Holiday Vacations Shouldn't be a Vacation from Skin Protection

Kevin Berman, MD, PhD Health Guide
  • The holidays are a time when people go on vacation to escape their usual routine and to get a change of scenery. For many, this includes a trip to the beach to escape the cold winter for a few days. Others may go somewhere colder to ski or take part in other winter sports. Either way - these types of vacations include a lot of outdoor activity, and as a result, they should include a lot of skin protection on your part.


    Many people feel that they have to return from a tropical vacation with a good suntan in order to "show off" their vacation. Other people justify sun-tanning by telling themselves that it is ok to get sunburned for just a few days out of the year. This is not sun smart behavior. Episodic sunburns, like those obtained on vacation, are associated with an increased incidence of melanoma. Here are some tips that can help you enjoy your vacation without increasing your risk of being diagnosed with skin cancer.

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    At the Beach:


    Try to stay under an umbrella as much as possible. This provides a physical barrier from the sun and will give you good sun protection while still enjoying reading a book outdoors. A wide-brimmed hat will also offer good protection for your face. If you plan on only spending a few hours out at the beach daily, try to go out early in the morning or in the late afternoon/early evening to avoid the sun when it is at its strongest. And of course, bring a lot of sunscreen and apply it liberally every 2 hours to all sun exposed areas. It is important to reapply the sunscreen because the chemicals will break down over time and will be partially washed away in the water if you go swimming.


    Remember to use sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or greater and only use sunscreens that are broad spectrum and clearly state that they block both UVB and UVA sunlight. Ingredients such as zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and parsol 1789 (avobenzone) are good sun block agents. Also remember to use lip balm with at least SPF 30 to protect your lips and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Taking a vacation from responsible sun behavior will not only increase your risk of skin cancer but it can also ruin a vacation. Anyone who's had a bad sunburn knows that it can prevent you from enjoying what would otherwise be a relaxing beach vacation.


    On the Slopes:


    For those of you going skiing, remember to wear sunscreen on your face and on other exposed areas of your skin. Even though you're not going to the beach for a suntan, the snow will reflect a lot of sunlight onto your face. Using a facial moisturizer with sunscreen (SPF 30 or greater) will protect your face from the sun while also replenishing the moisture to your skin that is being stripped away by the cold, dry air. And again, remember to use lip balm with SPF 30 to protect your lips from chapping and from sun damage.


    Other things to remember when on vacation is that if you have sensitive skin and use only gentle cleansers on your skin, be sure to bring these with you. Many times, the soaps offered by hotels have fragrances and may irritate sensitive skin. While use of these irritating soaps will not lead to skin cancer, they can certainly make you itch and cause you to be uncomfortable while on vacation. Also, hotels usually offer skin moisturizer but these also may contain perfumes or dyes not suitable for those with sensitive skin.


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    If you are going on vacation this holiday season, remember to be good to your skin and continue your good habits while away from home. Just because you are on vacation doesn't mean you can get sunburned and not suffer the consequences. So enjoy the holiday season, but not without protecting your skin.



Published On: December 10, 2007