First off, I'll admit that I sought that seemingly healthy, tanned look in my younger days. I spent hours baking in the sun protected by nothing more than a mixture of baby oil and iodine, which was in vogue during my college years. As a fair-skinned person of Nordic descent, I got my share of burns and paid the price.
Over the years I thought I'd gotten smarter and built up a "base" tan by spending time in a tanning booth and shorter periods in the sun until I could eventually spend long hours at the beach without burning to a crisp. I always wore some type of protection, although it usually had a low SPF (skin protection factor) number that allowed me to tan without the burn.
Even those of us who are not fair skinned need protection. My husband found out the hard way on our first cruise that his ruddy complexion was susceptible to a painful burn in the Caribbean sun. I've even discovered strap marks on my body after a day outside when I was fully clothed.
What's a cruiser to do? After my dermatologist chided me about my past tanning episodes and how they'd "aged" my skin, he recommended the Neutrogena sunblock that is pictured above. With an SPF of 100, it's an extremely effective product (Cruise Diva is not a paid endorser) as long as it's used according to the directions. Apply it at least 15 minutes before you go out in the sun and reapply it after getting wet or toweling off. It's waterproof so it's pretty sweat resistant, but you should apply more after swimming or on exposed skin if you're out in the sun for an extended period. I've been using it for several years and I still get a bit of a tan from simply being outdoors in the summer, but I haven't gotten burned—even after spending an entire day touring sunny Florence, Italy recently.
Should you not heed the warnings, the Mayo Clinic offers these suggestions to alleviate the pain while your skin is healing:
- Take a cool bath or shower. You can also apply a clean towel dampened with cool water.
- Apply an aloe vera or moisturizing lotion several times a day.
- Leave blisters intact to speed healing and avoid infection. If they burst on their own, apply an antibacterial ointment on the open areas.
- If needed, take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen.
- Treat peeling skin gently and continue to use moisturizing cream.
If you simply must return home from your cruise with a tan, Neutrogena offers lower SPF products that are equally as effective at preventing sunburn and the subsequent skin damage it causes. Whatever product you use, follow the label directions for the best outcome and enjoy your day at the beach or poolside on your ship.