While being outdoors is usually cause for celebration, there are a few things that should be avoided while enjoying the benefits of sunshine—and a few no-brainers that most of us are totally clueless about. While the sun does provide incredible benefits, such as vitamin D and you know, sustaining life on the planet, it can be extremely harmful to us wee humans, especially if we’re unprepared. Luckily, some brilliant people have figured out how to shield us from the sun. Sunscreen, or SPF, is a widely available (and for the most part, affordable) solution to keep our sensitive skin guarded from any harmful rays.
It turns out that there are still some things that we shouldn’t do under the sun, despite our eagerness to be outdoorsy folks. While some of the things on this list may seem obvious, they aren’t to everyone—and there are even a few surprises to make us rethink our own sun-safety habits.
12 Not knowing how to apply sunscreen.
Actually, this is a thing. Most of us are pretty aware of the importance of slathering on SPF. For starters, sunscreen has to be applied about 20 minutes before heading out the door (so not after you’ve planted yourself on the beach). You should also be generous with it—your body requires quite a bit. Think the size of a clementine, if that helps. Or 35 ml, to be accurate. If you’re going to be exercising or going for a dip, you have to reapply—and if you’re spending the day outside (way to go, you) definitely slap on the SPF every couple of hours. Which makes you wonder why they don’t just sell super-sized bottles of it.
11 Opting for the wrong SPF.
If you’re one of those truly annoying people that says things like, “ I don’t burn,” you’re missing the point. Applying sunscreen is essential—human beings and the sunshine aren’t meant to be one and the same—we don’t have a kindred relationship—in fact, the sun is a seriously dangerous thing to mess with. SPF 15 doesn’t do much, although it is definitely better than nothing at all. Experts recommend at least SPF 30 and up for effective protection. If you’re fair-skinned, don’t be afraid to go a little higher.
10 Thinking that the SPF in your makeup is enough to get you through the day.
Newsflash—that SPF 15 isn’t doing much, especially if you’re all set for a day out in the sun. Professionals recommend about a tablespoon-sized dose to get you through the day—which would be completely awkward if you decided to spread that amount all over your face. Plus, unless you’re a special breed of human, you probably don’t dollop the foundation behind your ears, neck, chest and well…every exposed piece of skin on your body. If you do, that’s amazing and a little crazy (you must not have a ton of white clothing). That being said, make-up just won’t do the trick, so consider applying sunscreen before makeup in the morning to save yourself a little trouble.
9 Using certain facial products (think acne or age-defying).
Everyone is different—which means that we all have different skin types, and as a result, different beauty routines. Whether or not you put much thought into the ingredients found in your choice of beauty products, there are certain ingredients that don’t work well in the sun. Things like retinol and salicylic acid can cause your skin to burn a little easier—and these aren’t the only ingredients, so take a gander on Google. All is not lost though—these products can be applied in the evening before bed. Crisis averted.
8 Intense workouts.
Exercising is wonderful, but there are some limits when it comes to an outdoor workout. Surprisingly, while being outside is definitely beneficial to your skin and health in general, overheating is not. According to the CDC, nearly 660 Americans died from heat stroke in 2009—in cases that were largely preventable. Working out during prime sun hours can cause heat exhaustion, causing your body to dehydrate at a significant rate. So if you’re a die-hard workout junkie, be sure to wear breathable clothing, and carry water with you...or else just get your workout in before 10 A.M. or in the evening after the temperature drops.
7 Forgetting about your head.
While most of us are pretty good at remembering to slather on the SPF, many of us forget about our heads—which probably has a little more to do with not wanting to muss our hair, or walk around with a pile of cream on our heads (the oily hair look is gross). Turns out some genius companies have invented a sunscreen in powder form to protect your noggin. Of course, anything in a spray bottle will work too. Just remember, the top of your head is often the first thing the sun hits, so it has to be protected. That, or invest in a hat.
6 Exposing scars or fresh tattoos.
Scar tissue is considered to be inferior to our flesh due to the fact that it is in a state of regeneration. Because it is weaker, it makes that particular skin more susceptible to burning, which can lead to permanent scarring, or a darkening of the scar itself, especially for those with darker skin tones. Sunscreen helps, but it’s best to keep your scars covered up until they’ve healed. The same goes for freshly tatted skin, unless you want that “Mom” tattoo to read “Mam”.
5 Opting to go without sunglasses.
Turns out that wearing sunglasses is actually one of those things that is necessary, rather than a trend to make us look awesome. The sun is a pretty powerful thing and can cause serious damage to your eyes, including cancer. As it turns out, your eyelids simply don’t provide enough protection—they themselves are surprisingly fragile. Evolution fail. As you probably know, the sun can burn your skin—eyeballs included, especially when you’re near the water or in the snow. So gear up with some decent pairs of sunglasses and rest easy.
4 Eating out of plastic containers.
Read a little about warmed up water bottles in #3. The same rules apply for keeping food in plastic containers, which is bad news for sunny romantic picnics. Although you could always pack a basket full of ceramics and build some serious muscle hiking it out to the beach. Coolers are also a much more practical solution and also a great way to avoid potentially getting cancer because you left your pigs in a blanket in the car.
3 Drinking out of warmed up water bottles.
Leaving a plastic water bottle in an overheated area can cause the plastic to absorb certain chemicals that are not so wonderful for your body. While most of you are probably thinking that you’ve got no worries because you’ve cleverly opted for BPA-free bottles, news flash—these chemicals are not BPA, but bear a striking semblance to estrogen. Another fun chemical under research? Antimony—which is comparable to lead. These chemicals can cause things like cancer, reproductive problems, and probably a bunch of other things that are totally depressing to think about. We suppose that what we’re saying is…use a Thermos?
Apparently being on certain types of drugs can cause your skin to absorb more light rays than it would in a sober state—which can cause severe sunburns. Prescription drugs are included in this mix, even in low dosages. Fortunately, our lovely medical professionals usually include warning labels on the prescriptions that they give out, so be sure to give those a read before heading out for a day at the beach. Or just wear light layers, sunscreen and a good old hat if you’re unsure.
1 Drinking margaritas.
More accurately, lime-squeezing. Affectionately called “lime disease” (no, not lyme disease), getting lime juice on your skin in the blazing sun can cause a lovely rash called phytophotodermatitis. Along with causing dark splotches on your skin (that can take a little while to disappear), lime juice can also cause burning and blistering, depending on your level of sensitivity. So maybe just opt for a daiquiri, or ask the bartender to squeeze the lime into your next beachside Corona.