Beach Bag Essentials

Head into the sun with top product picks and smart summer safety.

From the WebMD Archives

Preparation in life is key, and your next beach or outdoor pool excursion should play by the same rule. Arielle Kauvar, MD, the founder of New York Laser & Skin Care in New York City, and Lisa Ginn, MD, with [email protected], in Chevy Chase, Md., share their savviest sun, sand, and surf advice.

Q: What are the beauty must-haves for my summer beach bag?

Kauvar's top picks:

Start your summer beauty kit off right with sunscreens for face and body. For the face, try Neutrogena Sport Face SPF 70+. It's noncomedogenic, which means it won't clog pores or worsen acne.

For the body, I recommend Banana Boat Sport Performance Active Dry Protect SPF 50, which is super-moisturizing and doesn't leave a pasty film on the skin. Remember that even water-resistant sunscreen won't last more than two hours when you're sweating and swimming, so reapply often.

Skin cancer often occurs on the lips, so toss an SPF-infused lip balm like Banana Boat Aloe Vera with Vitamin E  into your bag. It has SPF 45, and you can apply it underneath lip gloss or lipstick.

Don't forget to pack a big, floppy hat to protect your scalp from UV rays. But a hat won't guard against indirect sun exposure, so play it safe by wearing a sun-protective topper (look for the "UPF" label) and sunscreen for your hair. I like J.F. Lazartigue Sun Protection Oil. Rub a bit of the oil on your part to protect the scalp there as well.

If you do burn, first apply cold compresses or take a cool bath to relieve the sting. Take an anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, to reduce the pain and swelling, and apply a light aloe lotion like Crabtree & Evelyn Aloe Vera Hydrating Body Lotion ($22) to help soothe skin.

Ginn's top picks:

No beach bag is complete without a UVA/UVB-blocking sunscreen. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 55 is great for people who don't like the feel of a greasy sunscreen. Although most sunscreens focus on protecting against UVB (the sun rays that can burn skin), those that contain helioplex (like this one) also protect against UVA (the aging rays that, like UVB, have been linked to melanoma).


The best way to wear sunscreen is to apply it first thing in the morning, and then wait 15 to 20 minutes before heading outdoors so it absorbs completely. Reapply sunscreen about every two hours or after you swim or perspire heavily. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.  During a sunup-to-sundown beach day, come indoors for a lunch break from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. when the sun is at its peak and reapply before going back outside.

If you're prone to dryness, try CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM SPF 30. It's great for everyday use and is infused with hyaluronic acid, a humectant that sits on top of the skin and attracts water from the air. Don't forget to coat your neck, chest, and the tops of your ears.

If you do accidentally burn, take down the inflammation fast with a thin layer of aloe vera gel. It's more than 90% H2O, so it has an instant cooling effect, rather like a blanket of water. Top that with a coat of 1% hydrocortisone cream like Cortizone 10 Creme with Aloe a couple times a day.

The one beach-bag product to splurge on is a topical antioxidant, which can neutralize harmful molecules called free radicals and defend against environmental damage. Vitamin C in the form of L-absorbic acid is one of my favorites, and it's abundant in SkinCeuticals Serum 10 AOX+. Use it under your sunscreen for an additional layer of protection against summer's harsh outdoor elements.

The opinions expressed in this section are of the experts and are not the opinions of WebMD. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.


The New Sunscreen Rules

Be aware of the new regulations developed by the FDA for over-the-counter sunscreens that took effect in the summer of 2012.

Sunscreen versus sunblock

Sunscreens can no longer be labeled "sunblock" because the FDA says the claim is false. "Sunblock implies the product 'blocks' 100% of the sun's rays, which is untrue," Kauvar says. "Sunscreens will absorb, scatter, or reflect varying amounts of UVB and UVA, depending on their composition."


SPF ratings

Only a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher can be labeled to say things like "reduces skin cancer risk" and "protects against early skin aging."

Broad-spectrum sunscreens

Sunscreens must protect equally against UVB (burning) and UVA (aging) rays to be labeled "broad spectrum."

Waterproof versus water resistant

Sunscreens can no longer be labeled "waterproof" or "sweatproof." "Sunscreens will either have no water-resistance label or will be labeled resistant for 40 or 80 minutes," Kauvar says. Most won’t be water resistant because moisturizers with SPF rub off easily.

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of WebMD the Magazine .

WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on November 01, 2012



Arielle Kauvar, MD, founder, New York Laser & Skin Care, New York, N.Y.

Lisa Ginn, MD, dermatologist, Chevy Chase, Md. 

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


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