Sun Safe

This is my annual reminder to stay safe with the sun. I’m always pretty aware of my sun exposure, especially during the summer. But this year I am feeling even more determined to stay as safe as possible.

I’m guilty of saying “ugh I’m so pale,” but I’m really trying to stop. Do I wish I had a tan naturally? Yes. But I’m trying to embrace my natural skin tone. It’s hard when I go on Instagram and everyone is VERY tan– fake or not. (I don’t know if it’s a filter or self-tans or lots of beach vacations but I can’t be the only one noticing this.) The temptation to get a spray tan or to self-tan at home has been higher than ever for me. But I’m resisting. First of all, I want to feel comfortable in my own skin. And secondly, sun exposure is not healthy. If you need a scare tactic, spend five minutes on the Skin Cancer Foundation’s website reviewing the (sobering) statistics on sun exposure and skin cancer rates.

A tan is just not worth the risk.

Here are some of my favorite ways to stay safe in the sun without being a total recluse.


It’s not always possible (or fun) to stay indoors during peak sun exposure (10 am to 4 pm). I get this advice from a scientific standpoint, but it’s a really big window and if you’re on vacation, are you realistically going to give up six hours every day? No. For me, I tend to gravitate towards covered porches (my absolute favorite during the summer) and umbrellas at the beach. A good compromise for staying outside without being in direct sun.


Okay this is my favorite discovery from last year. I love a good rash guard, but they can be a little bit of a nuisance to slip on and off. These sun shirts are incredibly easy to throw on with or without a bathing suit. I wore mine all summer last year– over swimsuits at the beach and even with denim shorts while running errands on super sunny days. It looks like a regular shirt and can even be worn to work out in too. They’re on sale right now too 🙏🏻 They come in solid colors and I also love the striped shirt!!!!

I know it can feel a little “nerdy,” but I swear these look and feel great. And a major bonus for me is that it’s one less area to apply sunscreen. It’s such a process for me to put on sunscreen that if I’m only going to be at the beach for 30 minutes or whatever, it’s way easier to just grab a sun shirt and be good to go in no time.


I just got this long sleeve swimsuit and I honestly can’t wait to rock it. I think it’s such a good sign that companies are making CUTE and safe options for suits. I was crossing my fingers it’d look good on and it far exceeded my expectations!! Like, I love this suit. And I also think it’ll look amazing with skirts as coverups or even denim shorts.

Cabana Life also makes a ton of cute options too in bright colors.


I wear sunscreen on my face daily but a hat is also a quick and easy way to get sun protection on your face. I usually wear them for style but it doesn’t hurt that they also provide protection. That’s a win/win!

Some of my favorites: Packable bow hat (probably what I wear the most), baseball hat, and this wide straw hat.


Seems self-explanatory 😉 For my face, I’ve been alternating between Kiehl’s Superfluid and Dermalogica’s Prisma Protect. And for my body, I use Supergoop Everyday Sunscreen and Neutrogena Beach Defense.

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Cristina - Memories of the Pacific

It’s so important to raise awareness about this, Carly! I’m very pale as well and I have a hard time accepting it…but I take really good care of my skin and I always wear sunscreen. I didn’t use to be like this when I was a teen and now I regret it.


Such a good reminder! Better to protect now or you will regret in the future.
I love my Wallaroo brand hat which has UPF protection. My pale scalp tends to burn and this was a lifesaver last summer.


I have watched the amount of sun I am in since I can remember. When I was a child I did get burnt. I had basal cell removed from my leg last year. This leg is most always in a compression garment (due to a health issue). I wear sunscreen too.
In late 2017, I lost my father who had battle skin cancer on and off for a number of years. So I am so aware of it now.


I’m also learning to embrace my paleness. I have such uber sensitive skin that I’ve always been hesitant to try self tanners. Besides, the time commitment to do it right, or to get a spray tan just isn’t worth it for me.


I wear a large mens Columbia UPF fishing shirt as a cover up. And I often buy a sun shirt from whatever fishing or scuba company I use while on vacation.


From a fellow pale girl – thank you! I always hated that I was so pale, but now I understand that I would hate to have skin cancer even more. A few years ago, I *think* it was you who posted the advice about putting on sunscreen while naked so you don’t miss any spots and that has been such a game-changer for me! I do that every time I use sunscreen now and I almost never miss any spots!


Thank you so much for this post!!!!

Not enough people our age (late 20s) are promoting sun protection and it’s such a necessity! Thank you for these great recommendations and for showing body positivity in accepting the skin you’re in! I’m a fellow pale girl and have always felt the pull to have a tan; either I end up streaky because of a bad fake tan application or burned from being unsafe in the sun. I really appreciate you speaking up about this and helping others, like me, accept the skin they are in!

These are great ideas! One question though, do you have any advice for people who have a part in their hair? Is there a sunscreen that works for your hair/scalp? Or do you just recommend a hat?


Every year when you’ve written this post I cheer inside because I’m fair like you, by choice, because my mom had a melanoma 7 years ago. After a bad sunburn on spring break 6 years ago I’ve lived by 2 rules: no intentional tanning and no spray sunscreen. This morning I saw this post and ignored it thinking “I’ll be ok I’m going to keep reapplying sunscreen.” I’m getting married in three weeks and a spray tan looked terrible and I caved to peer pressure of being tan. I say no spray sunscreen because sometimes it doesn’t come out when it sprays and that happened today. Two hours tanning, two applications of sunscreen and I have a burn I feel in my joints. I’m grateful that my face is fine because I wore a hat and rubbed on sunscreen and my back where I have my moles was in the chair. So as I sit here with my terrible burn I just want to scream from the rooftops how important this post is


OMG girl, I am SO pale, and my Minnesotan skin does not like the sun! I love a good sun shirt, and sun hat, and ALL the SPF too! I love the Neutrogena sunscreen, but also want to try something that is not as heavy on the skin, and want to try the Supergoop or Kiehl’s this summer! Thanks for this post! It is so important to protect your skin!

xx Libby

Meagan R.

Just bought myself the navy sun shirt! I need the protection and it was half off. Um, yes, please! Thanks for sharing this important message, Carly!

Rachel Norman

It’s totally self tan and fake tan that you’re seeing everywhere which is a safer alternative than actual sun exposure so you needn’t resist out of principle if the principle is to avoid sun exposure!


I guess my point is that it’s glorifying a tan (fake or not), instead of just embracing what your skin looks like naturally.


thank you for the yearly reminder!! i have pale skin like you and it is so hard to resist trying to get a tan or schedule a spray tan. i just need to embrace it like you!!