Summer Sun

As some of you know, I was on a long overdue sun holiday last week – rakes of emails, tweets and Instagram posts have been totally ignored.  While I was posting pictures here and there, I did my best to just sit back, relax, and enjoy a little disconnection from the madness for a week.

Chilling by the pool while on holidays in Puerto Del Carmen, Lanzarote
Chilling by the pool while on holidays in Puerto Del Carmen, Lanzarote

Right away, I know a lot of you are probably thinking “sun holiday, wouldn’t that be a nightmare for someone with albinism?”.  And in the past I would definitely have agreed.  If you ask my parents, there wasn’t one family holiday I went on in the past where I didn’t get some form of sunburn.  It always seemed that no matter how many times I got into the pool with a t-shirt on or lathered myself in Factor 50 suncream I would always end up roasted and as red as a lobster!  Nearly every holiday – even the Staycations we had here in Ireland – I always got a burn, and bad one at that.


Obviously, I had learned how sore the burns could be and as a (somewhat) mature 24 year-old, I decided I would do everything in my power not to get roasted this time – but I was determined to do it in style.  From my experience, people can often overlook the psychological effect something like this can have.  For me, anytime I’m out in the sun and there are all these tanned people soaking up the sun, it just serves as a reminder that “I’m different – I can’t do this”.  And so, being careful in the sun in style is a diversion tactic of mine.

Myself, my dad Sean, and my brother Evan on the beach on one of the cloudier days
Myself, my dad Sean, and my brother Evan on the beach on one of the cloudier days

First things first – a spray tan was my first port of call before heading off.  The thinking behind this was twofold; I’ll look tanned when I get there so I’ll fit in, and also there is an SPF in the spray tan my local salon uses so it’ll protect my skin too.  Of course, I’m not silly enough to think that this SPF will keep me completely protected…. And so I bought a bottle of Sally Hansen fake tan and a brand new tanning mitt to pack into my suitcase.  After a little research, I figured that because I would be applying ‘Sally’ a few times a day, the SPF 20 in it would act in a similar way suncream does when you reapply it.  So there, I was sorted – I could wear my bikinis, sun hat and sun dresses without looking pasty and – lets face it – standing out.


I forgot to pack the tan and mitt!!!!!


So I’m sitting by the pool wearing a dressing gown on the first day because my plan fell apart – and I had refused to pack any ‘just in case’ sunscreen so I was in double trouble!!  Luckily, I kept entirely covered by either shade or light clothes while at the pool that day, and also had the wherewithal to take a few (completely staged!!) bikini photos.  Later that night, I was on the search for fake tan – which is hilarious considering I was on holidays in Lanzarote.  It even got to the stage where I was Googling ‘where can I buy Sally Hansen in Puerto Del Carmen?’.


As it was getting to the stage where I was resigning myself to having to lather pasty white sunscreen on myself I found what is probably the best sunscreen I’ve used.  AND it has fake tan in it!!  I HIT THE JACKPOT!!

This is the sunscreen I found - a good SPF and a bronzer!
This is the sunscreen I found – a good SPF and a bronzer!

The sunscreen I bought and used for the rest of the holiday is the Australian Gold sunscreen with a built in bronzer.  Happy days – I was protected from the sun AND i was a little tanned looking too.  I used this religiously for the rest of my holiday, and I didn’t have one burn.  Not one – which is a first for me!  As soon as I got home – sun burn free – I knew I had to let everyone else know about this little discovery I made.  For me, its about convenience and ease of use – this sunscreen helped me to ‘fit in’ with a little bronzing and it wasn’t sticky or pasty on my skin.  Everyone was a winner!


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I Know It’s Up for Me, If You Steal My Sunshine

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Skin care in the sun eh?  I bet you’re all thinking SUNCREAM right about now?  A lot more than that can and does go into taking care of your skin in the sun though.  I’d like to think this piece will be useful to everyone with different skin types, as well as my friends who have albinism too.  And also, I’ll take this chance to point out that this isn’t medical advise in any way, shape or form – its just a rambling piece about my thoughts on the topic and what has worked for me in the past.

It can be hard to take care of pale skin in the sun, especially when friends are sallow skinned and seem to tan instantly – which makes them want to spend days sitting in the sun even more.  In the past I’ve happily taken part in these sun sessions, but guess what happened? Burnt scalp, burnt arms, burnt ears etc.  And aside from the dangers of anything more sinister than sunburn blisters, it is really painful and uncomfortable.  So here are a few of my tips:

1.  Check the weather.

There are apps for this so you have NO excuse not to do it.  All during the summer months, I check the forecast every morning to check how intense the sun will be, if there are clouds due, and what times of the day that sunshine is expected.  If you have business to attend to during the day, you might decide to do it at a time when the sun is less intense or when it is overcast.  Above anything else, its helpful to plan an outfit – especially shoes!  Trust me, you do not want to be caught in a pair of cute flipflops when rain is pouring down on top of you!

2.  Choose your outfits wisely.

If I know it’ll be sunny on a particular day, I’ll plan to wear light clothes that will cover problem burn areas like shoulders or the upper back.  You can still look bright and feel comfortable in summer clothes even if you are a tad more covered than friends.  Shorts or strapless tops are a major no-no for me in the summer months, it is just too easy to get sunburned in those or to fail to apply suncream properly to these areas.  A lot of people say black should never be worn in the summer either as it attracts the sun, although I wonder is that a bit of an old wives tale!

3.  Suncream!

There is more to skin care in the sun than suncream, but it is a big part of keeping your skin healthy.  Its important to pick a suncream that will give you the right protection of course, but also one that you’ll be happy to wear too.  It’s pointless buying a suncream that is intensely heavy because you won’t want to wear it and it will be irritating to even apply.  Personally, I have always found the sun spray types best as they are much lighter than traditional suncreams, and as they have a spraying nozzle, they are also easier to apply.  Even the higher factor coverage in these sprays isn’t as gloopy as the typical sun creams are.  Just remember to constantly reapply every hour!

4.  Wear makeup if at all possible.  And sunglasses!

This probably sounds a bit over the top right?  But remember, most liquid foundations do have an SPF level within them.  And its a lot nicer to have makeup with sun protection covering your face, rather than applying suncream.  Keep in mind that the coverage in makeup isn’t that high though, and check your own foundation for its SPF level.  Remember to keep sunglasses around you at all time – especially in Ireland because you may never know when you need them!  Invest in a pair with good protection from the sun too – UV rays can and do damage eyes year after year, and so a pair of sunglasses with substantial protection are a worthy investment.

5.  Do your best to sit in the shade.

Simple but effective, and you would think it goes without saying, but that’s not always the case.  I always have to be reminded to sit in the shade!  If you’re in the park with friends who want to sunbath, try and sit near a tree or statue that can give you shade form the suns rays, while still allowing your friends to bask in the rays.

6.  Look out for moles and skin changes. 

I can’t stress this enough.  Moles that have recently changed shape or colour should always be observed by your GP, especially if they are in an area of your body which has been previously sunburned.  For more info on what type of changes to look for, click here – because I’m not a doctor and this is just an opinion piece and not medical advice in any way!

Hopefully, this piece will be useful not just to those with albinism, but also to anyone who is looking to protect their skin from the sun!  Anything you can add to this list of skin care in the sun?  Drop me a line through the blog page! In the meantime, check out this sunny selfie I took with a meerkat in Fota Wildlife Park on the Cork Rose tour recently – the meerkat didn’t really cooperate though!