En español | This summer we have more to worry about than just the usual sunburn, skin cancer, jellyfish and swimsuit anxieties. Yep, I'm talking about COVID-19. Still, many U.S. beaches, lakes and pools are open for fun and frolicking if you keep your social distance. So dive in, but before you do, remember these 10 essential steps.
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PHOTO BY: Burak Karademir/Moment/Getty Images
1. Prep the night before
Prepack your beach bag to avoid last-minute mishaps (like forgetting your water bottle and extra swimsuit). Be sure to add a wide-tooth detangling comb for wet hair; a swim cap, if you wear one; hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes; extra plastic baggies for wet swimsuits; and snacks. And don't forget to stash your cellphone, wallet and keys in your tote. Do any fresh skin exfoliation and shaving or waxing of legs and underarms two days before beach day, to avoid irritation from sun, sand, salt water or chorine. If you apply a self-tanner, do that after shaving.
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PHOTO BY: CVS (2); Target
2. Wear a water-resistant, broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen
Apply a sporty formula like Neutrogena Cool Dry Sport Water-Resistant Sunscreen Spray ($13, cvs.com), Banana Boat Ultra Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+ ($10, target.com) or Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 ($12, cvs.com) about 30 minutes before sun exposure as a base layer. Keep in mind that water-resistant products are formulated to stick better on wet skin, but this doesn't mean they are waterproof. Use enough sunscreen to cover your body — at least a shot-glass amount — or thoroughly spray your skin until it glistens. Massage the product in a circular motion to blend it in. Then reapply it every two hours (set the timer on your phone) or after 40 minutes of swimming or excessive sweating — even if it's a cloudy day. UV rays penetrate during all weather. Be sure to include tops of feet, hands, neck, ears, hairline and part, and backs of the knees — the most-missed spots.
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PHOTO BY: CVS (2); Target
3. Apply sunscreen to your whole face, even with a mask
It's smart to avoid pore-clogging makeup at the beach, but never skip facial sunscreen. If you're worried about sweat and oil trapped under your mask and possible lower-face breakouts (and we all are), start by choosing a 100-percent-cotton mask, instead of a synthetic one, and look for an oil-free face sunscreen with a nongreasy finish, like Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Face Sunscreen SPF 50 ($14, cvs.com), Coppertone Defend & Care Sunscreen Oil Free Face Lotion SPF 30 ($12, cvs.com) or Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Weightless Face Sunscreen SPF 30 ($9, target.com). Apply sunscreen to your entire face (not just the visible part), to avoid a two-tone effect. (You'll also be fully protected when you remove your mask and socially distance at the beach.) When you arrive home, wash your face and the mask just as you would any T-shirt or sports bra you wear when sweating or exercising.
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PHOTO BY: Amazon (2); L.L.Bean
4. Bring your yoga mat instead of a beach towel
If you don't have a lounge chair, take your yoga mat to the beach. The firm, flexible, cushioned mat is much comfier than a towel, is sweat- and water-resistant (so no grimy mess), and easier to shake off. Same goes for the beach bag. Choose a washable style that's sand-proof and waterproof with a flat bottom, like the L.L. Bean Boat and Tote, Open-Top ($35, llbean.com), which doesn't fall over and spill your stuff out, or a sturdy mesh bag, such as the FitFort Mesh Beach Tote Bag with Detachable Beach Cooler ($28, amazon.com) or Blueboon Mesh Beach Tote Bag with Cooler Compartment ($26, amazon.com), which has pockets for keys, sunscreen, sunglasses and e-readers, as well as a cooler compartment (stash extra sunscreen here).
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PHOTO BY: Valeriy_G/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
5. Embrace beach hair
What with the heat, water, humidity and shoreline breezes, this is no time for perfect blowouts. Instead, make the salt air and water your styling partners. In other words, don't fight it. The key is simplicity. You have three choices. You can let salt water add texture to your bob or lob hair as it air-dries after your dip in the ocean. This is fashionably known as beachy waves, and the style adds body to fine, thin locks. You can use a scrunchie to put longer hair (even dreadlocks, braids or twists) into a casual bun, topknot or ponytail, either plain or wrapped with a scarf or bandanna (these make handy extra masks). Showing more neck will work in your favor, since it elongates your silhouette. Or just go for a wet look by adding a dab of styling gel to damp hair (even short, tousled crops) and brushing it back and off your face.
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PHOTO BY: Robby Fontanesi/EyeEm/Getty Images
6. Wear a stylish, but practical, cover-up
Don't feel pressured to strip down to your suit ASAP. Starting with a very lightweight, loose sundress or tunic will help you ease into beach mode. When you do reveal that swimsuit, you'll look great because, aside from those in your household, everyone will see you from at least six feet away. Trust me, at that distance any bulges or jiggles will blend into a sleeker shape — especially if the viewer is not wearing prescription glasses or contacts on the sand. Besides, people are way too busy reapplying sunscreen, making sure no one comes near them and checking that their phone isn't getting wet or sandy to bother critiquing your hair, sunglasses or pandemic weight. So don't overthink the swimsuit issue.
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PHOTO BY: Target; Amazon; Zappos
7. Sport sensible, waterproof footwear
Make protecting your tootsies from hot sand and pavement, sharp objects (shells, splinters of wood, broken glass, etc.) and fungus a priority. Make between-toe flip-flop irritations history by slipping on waterproof “pool slides” with wide-banded straps across the foot and a contoured sole, such as the FunkyMonkey Women's Comfort Slides Double Buckle Adjustable EVA Flat Sandals ($18, amazon.com), Birkenstock Arizona EVA Essentials ($45, zappos.com) or Shade & Shore's Women's Neida EVA Two Band Slide Sandals ($15, target.com) . And beware of athlete's foot — a fungus that loves moist, sweaty closed shoes — and communal showers (even a locker room, bathroom or outdoor-restaurant floor is a breeding ground). The signs of the pesky condition are itchiness, peeling and redness on the soles of your feet and between your toes. OTC medications can help, but they take weeks, not days, to work.
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PHOTO BY: Coolibar; L.L. Bean; Wallaroo Hat Company
8. Buy a beach hat
Sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV protection are a basic, but so is a broad-brimmed beach hat with built-in sun protection. Washable styles with UPF 50, like L.L. Bean's Women's Tropicwear Outback Hat ($45, llbean.com), Wallaroo Hat Company's Aqua Hat ($42, wallaroohats.com) and Coolibar Women's Cyd Travel Beach Hat UPF 50+ ($49, coolibar.com) flatter everyone and fold up easily for packing. Don't fall for the baseball-cap trap: Caps leave your ears and the nape of your neck open to damaging rays — both spots are vulnerable to skin cancer.
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PHOTO BY: Kraig Scarbinsky/Photodisc/Getty Images
9. Know how to take flattering beach photos
OK, this is not essential, but absolutely everyone posts beach photos on social media now. Do yourself a favor and learn how to pose. Keep it natural as possible. Laugh, sit on the edge of the pool, lean on something, walk on the beach, or play with your hair or sunglasses. Avoid freezing like a celebrity who's trying to model on the red carpet. Keep the camera at eye level or just above (not lower) to delete a double chin or a sagging jawline. Early morning and sunset are better than high noon for lighting, but if you take a photo in bright sunlight, wear sunglasses to avoid squinting and dark shadows (plus, you'll look sexy). Stand or sit at an angle, and leave a space between your arms and body. To lose five pounds instantly, stand straight but turn to the side and swivel your shoulders toward the camera, with your chin up. If you recline, prop yourself up on your elbows and keep your legs extended and crossed at the ankles. Sit on your knees or draw them up to your chest and hug them if you're on the sand or a blanket. Remember to keep moving between snaps — and smile!
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PHOTO BY: Target; Walgreens (3); Ulta Beauty
10. Soothe a sunburn or heat rash pronto
Worst-case scenario: If you do get a burn — say you missed a spot or waited too long to reapply your sunscreen — head for a cool shower to lower your body temperature. An aloe vera body wash like Jason Soothing Aloe Vera Body Wash ($9, target.com) or St. Ives Rose Water and Aloe Vera Body Wash ($4, walgreens.com), instead of soap, will feel refreshing, especially if you follow it with an aloe vera gel, such as Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera 100% Gel Crystal Clear ($4, walgreens.com) or Earth Therapeutics 95% Aloe Vera Soothing Gel ($15, ulta.com), to calm redness and start the healing process. If you get heat rash (sometimes called prickly heat) at moist spots like the groin, leg and arm creases, soak in an oatmeal bath, such as Aveeno Soothing Oatmeal Bath Treatment, which has 100 percent colloidal oatmeal ($9, walgreens.com).
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