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Fun in the sun is a key component of any March break getaway down south, but if you're as fair as I am, you likely have a horror story of getting too many rays on holiday. My worst burn happened in Jamaica when I decided to lie in the scorching tropical sun for 15 minutes before applying sunscreen to "get some colour." The lobster-red shade I became was certainly not what I had in mind.

"One blistering sunburn increases your incidence of developing melanoma by 50 per cent," says Sandy Skotnicki, a Toronto-based dermatologist. Skotnicki advises wearing, and frequently reapplying, a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 50 for the first few days of your holiday, after which you may taper down to no lower than SPF 30 if you wish. Look for a circle around the UVA on your bottle's label to indicate that it has good UVA coverage.

Whether you're going to be in the sun for the first time in months or, like a pro tennis athlete, are always outdoors, both types of exposure are associated with skin cancer and photoaging. However, these infrequent holiday moments of concentrated, high-dose UV exposure have been shown to be more associated with the development of melanoma, whereas chronic sun exposure is associated with the development non-melanoma basal cells.

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I long ago resigned myself to the fact that I'll always be pasty, an acceptance reaffirmed by Skotnicki's advice that getting colour should never be your aim. And if it is? "Do a self tanner," she says.

WHAT TO TRY

CliniqueFit Workout Makeup SPF 40, $39 at Shoppers Drug Mart.

Resistant to sweat and humidity, this foundation uses chemical and physical sunscreen to provide broad-spectrum protection in a matte finish with moderate coverage.

Coppertone ClearlySheer Whipped, $10 at drug and grocery retailers.

This new whipped formula is easy to apply and absorbs quickly, hydrating while it protects skin from UVA and UVB rays.

LaSpa SPF 30 Moisturizing Mineral Sunscreen Sensitive Skin Face and Neck, $40 through beautysense.ca.

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Designed for sensitive skin using all-natural ingredients, this zinc-based sunscreen is hypoallergenic and provides broad-spectrum protection.

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