As important as fresh sunscreen is, you need more than that for a fun and safe day at the beach. Having lived at the beach for many years, my family and I have had lots of time to determine what items are most necessary. The same reasons we love the beach – sand, sun and surf – are also its challenges; here is our list of items for safely and happily conquering them.
Large Beach Bag
Beach bags with lots of pockets and space to hold at least two or three large towels work best. Mesh makes it easy to shake out the sand at the end of the day, and allows contents to “breathe,” which anyone who spends time in a humid environment knows is important. Canvas or other 100% cotton models are other good choices.
The Whale Bag is one of my favorites and always comes in lots of fun color combinations.
A Lightweight Chair
Look for models that have straps or can be worn as a backpack and leave your hands free for carrying other articles. In the past, I have used and like the Land’s End backpack chairs. Most recently I’ve found chairs that are very similar in style, weight, and construction, minus a few fancy details (such as monogramming) at Costco.
Extra-long Beach Towels
Most beach towels are barely long enough to allow a child to sprawl out on, so check dimensions and look for ones that are longer. “Plush” isn’t necessarily a desirable quality, however, as towels that are thick and absorbent tend to get heavy with moisture and sand by the end of a long beach day.
Heavy Duty Beach Umbrella
A sturdy and vented beach umbrella used with an anchoring device can make the prospect of staying at the beach a bit longer much more appealing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people using wimpy umbrellas that with the first puff of midday breeze get blown inside out. If they aren’t anchored correctly, they go tumbling down the sand – potentially much more treacherous than anything you can find in the water!
Choose sunglasses for the entire family that block at least 99 percent of both UVA and UVB rays. For anyone who is particularly light sensitive, select darker shades or a pair of this year’s popular mirrored models. Be sure to get an eyeglass cord for keeping them on your face. No one wants to lose their expensive sunglasses in the ocean.
For sunscreen, I take special care on my face and décolletage using products which are paraben-free and contain zinc oxide, that blend into skin relatively easily. Instead of grabbing whatever is on sale at the drugstore, in recent years, I have learned to do a quick scan on the ingredient label. I look for products that say “paraben-free” and list antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C or E, green tea, soy, or lycopene high up in the ingredient list. Supergoop and Banana Boat Natural are currently in my bag. Products formulated for babies often fit the bill. Paraben is essentially a preservative, making upscale products and those available at the health food store good bets.
A spray sunscreen is nice for chasing down family members who can’t wait to get in the water. Even though we go through sunscreen like paper towels around here, I always remind myself that in regards to health, cheapest isn’t always best.
Lips are particularly sun sensitive and a good lip balm with SPF is a must. Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25 is a personal favorite. Never waxy, it goes on smooth and a little goes a long way. Being neither shiny, nor tinted, makes it ideal for everyone in the family and it comes in all kinds of yummy flavors, such as lemon and chamomile.
Having worn sun hats for years pretty much every time I step out of the house in the summer months, they deserve much credit for staving off the signs of premature aging. Two fashionable brands with styles that include SPF sun protection are Scala and San Diego Hat Company.
Waterproofing for Electronics
These days cell phones, cameras, and e-readers on the beach are a fact of life, but when it comes to electronics, the beach is an extremely hostile environment. There are many options for protection available, from small waterproof plastic baggies, to larger dry bags that are favored by campers and professional photographers. I have found the combination of these two works well.
What are your beach must-haves? Hop on over to Facebook and tell us.
Photo credits: Andrew Hayes, amazon.com, Margo Millure, Andrew Hayes, and alliecouture.