How Not to Ruin Your Summer Holiday: My Worst Ever Sun Burns

I’ve had my fair share of sun burns so it may seem a bit ironic that I’m here to tell y’all about the importance of sun safety. But when Holiday Gems* asked me to partner with them on this campaign about summer sun safety, I knew I couldn’t say no. See – I have a family history of skin cancer, and that combined with my own reckless youth in sunny Michigan lakes makes me a likely candidate as well. Now that I’m a bit older (and hopefully wiser) I’ve committed myself to a life of sunscreen. There’s nothing like a good, hard, lobster-red “lesson learned” to shock you into a new healthy habit, amiright?

So today I thought I’d share with you two of my absolute worst stories of sunburn in an attempt to shock you all into healthy sun safety habits this summer!

1 | When Vampires Go in the Sun: circa 2008 I went on spring break to my Grandparent’s home on the coast of Florida, with the newly released Twilight book in tow, just like the cool kid I was. On the first day of vacation I went to the beach around 10am and began reading.  A sucker for vampire-werewolf-whiny human love triangles like I apparently was, I literally stayed on the beach all day until I finished the book. All 498 pages (yes, I did just google that). When I looked in the mirror that evening, I was bright red. Vampires die in the sun, and Sarahs turn into lobsters. The burn was so bad I couldn’t even bend my knees or shower, it was so painful. I didn’t sleep for two days because of the pain of the sheets on my body. Cue my Grandpa saying “told you so” for two weeks, to me slathered in Aloe Lotion. Vacation ruined. (And now I have traumatic flashbacks associated with Twilight).

2 | That one time it was actually sunny in England: this story is embarrassingly much more recent. In the last few years I have become much, much better about applying sunscreen. However, last summer we decided to go to the Tinside Lido, a sea pool in Plymouth. Classic England is rainy and grey 95% of the year, but that day the sun came out.  Maybe it’s because I was already in the pool when it got sunny, or because I hadn’t been burned in so long and forgot the pain, or just figured who gets burned in England?! But I didn’t put on sunscreen…. and boy, did I live to regret it. In fact… did you know you can actually get burned worse in England because it is at a higher latitude, receiving more direct sunlight? Who knew?!

debated putting this on the internet so don’t tell me i’m never real with y’all

So what’s the common theme here?

A simple decision to not put on sunscreen could literally ruin your entire holiday.

So from one traveler to another: it doesn’t matter what country you’re in or what time of day… sunscreen is so important!

an older & wiser sarah, happy and not sunburned in Florida

Here are some of my top tips for summer sun safety…

  1. Buy baby sunscreen: it’s usually higher SPF strength and cheaper!
  2. Wear sunscreen every single day: I use a facial moisturizer that has SPF30 in it, every day.
  3. Wear a baseball cap: these are actually really coming into style lately, and they protect your face from the sun!
  4. There is no such thing as a safe tan :'(
  5. Hydrate before caffeine/alcohol: sun can burn your skin but also dehydrate you and lead to confusion! You can keep your beachy pina coladas, just drink water first 😉
  6. Worse comes to worst…. Vaseline Aloe Fresh Lotion is a hero. This is my favorite brand from my Florida burned days.
  7. Check yo self before you wreck yo self: Ask your doctor for a referral to a dermatologist and get yourself checked for skin cancer each year. Your skin is your largest organ so don’t ignore it – it needs safety precautions just like going to the Dentist or eye checks!

For more tips, check out Holiday Gems’ post on summer sun safety tips (titled “The Lobster Look” LOL a look I am well acquainted with unfortunately).

sorry not sorry if my not-sunburned-ness (paleness) blinds you
coverin’ up!

I for one know that a sunburn can really make or break an entire holiday! I’ve made it to the end of July without any sunburn this year so I’m counting this as success, thanks to my trial and error of a lifetime of bad sun decisions. I hope some of these tips are helpful for y’all.

Do you have any summer sun tips? I’d love to know in the comments!



Sarah xx

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*I partnered with Holiday Gems to write this post. As always, all opinions are my own!
This post contains affiliate links. I am also linking up withLauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This, and Marcella of What a Wonderful World for Wanderful Wednesday. 

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  1. Ouch! I’m really only starting to be good about wearing sunscreen. I’ve always hated it because the smell makes me sick and I hate the sticky feeling I get from it. And turns out, some German sunscreen, I’m actually allergic to. So I’m still in the process of finding one that works for me. Otherwise I break out in a huge body rash that lasts for a minimum of 2 weeks 🙁 #WanderfulWednesday – Stumbled

    1. Oh my gosh that sounds horrible! I hated the greasy feeling of sunscreen growing up and would lie to my parents and say I had put it on when I hadn’t because I really didn’t want to wear it! You should try to cetaphil sensitive skin oil control SPF moisturizer… it’s only for the face, but I’ve used it for years and I have really, really sensitive skin.

  2. Ah I burn so bad and have had my fair share of similar burns. Living in Australia where there’s a hole in the ozone layer above us I have learned to be so much more sun smart. I cringe now when people talk about laying out and am constantly lathering myself in spf 50.

  3. Ouchhh!! That burns looks so sore. Being so pale myself, I can get burnt at the drop of a hat. I tend to always use suncream where there is sun. But, I do get caught out sometimes! On the mountain trek we did this summer. I burnt the top of my ears and they peeled for weeks – not cool!

  4. Holy owie Batman! That is some serious sunburn. I thought my shoulder sunburn from an hour outside playing basketball on the weekend was bad. When I was in Nice our tour guide advised us to put sunscreen on the bottoms of our feet if we were going to the beach because heaps of people forget that spot then cant’ walk for days! #wanderfulwednesday

    1. Serious is right, it was the WORST. We went out for my housemate’s birthday that same night and I was pretty much delirious it hurt so much! Oh my gosh, I’ve never even thought of putting sunscreen there before but that is such a good point. I always make sure to get behind the knees because nothing is worse than burn there as you can’t bend your legs to walk or sit!!

  5. Ughhhh I have definitely rocked sunburns like that one before! It kind of scares me how many times I’ve let myself get burned in the past – I’m so much better about it now, but I’m worried about what it’s going to do to my skin in the future!

  6. That pool looks just so… neat! I would love to swim there :))
    But yeah, totally with you on this one — the day I embraced my pale was one of the most wonderful days of my life. It feels good to not care about wanting to be tan anymore and also knowing I can SPF it up every day.

    1. It was awesome… it’s one of the last natural spring pools in Florida. Even though it was a pool it was spring fed water which was connected out to the bay/harbor. Luckily no alligators 😉 I’ve been wanting to do a post all about it but I’m sooo behind on my spring break travel posts! There’s too much to write about!

  7. I’m super pale, and I still remember one summer that I stubbornly refused to put sunscreen on my shoulders because I wanted a tan – I burned so badly we had to put numbing cream on my skin, and passersby stared in shock when they saw my shoulders!! Glad those days are behind me! 😉

  8. Ouch – that photo of your sunburn looks very painful! As a child I hated wearing sunscreen and did everything I could do to avoid it but now, I’m very diligent about wearing sun screen and hats – I haven’t had a sunburn in a long time and I’d like to keep it that way…! Interesting tip about baby sunscreen by the way!

  9. Such great tips – when the sun gets the better of me, aloe vera always works a treat! That sunburn looks so ouchy. I’ve had a few sunburn disasters but one of the worst was when I was about 10 and on holiday in Normandy, France. We were staying with family friends who when they saw my extreme redness, decided a vinegar bath would be the perfect antidote. It wasn’t. Don’t try that at home, folks! I’m still mentally scarred 30 years later! LOL!

  10. Now that is a sunburn, ouch! I guess I’m “lucky” and don’t burn every easily but I did burn a little when we went to the beach earlier this summer. I love Solarcaine spray. It’s aloe spray with Lidocaine so it “numbs” the pain. Check it out the next time you get sunburned… hopefully that will be never 😛

  11. Thanks for the reminder! I live in Denver, which is already a mile high, but I’m going camping this weekend at 8,600 ft. I’ve already thrown the SPF 50 Sunscreen in the bag, but we’re making a stop on the way, and I think I’ll check out the baby sunscreen. Was also just thinking about buying a hat, but then I realized that I bought an SPF 50 hat a month ago! I really need to get one of those shawls with sun protection. I’m pretty sure the skin cancer rates in Colorado are higher than average.

  12. I’m one of those people who always gets burned but never tanned as well and I hate it so much! I’d love to have a tan!!! But you’re right, better safe than sorry, no matter where you are. I’ve actually burned myself in the Arctic several times too. Doesn’t have anything with temperatures to do for sure!

  13. Those are crazy sunburns!! I’ve only had mild sunburns a few times in my life. Lucky for me, I tan instead of burn, unless I’m out in the sun for too long. My most recent one was only a couple of months ago. I was on a scooter all day in Bali and didn’t even feel the sun because of the breeze on the scooter. But when I got home, one of my legs got completely burned, which turns tan after. I’m still trying to even out the coloring now!

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