10 Beach Essentials to Pack This Summer
Items to make your day in the sun a little more fun
by Lois Joy Johnson, AARP, July 15, 2021
En español | Once upon a time all we needed was a swimsuit, a bath towel and sunshine. Not anymore! The list of what to bring to the beach or pool has swelled as 50-plusers tote everything from pop-up tents to portable handheld fans and hefty reclining lounge chairs with pockets for reading specs and wine glasses. That doesn't even include the other essentials for keeping us protected and pampered under the sun. Here's what you really need to make your day.
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PHOTO BY: Amazon (3)
1. A big beach-proof tote
Do yourself a favor and stop using your old work totes and plastic shopping bags. Instead, splurge on a water and sandproof bag in lightweight mesh or canvas with interior compartments for your valuables. Mesh styles with exterior multipockets like the F-Color Oversized Mesh Beach Bag in White ($19, amazon.com) are super-light and keep everything visible and within reach. A zip-top canvas style — such as the Bag & Carry Large Canvas Striped Beach Bag in Striped Blue ($26, amazon.com) or Shylero Beach Bag & Pool Bag XL - Zippered in Navy Blue Cuttlefish ($45, amazon.com) — protects your privacy and looks “cleaner” since your stuff is inside. Go with what matters most to you but know any mesh or canvas bag makes a reusable, washable grocery shopping bag the rest of the year. You can't lose.
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PHOTO BY: Ulta Beauty (2); Walgreens; Target
2. Hair groomers
A day at the beach or pool means your usually perfect hair will meet some combination of sweat, frizz, chlorine and salt water. Hiding under a beach hat goes only so far. A few small grooming and styling items can help you de-stress your tresses and make a splash. Bring a small detangling brush like the Tangle Teezer The Original Detangling Hair Brush ($12, walgreens.com) for after your swim; a wide, soft hair band like the Scunci Collection Headwrap Color Print in Blue Water ($9, target.com) to function as a sweatband/hair accessory; and a couple of quick-dry scrunchies — such as the Kitsch Leopard Microfiber Towel Scrunchies ($14, ulta.com) or a pack of covered elastics designed for thin, fragile, damaged hair like the Gimme Beauty Fine Hair Multi-Color Neutral Bands ($10, ulta.com) — for ponytails. Done!
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PHOTO BY: Amazon; Walmart; Foster Grant
3. The right sunglasses
Your everyday sunglasses may be fine for other seasons, but how about in the intense glare of summer? Are they big enough to really protect? Are the lenses scratch resistant? Think how often we toss sunglasses into a bag without a case! Start with a pair labeled 100 percent UVA/UVB or 400 UV (same thing) and look for polarized lenses — like the Prive Revaux The Supermodel Polarized Sunglasses in Black and Gold/Gradient Gray ($22, walmart.com) or Sojos Classic Square Polarized Sunglasses UV400, style SJ2050 in Black Tortoise ($12, amazon.com) — to more effectively reduce the glare from light bouncing off water, sand or even your light-color patio or deck. Generously sized frames in a cat-eye, square or aviator style also help since they cover your eyes and the surrounding skin. Switch your “readers” to sun styles like the Tiana SunReaders in Tortoise with Brown Gradient Lenses ($26, fostergrant.com) before catching up on the latest beach best seller.
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PHOTO BY: Walmart; Amazon (2)
4. A comfy blanket, chair and towel
Our aches, pains and experienced bones deserve a relaxing spot to recline, read and people watch (slathered and spritzed in sunscreen, of course!). We're so over dragging and drying standard cotton terry towels and stiff chairs and trying to brush sand off old blankets when the day is done. Updates in the form of lightweight, quick-drying blankets like the Wildhorn Outfitters Seaview Beach Blanket in Dark Blue ($38, amazon.com) and microfiber towels like the Your Choice Microfiber Beach Towel in B Blue Stripes ($16, amazon.com) turn these chores painless. Both are sand resistant, fold flat and fit in your tote. Lighter-weight chairs like the Coleman Lightweight Utopia Breeze Beach Chair ($61, walmart.com) with a low broad seat, a relaxed angled back pocket and mesh cup holder are a good idea, too. This one comes in its own carry bag.
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PHOTO BY: Target (3); Nordstrom
5. The right sunscreens
Apply your usual face sunscreen, of course. An SPF of at least 30+ is a must, no matter what color your skin tone or skin health history. However, adding a body spray makes covering large and hard-to-reach areas like legs, arms and back much easier. Choose a water-resistant formula — a mineral one like Coppertone Sport Mineral Sunscreen Spray SPF 50 ($12, target.com) or a chemical one like Sun Bum Original Sunscreen Spray SPF 50 ($17, target.com) — and reapply frequently. And don't forget your lips! An ordinary balm or lipstick won't protect thin, dry, delicate lip skin from burning rays. Choose a tinted balm with SPF like Revlon Kiss Lip Balm SPF 20 in Fresh Strawberry or Berry Burst ($4, target.com) or Fresh Sugar Lip Balm Sunscreen with SPF 15 in Rosé, Velvet or Honey ($24, nordstrom.com) for safety plus glamour.
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PHOTO BY: Target (2); Zappos
6. Extra shade options
If you're 50-plus, even a balmy day at the shore is never without worries of skin cancer, precancerous lesions, brown spots and heat stroke. While classic baseball caps look cool, a wide-brimmed hat is a better bet for this situation. An airy, straw panama with an all-round brim — such as the Universal Thread Women's Wide Brim Open Weave Straw Panama Hat ($22, target.com) or Brixton Bell Sun Hat ($29, zappos.com) — shields not only the face but also exposed spots like your ears and nape of neck without looking too floppy or silly. For even more shelter try a sand tent like the Alvantor Outdoor Automatic Pop-Up Hub Style Beach Tent ($55, target.com) with UPF 50 fabric and mesh windows for ventilation. It provides a break from exposure and a hideaway for naps.
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PHOTO BY: Zappos (2); Amazon
7. Waterproof sandals and water shoes
We're practical people, and that should extend to our feet and sandals. Why wreck perfectly good leather styles or leave our tootsies vulnerable to hot sand, gritty pool bottoms, shells, rocks or germy restroom floors? Just slipping on a pair of water socks like the Ning Meng Quick-Dry Aqua Socks in Black ($8–$19, amazon.com) protects your soles and toes during water aerobics, walks and dips. Waterproof slides like the Vans La Costa Slide-On in Red ($28, zappos.com) or Puma Cool Cat in Knockout Pink ($20, zappos.com) are trendy and comfy thanks to wide padded straps and contoured cushioned footbeds — a must for foot health. No more bare-feet visits to the restroom/locker room or snack bar!
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PHOTO BY: CVS; JCPenney; Target; Swimsuits For All
8. Beach-to-barbecue essentials
Plenty of us head straight from the beach or pool to lunch, cocktails or a casual dinner. Just a little more grooming and polish makes the difference between sweaty and swell. Stash a stick deodorant like Dove 0% Aluminum Coconut and Pink Jasmine Deodorant ($8, cvs.com) and some wipes in your bag to freshen up and remove excess sunscreen residue. Depending on your needs, choose a cover-up of the right length that makes you feel “dressed” enough without looking overdone. Good examples are a breezy midi style like the Kona Sol Women's Midi Cover Up Dress in Yellow or Red ($25, target.com), a mid-thigh tunic shirt like the a.n.a Women's Dress Swimsuit Cover-up in Black or White ($21, jcpenney.com), or a cold-shoulder dress like the Vera Crochet Cold Shoulder Cover Up Dress in Black ($27, swimsuitsforall.com). And yes, before you ask, any swimsuit straps or details that show beneath are fine. Go with the flow!
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PHOTO BY: Amazon (2); VENUS
9. A hair-friendly bathing cap and an extra swimsuit
Whether you're a dedicated lap doer or just want to cool off, a bathing cap is a must — especially for those with color-treated, long or fragile hair. Look for one that's sleek and modern but has a roomier crown, such as the Aegend Swim Caps for Women and Men 2 pack ($10, amazon.com) or Balneaire Silicone Long Hair Swim Cap for Women in Zebra ($13, amazon.com). Stretchy silicone designs are way better than latex caps. They are easier to put on and pull off and won't tug at your hair, but they do cling at the hairline and ears where you need it. And no headache! The extra suit like the Venus Plus-Size Slimming V-Neck One Piece in Black Beauty ($72, venus.com)? It's just common sense.
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PHOTO BY: Zappos; 6pm; Target
10. Guy things
If your beach/pool buddy is a man, sharing sunscreens, beach chairs and towels is fine — but add three things to his list of extras. If he's 50-plus he needs a brimmed beach hat with SPF 50+ like the Columbia Bora Bora Booney II ($30, zappos.com) to protect his ears, face and neck; a UPF 50+ rash guard tee like the Speedo Men's Rash Guard in Navy or Gray ($25, target.com) — especially if he's not great about reapplying sunscreen; and truly waterproof sandals like the Men's Crocs Baya Slide in Black ($30, 6pm.com), because athlete's foot and fungus are no fun. And always: a plastic bag for his wet suits and grimy sunscreen tubes.
Lois Joy Johnson is a beauty and style editor who focuses on women 50 and older. She was the beauty and style editor at Ladies’ Home Journal and a founding editor of More magazine. She has written three books: The Makeup Wakeup, The Wardrobe Wakeup and The Woman's Wakeup.