Make sure you’re sun savvy! These sunscreen tips will help you to stay safe from the sun while traveling.
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When the sun’s out, it’s the time to play and soak up those rays—just don’t forget your sunscreen. It’s the number one safety precaution against nasty sunburns and preventing skin cancer. The problem is… most of us are applying our sunscreen incorrectly, or buying the wrong products for our skin.
Let’s look at how you can get the most out of your sunscreen. You don’t want the sizzling Mexican sun leaving you looking like a tomato! And you definitely don’t want to spend any of your precious vacation days stuck inside with a sunburn or heatstroke (I’ve been there, and it’s the worst). Make sure to follow these sunscreen tips on your next Mexico vacation!
Make Sure You’re UVA And UVB Protected
It’s important to check the label on your sunscreen and ensure that it protects you against both ultraviolet-A (UVA) and ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation from the sun. The bottle could say UVA and UVB, or it could say that it’s a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which means the same thing. In the ingredients, it should also have either titanium oxide or zinc oxide.
You want to protect against both types of ultraviolet radiation as they cause different types of damage to your skin. UVA puts you at risk for skin cancer and UVB causes sunburn and sun damage to your skin.
Go For SPF 30 Or Higher
If you want to enjoy your time in direct sunlight without doing damage, you need sunscreen with at least SPF 30. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and the number indicates how much of the UV rays are absorbed or reflected by the sunscreen. The SPF number also indicates how long you can stay out in the sun before the UV rays will start to impact your skin.
If you use the product exactly as indicated, you should be able to stay outside for 30 times longer than you would without an SPF 30 sunscreen. However, it’s important to note that everybody’s skin is different and this length of time is not guaranteed.
Another important thing to note is that studies have shown a sunscreen with SPF 30 can absorb around 97% of the UV rays that damage your skin. This number then doesn’t increase too much—only reaching 98%—when you use an SPF of 50.
Yes, you do get a bit more protection the higher the number, but once you go over SPF 30, the difference between products is greatly reduced.
Slather That Sunscreen On
How you apply sunscreen is just as important as the SPF that you go for. It’s easy to see how much you’re putting on if you use a cream-based sunscreen. Just for your face, you should use an amount equivalent to the size of a nickel.
For the rest of your body, if you’re in a swimsuit, you should use about an ounce of sunscreen. This is the same amount as you would get in a shot glass.
Apply Sunscreen Everywhere
It’s really important to ensure that you cover every part of your skin that’s exposed, especially the bits that don’t see the sun that often. Make sure that you go past the line of your clothing or the edge of your swimsuit when applying sunscreen.
Too often, people go up to the line of what they’re wearing and stop. But as they move throughout the day, a patch of skin with no sunscreen on it gets exposed and starts to burn.
Apply Sunscreen 30 Minutes Before Going Outside
Don’t wait until you get outdoors before applying your sunscreen. The Skin Cancer Foundation says that it takes about half an hour for sunscreen to absorb into the skin properly so that it can protect you. If you wait until after you get into the sun, it could be too late to prevent a mild burn or worse.
You also need to consider when you’ll be swimming. You want your sunscreen to absorb into the skin before you hit the water, otherwise, it’ll simply wash off and you’ll get burnt. Make sure you apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you take a dip.
Reapply Sunscreen Often – Especially When Swimming Or Sweating
We’ve already mentioned how long sunscreen allows you to spend out in the sun. However, if you’re outside for an extended period of time, you have to reapply your sunscreen. How often ranges between every hour and every two hours, depending on the product you’re using and what you’re doing in the sun.
No matter what a sunscreen might promise, it will never be completely waterproof. If you go swimming—even if you don’t towel yourself off—you must reapply it when you get out of the water and dried off. If you’re sweating a lot, you should opt for a water-resistant sunscreen and reapply it every hour.
No Sun Doesn’t Mean No Sunscreen
One of the basics of sunscreen is that it’s not just for use on sunny days. You need to wear sunscreen every day, even if it’s overcast, windy, or threatening to rain. When there’s cloud cover, the sun still emits harmful UV rays. Although clouds reduce the rays, they can still lead to a nasty burn.
Don’t Just Rely On Sunscreen
Sunscreen will always be your number-one defense against skin cancer and sun damage. However, it should never be your only method of protection. Your best bet is to get out of direct sunlight for as much of the day as possible. Look for shady areas, as even dappled sunlight is kinder to your skin.
The next step is to cover up. If you’re going to be swimming or playing in the water for hours, invest in a UV-protection swimsuit or top. Adding a cover-up over your swimsuit that’s lightweight will help you to stay cool and will protect you from the sun too. Then, don’t forget your hat. A wide-brimmed hat is better than a peak cap because it can also protect your neck and shoulders.
Finally, make sure you have good-quality sunglasses that offer proper UV protection.
Make Being Sun Safe A Priority
Whether you’re exploring Mexico or anywhere else in the world, make sure that you’re sun safe. Making the most of your sunscreen means that you don’t have to worry about sunburn or skin damage and you can still get a healthy dose of Vitamin D.
Continue Planning Your Trip!
Mexico Guide Books
This Mexico phrasebook will help you communicate, even if your Spanish skills are lacking.
This Mexico travel guide is packed with all the info you could ever need.
I use a combination of Booking, Airbnb, and VRBO to find accommodation throughout Mexico.
Booking.com is awesome for booking hotels and resorts, while Airbnb and VRBO specialize in apartments and villa rentals, making it a great place to find long-term stays.
Some cities in Mexico have more listings on VRBO than Airbnb (or vice versa), so it’s best to check both to find the perfect place!
Rental cars add tons of flexibility to your travel plans. If you opt to rent one, I recommend using Discover Cars to find the best rates!
Skyscanner is my favorite tool for finding the best deals on airfare.
Never leave home without travel insurance.
SafetyWing offers super-affordable policies that cover things like medical expenses, trip interruption, and lost luggage. They even offer coverage for some expenses related to COVID-19. Their policies are particularly great for long-term travelers, making them a great option for Mexico.
There’s no question that knowing basic Spanish is wildly beneficial in Mexico. It helps you stay aware of your surroundings, solve problems, and make friends!
RocketSpanish has a well-structured program that will take you from bumbling to conversational in just a few modules. Start your free trial today!
Still have questions?
Join my Female Travelers in Mexico Facebook group, a supportive community of fellow Mexico travel enthusiasts, where you can find answers to all your travel questions!
What is the most effective sunscreen?
I listed all my favorite options in this post.