If I could turn back time… I would be more diligent with sun protection when I travel. I mean, as a Goth Girl I have always cared about not getting a suntan, and have worn a high SPF sunscreen for years, especially when travelling to sunny places.
But in all the excitement of a trip it’s all too easy to let things slide. I woke up with sun damage on my face a few years back and since then have made a point to do more research, to invest in quality products, and to make sure I pack them!
The best sun protection for travel is something you’re actually going to use, and is rated the highest in preventing harmful UVA and UVB rays. It’s more than just anti-ageing or aesthetic preference, too.
Skin Cancer is the most common type of cancer.
Thankfully, skin cancer is preventable.
The Canadian Cancer Society recommends broad spectrum sunscreen (protecting against both UVA and UVB rays) with a SPF of 30 or higher, applied generously at least every two hours. If you’ll be swimming or sweating, make sure your sunscreen is also water-resistant.
I would add it’s important to do this every time you go outside in daylight. Not just at the beach. Not just when it’s sunny. Damage can happen in the winter or on cloudy days.
It’s not always possible to stay out of the sun while travelling. I like to get up and go early in the day then get into the shade in afternoon, but when there’s a lot to see and do, sometimes you can’t. But you can wear protection.
Best Sunscreen for travelling
What do I look for in a sunscreen when I’m travelling? Minimum 30 SPF. Non greasy. Doesn’t sting my eyes when I sweat. Not tested on animals. And preferably in a spray. Also not too heavy so that I always carry it with me. After years of trial and error these are my favourite products which I can personally recommend.
My fave overall: KINeSYS Clear Spray SPF 50
Everything you want, nothing you don’t. This has a high Sun Protection Factor of 50 and is easy to apply with a pump spray. It dries fast to a matte finish with no white residue and is water and sweat resistant. Fragrance-free, alcohol-free, oil-free, Paraben-free. This is my first choice because I barely feel like I’m wearing sunscreen. Made in Canada, Vegan, Cruelty-Free.
An Essential Base: MAC Cosmetics Prep + Prime Face Protect SPF 50
Before applying face make-up, I start with a layer of this to protect from the sun and prime a smooth finish. It’s very white, but you only need a thin layer to be effective, so it does blend in. Small squeeze container, so it’s easy throw in a carry on to use as a stand-alone face sunscreen too. Bonus: “infused with antioxidants,” says MAC.
Best two-in-one: COOLA Matte Tinted Sunscreen SPF 30
In the summer months, or when travelling to hot climates where I don’t want to wear foundation, this is my one must-pack product. A mineral sunscreen that is silky smooth yet very matte, with a sheer tint. (Admittedly, this won’t match everyone’s skin tone.) A handy carry-on size that fits a surprising amount. Tip: Shake well before squeezing. Vegan, Organic, Cruelty-Free.
Best Medium Coverage: MAC Studio Waterweight SPF 30 Foundation
When I want more coverage than the Coola, but still a good sun protection, I choose this lightweight, moisturizing MAC foundation with SPF 30. Tip: the dropper applicator can get messy; I don’t use it on moving planes or trains!
Best Smelling: Sun Bum Original Spray SPF 70
When it comes to sun protection, I trust surfers. This American independent company of sun worshippers produces several wonderful products including this sheer spray with a high SPF, moisturizing Vitamin E and pleasant coconut smell. If you can travel with aerosol, this is top choice for face and body. Vegan, Cruelty-free, Reef-friendly.
Best for Lips: Sun Bum SPF 30 Lip Balm
Don’t forget your lips! Sun Bum also makes a high-quality moisturizing balm with protection to ensure you can keep kissing for years to come. Grab a pack of three so you can toss one into every bag.
Best Sunglasses for travel
There are so many reasons to pack sunglasses on every trip. To keep the sun out of your eyes of course. To look cool. But it’s really important to protect your eyes from UV damage. So always look for lenses marked UV400 — which block nearly 100% of harmful rays. I also recommend oversized styles for ultimate glamour but also to keep more sun off the sides of your face.
Note that not all sunglasses protect against UV rays at all, and polarized lenses have a special coating that helps reduce glare, but’s not equal to UV400. So always check.
I personally always pack at least two pair of sunglasses — in case one breaks, which tends to often more than I’d like. And it’s fun to have a bold colourful pair for photos too.
Here are a few brands and styles I like to rock that have top protection.
Betsey Johnson Cat Eye
I’m a big fan of the whimsy in Betsey Johnson’s designs. These classic Cat Eye sunglasses have UV400 with a subtle leopard print.
Betsey Johnson Punk Sunglasses
When you don’t actually want subtle. Total ‘80s vibes with more than a pop of colour, smokey grey lenses and bold square shape.
Ray-Ban Original Wayfarer
All Ray-Bans have high sun protection and the classic Wayfarers are perfect for those who like to keep a low profile.
Oakley Unstoppable Rectangular Sunglasses
When you want coverage on the sides but not the full skier-style wraparound, sporty Oakley is a great choice. Lightweight and durable, with full UVA and UVB protection on the lenses.
Betsey Johnson Leopard Diva Fitovers
Need sunglasses to fit over your prescription glasses? No problem.
Killstar Enchantra Ornate Goth Punk Sunglasses
Because you are not basic. Killstar’s ornate glasses offer (somewhat surprisingly) 100% UV Protection, and a wicked frame with a gradient purple tinted lense.
Best Sun Hats for Travel
One of the best decisions I’ve made with my travel packing is to ditch carrying the neck pillow and use that luggage space or extra hand to bring a good sun hat instead.
I suspect there are many people like me who don’t wear ball caps, only big hats that take up lots of space. And so it’s a real pain to bring these hats on a plane, or squeeze into luggage. But when it comes to sun protection, we need hats. It’s so worth it.
Any fabulous hat that you will want to wear everyday is a good idea. But there are some with specific UV protection worth seeking out.
Coolibar Stella Scarf Detail Hat
Coolibar specializes in sun protection that you can wear. I’m extremely happy with the sunhat I bought from them. Their fabrics are rated UPF 50+ which means fabric blocks 98% of harmful rays. Here’s a high-quality hat for your next beach adventure with a chic bold scarf.
Lanzom Big Bowknot Straw Hat
Level up your big black floppy hat game with UPF 50 Protection at an affordable price.
Funky Junque Ponytail Messy Adjustable Sun Hat
Hats and ponytails can now be friends. I used to use my high pony as excuse not to wear a hat. This hat has a hole for you to pull your hair through while still protecting your head. It’s definitely a step-up fashion-wise from a visor. But quality-wise it’s best for a single-use trip.
I hope these product recommends have been useful and help you bring better sun protection on your travels. Thanks for reading and please enjoy this video from a Toronto Goth Picnic were I poll the sun-averse for more tips on surviving hot weather!