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Secrets about Sunscreen: What you can do to avoid sunburn

Stay safe in the sun

Sunscreen, sunblock, suntan lotion... whatever you call it, if you're heading off for a sunny escape, you're going to want to pack it. We love exploring warmer climes (particularly when the great British weather can change at a whim), but no one enjoys the painful burning, unsightly peeling and general misery that comes with sunburn. After all, it's much easier to prevent sunburn than treat it.

But with so many products and adverts that claim to be the best at treating sunburn, it can be hard to know who to really trust. Fret not, dear travellers, as we break down all you need to know to travel better and have fun in the sun.

What causes sunburn?

UVA UVB Effects

Before running down all the ways to avoid sunburn, let's take a look at what exactly causes sunburn. Funnily enough, it's caused by rays from the sun reaching the Earth, and the two you need to keep in mind are called UVA and UVB.

What are UVA rays?

UVA rays from the sun are the ones that can cause premature aging of the skin. Although they don't cause the burning itself, they can still be dangerous if you're exposed for them for too long, and you certainly don't want to risk your devilishly youthful good looks.

What are UVB rays?

UVB rays are the ones that you need to worry about, as it's these that can cause the burning or sometimes worse. That being said, there's no reason to hide yourself away indoors forever, as UVB rays also give us our daily vitamin D to absorb calcium and keep our bones strong.

So as with most things in life, it's a case of keeping exposure to the sun in moderation. Let's take a look at some of the ways you can do this.

Do I need to cover up in the sun?

Sunburn Back

It might sound a little silly to wear long sleeves or choose trousers over shorts/skirts in the sun, but there's method in the madness. Just go for lighter materials that cover up vulnerable areas such as your shoulders, neck and face. Trust us, you'll feel a whole lot cooler and comfortable, as well as avoiding the nasty burns.

Do I need to wear a hat in the sun?

Sun Hat

It might sound like a given, but it's still worth remembering how important it is to wear a hat to protect against sunburn. A good sun hat with a wide brim will protect your face from the worst of the rays, just make sure you can adjust it as the sun changes position throughout the day.

Hats are essential for children, and they should wear them for as much of the day as possible to avoid sunburn and sunstroke. We recommend choosing a hat with an elastic or ribbon tie to stop it blowing away, and to discourage it being discarded in a vigourous tantrum.

Do I need to wear sunglasses in the sun?


The clue's in the name, but they do much more than make you look cool as heck. Coupled with a sun hat, sunglasses will protect your face from the sun, with some more premium brands offering advanced protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

Sunglasses will also cut down on glare from reflective surfaces, which make them a useful safety addition when driving on particularly sunny days.

What sunscreen should I buy?

Sunscreen Heart

The best way to truly protect your skin from the sun's rays is with a good sunscreen. Many brand names claim to offer the best protection, but independent reports have confirmed what a lot of people have suspected for a long time, some of the cheaper products perform just as well (if not better) than these premium brands. In this instance, it's certainly not a case of you get what you pay for.

It's also worth remembering that everyone has different skin, with various requirements and tolerances to different chemicals. Some sunscreen brands have been known to cause sensitivity in people who suffer from allergies or are prone to eczema, so we definitely think it's a good idea to check the bottle first to make sure the sunscreen is suitable for you. For more information, check out this useful article from Get the Gloss, which has the lowdown on which ingredients can cause problems.

What sunscreen do we recommend?

Altruist Sunscreen

We were fortunate enough to meet Dr Andrew Birnie, a skin cancer specialist who has developed a sunscreen called Altruist, which offers dermatologist-specification protection at a fraction of the price of the leading brands.

Altruist comes in factor 30 and factor 50 formulas and is completely hypoallergenic, making it suitable for all skin needs. It's also been designed to be non-greasy and dries completely clear, meaning it's ideal for applying with makeup as part of your skincare regime.

What's more, for every bottle purchased, 10p will go to Under The Same Sun, a charity that supports those born with albinism living in Africa. So not only are you protecting your own skin, but also helping to support some of the most vulnerable people in the world. We like the sound of that!

You can now purchase Altruist Sunscreen from Amazon, to keep your skin safe on your next trip.

How should I apply sunscreen?

Sunscreen Application

Dr. Birnie also told us that most people don't apply sunscreen correctly to get maximum protection from the sun. He suggests piling it on thick, as many don't apply enough sunscreen to effectively cover the skin, so make sure to squeeze a healthy dollop out to keep the burns at bay.

He also recommends rubbing the sunscreen in the direction of hair growth on your body, as this will allow for a more even coverage and less mess.

What else can I do to avoid sunburn?


If you want to look beyond the traditional sun-care options of lotions and loose-fitting clothes, there could very well be an app (or gadget) for that. We recommend downloading the Solar Protection app, available on Android devices, which gives advice on how long you can spend in the sun without burning, whether you should apply a high factor sunscreen and what protective clothes you should wear - all based on your individual skin type. For all you Apple aficionados, check out Be Skin Smart, available via iTunes, which displays a nifty live countdown on your screen, with an alert when your 'safe' time in the sun is up.

Finally, you should always remember to check the expiry date on any old suncare products you might have lying around at home, as most lose their effectiveness within 2-3 years of purchase. If you're in any doubt, we think it's better to treat yourself to a new sunscreen than run the risk of getting burned.

And that just about does it for our rundown of how to avoid sunburn. Make sure you take all the necessary steps to avoid damaging your skin, but don't forget to have fun in the sun, no matter if you're jetting off to the tropics or enjoying the brief respites from the rain back home.

Let us know how you beat the sun in the comments below, and don't forget to subscribe to our Youtube channel for more travel guides and new videos from our studio. While you're at it, why not like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for daily content to help you travel better.