sun survival: best tips to protect your skin

I’m the first one to say I love my skin to be bronzed, but the reality is that exposing our skin to the sun comes with major risks. Lindsey, an outdoorsy girl and avid exerciser who blogs at Fit Life Pursuits, shared with me her scary reality when she was diagnosed with melanoma at 19-years old. With the weekend about to kick in, Lindsey has been kind enough to share her insights about the sun, sunblock and what she does to protect herself while enjoying the bliss of time outside. Keep reading… 

Outdoor Pushups

When you are young you feel invincible, like nothing bad can happen to you! That’s how I felt, until I was diagnosed with Melanoma when I was 19 years old. I had no one else to blame but myself. I made it my goal to have a year-round deep bronze tan. Living in Florida, it was pretty easy. I happened to be blessed with the skin that tanned easily and hardly ever burned.

Then the shock of the diagnosis came. I had no family history of melanoma and I was so young! I thought skin cancer only happened to old people. Thankfully, it was at an early stage and easily treatable, but now I live with a strong awareness for skin protection.

I still love being outdoors and I exercise outside every day. Being aware of skin cancer risks does not mean you have to hide inside all the time. It simply means you have to know how to protect yourself. Navigating the sunscreen isle at the store can be stressful. There are so many options. You wonder, which brand is the best? What SPF level do I need? Waterproof or not?

In order to choose which sunscreen you should use, you should first understand a little bit about how it is protecting you.

UVA vs UVB rays

UVB rays are known as the sunburn and cancer-causing rays.

UVA rays don’t cause sunburn but they can still be absorbed into the skin and lead to skin cancer and wrinkles.

TAGG TIP: Make sure that you choose a sunscreen that will protect against BOTH UVA and UVB rays. This is commonly listed on the bottle as “broad spectrum protection.”

The Scoop on the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) Ratings

SPF ratings are for blockage of UVB rays only. The SPF factor rates how effective the sunscreen is at preventing sunburn from UVB rays. Recommended SPF is between 15 and 50. You would think that a sunscreen that is rated SPF 100 would be twice as effective as a SPF 50, but that’s not how it works. Most people are fine with a SPF 30 or 45.

Unlike SPF ratings that are used for UVB rays, there is no rating system to tell you how effective a sunscreen is at protecting you from UVA rays. You must pay attention to the ingredients to determine how effectively the sunscreen will protect against UVA rays. According to WebMD, some good UVA protecting ingredients include: ecamsule, avobenzone, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, sulisobenzone, and zinc oxide.sunblock

Water Resistance is Important

Labels on sunscreens are now required to tell you if they are water- or sweat- resistant for 40 minutes or 80 minutes. You need to be sure to reapply more often if you are getting wet. Pay attention to the time-frame listed on the sunscreen. Sunscreen labels are no longer allowed to advertise them as “waterproof” or “sweatproof” according to the FDA. If you are going to be sweating a lot, make sure you use a sweat- or water- resistant sunscreen. They are usually labeled “sport” sunscreen.

Knowing How to Use it

Just as important as knowing which sunscreen to choose, knowing how to apply it is equally important for protection. Here are some tips for proper use:

  1. Apply 15-30 minutes before going outside.
  2. Cover your whole body. Don’t forget the tops of your ears, hands and feet (if not wearing sneakers). Don’t skimp.
  3. Make sure you wear an UVA-protective lip balm.
  4. Re-apply every 2 hours, or more if you are sweating excessively or toweling off.
  5. Watch the expiration. It becomes less effective with time.
  6. Wear it even if it’s overcast.
  7. Just because it’s cold outside, you are still exposed! UV rays reflect even more off ice and snow.
  8. Lotion, spray, cream, stick, use whatever type will be easiest for you to apply and re-apply.

Sunscreen May Not Be Enough

If you still don’t want to risk it, or you absolutely hate the idea of wearing sunscreen (it’s worth it though, trust me), there are a few other things to do to protect yourself:

  • Wear UV-protective clothing
  • Stay in the shade
  • Avoid the high UV hours of the day, typically between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Wear a hat
  • Workout indoors instead

What I Use Daily

On the days when I know I am going to be inside all day, maybe when on a long flight or rainy day, I use the Aveeno Daily Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 15 lotion for my face and the Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Broad Spectrum SPF 15 lotion for my body. I use Aveeno for every day use because I like the way their lotions leave my skin moisturized but not greasy. I also love their tinted moisturizer for days when I just want a little bit of coverage without applying makeup.

On days when I am going to be outdoors for any extended time period (more than 15 minutes), I use the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Broad Spectrum SPF 45 for my face and the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 45 for my body. I use Neutrogena for active days because it doesn’t feel like I am wearing anything. No sunscreen dripping in my eyes when I sweat!

I am also very eager to try the Supergoop line! Let me know if you’ve tried it and what you think. {TAGG: note: we LOVE it! Review here}

The most important thing about choosing a sunscreen is that you are going to wear it. If you have a favorite brand, as long as it meets the criteria listed above, go for it! The bottom line is there is not one brand out there that beats them all. Choose what you like and use it!


For more about Lindsey’s Fit Life Pursuits — love her latest post: 7 Fail Proof Steps to Get the Body You Always Wished For! — visit her here.


  • Reply
    kat at
    August 3, 2014 at 9:43 PM

    Being very pale and living in Florida, I learned the importance of sunscreen. Just a few minutes out in the sun and id return home with sun spots! Ive tried lots of fancy, pricey sunscreens, but nothing beats Banana Boat sport SPF 30. Nongreasy, sits well under makeup, and long lasting. It became my daily staple.

    • Reply
      August 4, 2014 at 2:33 PM

      GREAT tip! Thanks so much… always helpful to find a good sunscreen. I use the sprays and I need to realize they’re just not as protective unless you give yourself a really, really good coating.

  • Reply
    August 2, 2014 at 3:33 AM

    Oh wow, so scary! I know everyone loves a bronze look but it’s just not worth it.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2014 at 8:19 PM

    Great tips, thank you! Being a fair-skinned, fair-haired being, I have been getting skin-checked regularly for several years now. Last summer after giving birth to my son, I noticed a small black spot on my abdomen. I had it removed and biopsied and sure enough it came back abnormal. I try to be vigilant about sunscreen these days!

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