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NOT Following This Timeline Will Guarantee Spring Break Sunburn

Slathering on SPF isn’t enough anymore. Doctors are discovering that sun protection begins even before you board the plane. Follow this timeline to avoid looking like a lobster.


Why spring break sun is especially dangerous

Sunshine is sunshine anywhere you go, right? Wrong. The truth is that we will burn far more easily on a tropical spring break vacation than we would in a typical hometown summer. For starters, the sun is at a much lower angle of elevation in the winter, so harmful UV rays are spread out over a wider area, reducing their intensity. People also spend less time outside, and when we do venture into the tundra, we’re bundled up from head to toe. Our skin is also much drier in the winter, and burns more easily than when moisturized. (Here’s how to moisturize dry winter skin.) All this means that when you reach those beautiful turquoise waves of St. Thomas or Jamaica, your burn potential is higher than normal. And you know burns have serious health consequences—just five blistering burns during pre-adult years shoot up your melanoma risk by 80 percent. Jonas Sickler, from, explains how to prep your skin to prevent “sun shock:”


One week before

Temporarily ditch moisturizers and serums with retinol, which encourage cell turnover, making your skin more sun-sensitive. Instead, look for a moisturizer that’s rich in antioxidants, which will protect cells from sun damage. Exfoliate a few days out to remove dead skin, but don’t overdo it, and avoid exfoliating right before you leave, or your skin could be more sensitive. (Avoid these other exfoliating mistakes to keep your skin healthy and resilient.) If you insist on pre-tanning before your trip, don’t even think about hitting a tanning bed to bronze, and opt for self-tanning lotions or sprays. It’s important to remember that artificial tans do not protect you from the sun, so be sure to apply high SPF sunscreen whether you’re tan or not.


Vacation Week

Apply a broad-spectrum SPF half an hour before hitting the beach to allow proper absorption, and reapply every two hours, or after swimming or excess sweating. (These are the sunscreens dermatologists use on themselves, so you know they’re trustworthy.) Check the expiration dates on your sunscreen! They don’t grow mold, but the sun protection fades with age, so you could be using a product that’s less effective. Ease into the sun at first rather than roasting for eight hours straight. Wear a sun hat and clothing with UVA/UVB protectors, and step into the shade from time to time to give your skin a rest, especially during the noon-to-1 p.m. window when the sun is beating down directly overhead. There are also UV-sensing bracelets, like June by Netatmo, that will change color to warn you of sunburn risks.


The Week After

Unfortunately, we all have to return home at some point. There are several things you can do to help rejuvenate sun-stressed skin. Schedule a facial to clear your pores from sunscreen, moisturizer, and dead cells—or do your own at-home chemical peel. Use coconut oil to hydrate and nourish your skin. According to Bustle, coconut oil is perfect nourishment for your face—it also smells like the beach without the addition of harmful perfumes. Notice any sun spots? Immediately treat them with squalane oil, sandalwood, and aloe vera, Sickler advises. Or try these proven sun spot remedies. If your lips are windblown and chapped, use a moisturizing lip balm with SPF to bring your lips back to health and prevent further damage. (Find out other reasons your lips could be chapped.)