I grew up in Miami Beach in the seventies where tanning was a competitive sport. Each sunny day, we would put on our teeny string bikinis armed with baby oil and a metallic UV reflector to worship at the feet of the sun god. The poster girl for suntan perfection was the cute little blonde from the Coppertone ad. Her bare bottom exposing the difference between pasty pale and beautifully tanned skin.  A tan body was the ideal to uphold. The vitamin D made you feel healthy, you appeared more slender, and you looked smashing in head-to-toe white.  

For years, I would continue to abuse my skin. I recall an unfortunate trip to Hawaii in my teens in which I burnt myself so badly in overcast weather that I had swollen to an unrecognizable state and had to seek medical help from the hotel doctor. He recommended a dose of Tylenol, slathering on the aloe vera and bathing with black tea bags to help take the sting out of my body. Sadly, I was sentenced to the room for days unable to move from the scorching pain and blisters. 

Now in my forties, I am still learning from past lessons.  I admittedly forget to slather on the sunscreen and then wonder why I’m developing white spots all over my fair skin.  A recent scare from a close friend who had a pre-Melanoma shark bite chunk of flesh removed from her leg by a dermatologist has me finally reaching for the maximum UV protection.  The universe is also sending me signals. This weekend while shopping at J. Crew in Malibu, I came across a flyer for #JCREWSMARTSUN, an Instagram campaign they launched to coincide with July’s UV Safety Month raising awareness on skin cancer and Melanoma research. The message – do sun smart by covering up and protecting your skin.  So to help inspire those negligent souls such as myself, as well as those who may need enlightening in a few areas, I have comprised the following top ten list for proper tanning etiquette tips.

1. Know your “UVA’s” from your “UVB’s”.  Ultraviolet A rays are more serious and oftentimes associated with skin cancer as well as skin damage and aging. Ultraviolet B rays are the main cause of burns due to sun exposure. The label Broad Spectrum Protection means the product protects against both UVA and UVB rays. 

2. SPF (Sun Protection Factor) guidelines.  Don’t bother applying a sunscreen with an SPF lower than 15 as it will not protect against skin cancer.  When making your purchase, choose SPF 50 if possible. Anything higher than SPF 50 has not been proven to be more effective. There is no such thing as a waterproof sunscreen, only water-resistant. 

3. Limit time in the sun.  Sunbathe early or later in the day when rays are less damaging.  Typically the sun is strongest between 11:00am and 3:00pm, but stronger at higher altitudes in the mountains as well as lower tropical regions. Beware of water, sand and snow. They amplify the sun’s burning rays making them more powerful. 

4. Sunglasses are a must.  Select a pair with built-in UV protection.  CNN news anchor, Anderson Cooper, regrets forgetting to wear his sunglasses while on the water in Portugal years ago.  He became the focus of his own news story after burning his eyeballs and temporarily going blind for 36 hours.  

5. Seek out stylish rash guards.  Great news, you don’t have to sacrifice style to protect your skin! Wear hats, shirts, cover-ups and other protective clothing to guard against harmful rays.  I love these zip front 3/4 sleeve shirts by DHUFISH sold at the Beverly Hills Bikini Shop, as well as this sleeveless one from J. Crew

6. Apply sunscreen spray far away.  Unknowing offenders proceed to cover every inch of their body up-wind from their neighbors. Spray sunscreen, similar to substitute sugar packets, easily seeps into the mouth and tastes awful! Let’s also mention that it may be inhaled into the lungs which is harmful in itself.  Be mindful of where you are standing and move away from others when applying.  

7. Use lotion sunscreen sparingly.  How many times have we applied white lotion sunscreen only to discover we look like we just finished a face-painting session for clowns? While products with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are highly recommended, they tend to leave a milky white film on the skin.  Find a mirror and rub in the areas around your nose, hair line, chin and neck so there is nothing left visible and you can still look fabulous.

8. Sunscreen 101.  Don’t go for a dollop.  Apply a liberal amount of sunscreen over all exposed areas.  Re-apply sunscreen every two hours and especially after swimming. Don’t let cloudy skies deter you. Up to eighty-percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through clouds.  Use sunscreen rain or shine.

9. Stick to simple suits.  If opting for sunscreen to flaunt that bikini body. Select simply designed suits and avoid fancy/crazy strap lines or shapes in visible places.  As much as they may be appealing in the store, they become a nuisance when attempting to wear that strapless/backless dress to the next fundraiser.

10. On meds?  No sun for you!  If taking antibiotics, stay out of the sun. Certain medications make you more sensitive to rays and heat and may cause dizziness or dehydration.  Others will cause you to sunburn more easily. Grab a good book and stay in the shade.

Please note, I am not a skin care professional. If in need of expert advice on sunscreen or skin care management, please consult a licensed dermatologist or medical doctor.