Headed to the beach? Stay sun-safe with these tips.

It’s finally here – that beach weekend you’ve been planning. Whether you’ll spend your time sunbathing or playing in the water, there is no magical shortcut to sun protection.

“The key is controlled sun exposure, physical barriers and sunscreen,” says David Peng, MD, MPH, chairman of the USC Department of Dermatology at Keck Medicine of USC. Here are five precautions to avoid the ill effects of the sun.

1. Hydrate often

Stay hydrated. Your body needs 64 ounces of water daily to function properly. If you are active in the heat, your body produces more sweat to regulate your body temperature and therefore needs more water. Packing frozen water bottles keeps your liquids cool and doubles as a cooler for snacks. Also remember that beer and sodas are diuretics and can cause dehydration.

2. Reapply sunscreen

You know you should wear sunscreen, but even more important is that you apply it throughout the day and after you get out of the water. The recommended standard by the American Academy of Dermatology is to reapply every two hours, including on your lips, and to apply more often after swimming or sweating.

Confused about SPF? Dermatologists recommend a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF, which will block 97 percent of the sun’s harmful UVB rays. For extra coolness, store your sunscreen in your cooler so that it feels refreshing when you reapply.

3. Wear a cover-up

Unfortunately, no sunscreen blocks all of the sun’s harmful rays, and salt and heat can take a toll on your skin. Wearing a cover-up and hat will help you avoid overexposure to the sun and keep you cool.

Just remember to choose a cover-up that actually blocks the sun, with a thicker fabric or built-in sun protection. If you don’t have a cover-up, use a towel to block the sun. And protective sunglasses are always a smart beach accessory.

4. Find the shade

You can be in the shade and still enjoy the beach. Bring a beach pop-up tent or umbrella so that your family, especially kids, have a place to escape from the sun. In addition to sun protection, shade helps reduces your chance of overheating.

5. Practice water safety

The ocean is unpredictable; you never know what types of marine life are in the water, so stay aware of your surroundings and follow these precautions:

  • Find your lifeguard. Know where the lifeguard is – or if your beach has one. You might not think of it until you need one, so it’s best to look ahead.
  • Know your flags. Different states have different colored flags to indicate beach conditions, from rip tides to the presence of dangerous sea life. If you aren’t sure what the flag colors mean, check with the lifeguard.
  • Check the weather. It may sound silly, but it’s smart to know about pending storms and sea conditions. Avoid the beach if there’s lightning.
  • If you don’t know how to swim, wear a life jacket. And never go it alone – always have a buddy at the beach.

If you are concerned about skin care, the Department of Dermatology at Keck Medicine of USC is recognized nationally for providing the highest quality of dermatology care. Schedule an appointment with a dermatologist to learn more. If you are in the Los Angeles area, book an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting dermatology.keckmedicine.org

By Heidi Tyline King