchanan