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Albinism,  Beach & Sun,  Everyday Life,  Hair & Beauty

Surviving the Beach with Albinism

Going to the beach is practically a right of passage, even for those of us with albinism. However, those of us with albinism need a bit more consideration and planning before our beach trips compared to some of our more pigmented peers.

Honestly, it couldn’t hurt for anyone with or without albinism to be better prepared for the beach. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and 1 in 5 Americans will get it in their lifetimes according to The Skin Cancer Foundation.

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If you’d like to check this information out in video form, check out my Youtube video on the topic.

Before You Go

Before you head out to the beach, be sure to make a plan and a list of essential items. Below, we will go over what you might want to plan for and include on your personal list.

The Beach Necessities

  • Sunscreen of your choice
  • Shade
    • Umbrella, canopy, tent, etc.
    • Rental/Provided: Cabana, umbrella pavillion, etc.
  • Protective clothing
    • Big Hat
    • Long-sleeves & Pants
    • Swimsuit, Rash Guard, & Cover-up
  • Towel or Beach Blanket
  • Chair
  • Water bottle
  • Sunglasses & Tinted Goggles
  • Aloe Vera gel with lidocaine: in the cooler just in case

Timing Matters at the Beach

Harmful UVA and UVB rays are at their most powerful in the hours between 10 am and 2 pm (per the FDA’s recommendation). This is prime time at the beach for most people, but if you want to avoid some of the sun’s harsh rays and some of the crowds as well, I recommend planning your beach time outside this window.

Find the Shade or Bring Your Own

This step is so important, especially at the beach where shade is hard to come by. Many beaches have pavilions, beach umbrellas, cabanas, and more to rent, and I highly recommend those options.

Also, you can bring your own shade in the form of a beach umbrella, pop-up tent, or a canopy. Between those three options, you can find a shade item that fits your budget. The last beach umbrella I bought was $20. It has enough shade for two to share, is easy to install, and is sturdy. I’ve used it three or four times now. I actually just purchased a second one for backup. I’ve also seen children’s beach tents that look like an excellent option.

Protective Clothing

Protective clothing can also provide some shade. A big brim hat can shade your head, neck, and shoulders if it is large enough. Other options to consider are swimsuit cover-ups with sleeves, lightweight pants, a long-sleeve rash guard, other UPF rated clothing, and more. These options are open to your creativity, style, and preference.

I always take a hat to the beach whether it is a large brim beach hat or a ball cap. I have had sunburn on my scalp before, and it is quite painful, so I recommend a hat ALWAYS. You can also spray your scalp down with sunscreen, but I have more to say about that later.

Two hats on a wooden deck, a grey ball cap and a large brim hat with blue and white stripes and flowers.

I recently purchased a long-sleeve one-piece rash guard to use at the beach. I found this item at Torrid (because I am a plus size girl) on sale for half off. Who doesn’t love taking advantage of a sale, right? This was initially a challenge to put on, because it’s meant to fit tight, but I love it! I didn’t have to worry about applying sunscreen to my arms, shoulders, back, or chest. It made my trip to the beach so much simpler!

One recommendation I have is that you consider just the rash guard top unless you can get to an actual shower after the beach. Sand definitely got trapped in my one piece, and the outdoor showers that are typically at the beach were not enough to get it all out. Having said that, I will be using it again, and I do recommend them.

Protective Eyewear

Don’t forget to protect your eyes. If you have albinism, your eyes lack some of the pigment that normally helps to protect your eye from some of those harmful UV rays. Even if you don’t have albinism, UV rays can be harmful to vision and eye health.

I highly recommend polarized sunglasses. Polarization helps to lessen glare caused by reflections on flat surfaces such as water, sand, asphalt, and more. Do NOT skp the polarization! I also recommend some tinted goggles if you’ll be in the water without your sunglasses. Saltwater burns eyes, and so do the sun’s rays reflecting off the surface of that saltwater.

If you’d like to learn more about photophobia/light sensitivity and some tips for managing it, check out my thorough article on the topic.

Sunscreen Application

A bottle of BLue Lizard sunscreen with a beach view out of focus behind it.

I have put together a very detailed article on choosing the right sunscreen for you as well as application recommendations. I’ll list my top sunscreen tips below, but for a more detailed list and resources on choosing a sunscreen, check out Sunscreen: How to Choose the RIght One & Apply It.

  • Look for Broad Spectrum sunscreen products
  • Be thorough in your application
  • Apply at least 15 minutes before you get into the sun
  • Reapply every two hours or sooner if you’re active, sweating, or swimming
  • Let sunscreen dry before jumping into the water or being active
  • Apply under edges of clothing
  • Don’t forget your scalp and ears
  • Cover areas even if they’re shaded
  • Don’t forget to replace sunscreen every year

Protecting Your Hair

Salt water and UV rays can dry out your hair, and dry, unmoisturized hair means brittle hair. If you’re going to spend a few days or more at the beach, this may be something you need to take into consideration. Wetting your hair with fresh water and putting it up can help keep it from absorbing saltwater. Coating it in leave-in conditioner can also help keep it moisturized, and there are hair balms meant for the beach as well.

For more posts related to hair and beauty, check out my Hair & Beauty page.

Don’t Forget to Have a Good Time!

Finally, enjoying the beach is easy if you take a few simple precautions. This list seems pretty thorough, but you can choose which methods work best for you and your family.

Have fun, be safe, and stay curious!

I have Albinism and am legally blind. I have a Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I'm currently pursuing my passion of writing through this blog and for the Albinism InSight magazine.

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