Sunburns Suck! Getting Toasted in the Dominican Republic


Have you ever had those times when you went on a sunny vacation with every intention of not getting burned by the sun, and yet somehow it still happened?

Yeah, us too.

Our five day trip to the Dominican Republic was everything we dreamed it would be—minus some roadblocks, of course (stories for another day). We arrived in Santiago with nothing but two backpacks full of swimsuits and t-shirts, freshly donned flip flops, wide-eyed wonderment ... and as many 3 oz bottles of sunscreen as we could cram in ONE gallon zip lock bag.

We knew, even before we left, that the amount of sunscreen we brought probably wouldn't last us five continuous days spent lounging in the sun, but we didn't have much of a choice. We opted to bring backpacks and didn't want to check them, which meant we had to adhere to the TSA's rules on carrying liquids onto the plane.

Despite knowing, deep down, that we'd probably run out, we forged ahead anyway. Once we arrived at our resort, we unpacked, immediately donned our swimsuits and some sunscreen (don't forget your lips! Chap-stick with SPF is a lifesaver), and hit the beach.

On day two of our trip, we spent a good five hours on the beach. That's five hours, pretty much uninterrupted, in the sun. In the middle of the day. We alternated between reading and napping for a while until I suddenly got the bright idea that we should go swimming in the ocean. So off we went, abandoning our books and flip flops, and floated on the waves for about thirty minutes until Mr. Nerd got hungry (and then it was off to get some beachside drinks and fried chicken).

That first day spent reading in the sun for hours. Little did we know...

What we didn't realize (and I don't know how we didn't, but we didn't) was that our sunscreen wasn't waterproof. All of it had washed off in the ocean, and we forgot to reapply before we toweled off, grabbed some grub, and went right back to sunbathing.

On day three, we woke up with awful burns on our faces, backs, and thighs. I'd unfortunately laid on my stomach, too, for a while, so my butt was the color of a crispy grilled tomato.

That morning, we vowed to apply sunscreen as often as every couple hours, and especially after going in the water. I'd brought some Aloe Vera (thought not a lot because of that pesky 3 oz rule), so we used that to alleviate the burns and ran to catch the tour bus that was going to take us out on the ocean for a day of sightseeing and snorkeling.

We did a lot of swimming ... so you can guess what happened.

We applied often and ran out of sunscreen. Right about the time the afternoon sun decided to beat down on our tender, tender Scandinavian skin.

I spent a lot of time in the water, trying to soothe the drying, pinching ache of the skin on my back and legs. I thought being in the water would help avoid getting even more burned. I was so wrong. Mr. Nerd, on the other hand, wisely chose to stick to the shade. We spent a few hours on an island during our tour; I swam, and Ben decided to recline on a shaded vinyl beach bed.

When it was time to get back on the boat, I walked over to grab my backpack from him and witnessed a horror I'll never forget. His burnt skin, still damp from our previous adventures in the ocean, had dried to the hot, sticky vinyl. As he sat up, his skin peeled off the vinyl. He screamed like a man getting his nails ripped off by a hot pliers.


We eventually made it back to our resort and made an emergency trip to the resort shop to buy more sunscreen and Aloe Vera. Each bottle was $15-20 USD (so, so, SO expensive)! We spent what remaining cash we had on stocking up and spent the rest of the evening crying in bed.

We moved to the shade on the final day, but ouch.

The last few days of our trip were no better. Mr. Nerd's sunburn, agitated by the torture it'd received at the hands of the vinyl bed, got steadily worse until he couldn't move, couldn't sleep at night, and only felt relief when I doused him in thick layers of gooey, green Aloe.

My sunburn was almost as bad (just not quite).

We survived, obviously, but paid our dues at home by peeling and dealing with dry skin for the next two weeks. Yikes.

Don't be like us. Be prepared.

We obviously thought we were prepared, but we were limited in the amount of liquids we could bring on the plane and didn't want to check our bags. Live and learn, right?

Here's what we'll do differently if we go on another beach vacation:

Bring more sunscreen (duh). Literally, next time we'll probably load one of our backpacks with sunscreen and check it. Spending money abroad on sunscreen feels like punishment (it's kind of like buying toilet paper, you know? You don't want to spend all your money on that...)

Drink more water! We drank a ton of alcohol, which is obviously dehydrating in itself, and didn't balance it out by drinking extra water. I think our skin would've thanked us had we kept it hydrated and flushed with the defense against the sun it needed.

Apply more Aloe Vera—and frequently. That stuff is the peace of mind you need when you're out-of-your-mind with pain and can't think past the burn.

Limit our time in the sun. I know this seems like a waste, especially when beach vacations should be spent in the sun (or if you're from cold, wintry places), but we suffered more than we should have because we spent hours of uninterrupted time in the sun. Our skin went from a cold, cloudy climate to, BAM!, an intensely sunny climate in a matter of hours. If we'd given our bodies a break and spent some time in the shade recovering, we might have been able to lessen the severity of our burns.

Reapply after going into the water. Sunscreen is not waterproof (unless you buy a brand that specifically says it's waterproof, and even then, I wouldn't entrust your life to it); it's a barrier between your skin and the ruthless rays of the sun. It does wash off with water. So unless you want your skin to be butt-naked in the sun, definitely reapply after every swim.

What do you do to avoid sunburns, especially on tropical vacations? Let us know in the comments. We'd love to hear from you!