Sunday Express Raisin in the Sun

Raisin in the Sun?

By our staff

Yes, the temperature’s climbing, you’re all stressed out, and the pollution isn’t exactly helping much. Nothing probably seems as blissful as a few hours of sun and surf. But before you pack your bags and call it quits, remember, be it Goa, Chennai’s East Coast, or the more exotic sands of Bali, certain basic rules apply. Like sun protection and comfortable beach wear. This way, you won’t get back with a sunburn and a temper to match.


Snug’s the word in swimwear, though looking like something out of Sport’s Illustrated comes a close second. Swimsuits have certainly been upgraded since the early 1900s. Back then, swimming gear might have weighed up to 10 kgs when wet and covered everything but the arms and face. In fact, one of the earliest elasticized suits, made by Jantzen in 1913, was basically a wool sweater cuff.

Not necessarily, if you choose the right swimsuit and skin protection for your day out on the beach.

Materials too have changed over the years, from heavy wool to man-made super-materials. But incidentally, while we do have the skimpiest thongs and trunks dotting international beaches, manufacturers like Speedo have introduced cutting-edge styles that cover most of the body. The full body-suit from Speedo and Adidas has nothing but the head, hands, and feet left in the open. Makes you wonder if we’ve come full circle.

When shopping for conditional swimsuits, you’ll find the traditional one piece, the two-piece or the more modest wrap-around styles. High-cut legs are fashionable, if you have a figure to show off. Otherwise, boy cut legs are very ‘in’. Support is also important, especially if you need a maternity suit. Select a cross-back style, or T-backs, and halter tops.

Getting back to materials, most suits come in blends of cotton or nylon, with some degree of spandex for expandability. This is a matter of preference. Cotton can be softer, but tends to lose its colour fast. Nylon will hold up better in chlorine and dries quickly. Either way, experts advise that you rinse your suit often and line dry. This is because chlorine breaks down the threads as well as the elastic.

Like cuts and styles, colour and print options come aplenty to accommodate every personality – solid bright colours, tropical floral prints, bright solids or stripes, even mini-prints. Basic black is probably still the most popular choice due to its slimming effect, but as Dr Maya Vedamurthy, Dermatologist (Apollo and Malar hospitals, Chennai) cautions, light colours are always preferable. Similarly, thicker materials increases protection from the sun’s harmful effects. Some swim dresses come in sporty styles and have tummy control and soft cups for a comfortable fit.

The general rule in swimwear is to buy a size that is one size up from your dress size. High neck suits elongate your torso if you are short and give a good bust support if you need it. It also protects the delicate area on your chest from the sun and is quite flattering. Some suits have matching slip on skirts for that stroll down the beach or for lunch by the pool. In addition, there are sarongs, terry and cotton cover ups, and contemporary twists like a flirty skirt bottom to provide more covering.


Men should measure just above the hipbone (or about an inch below your natural waistline) to determine the appropriate swimsuit size. Most men’s suits are sized based on waist measurement. A suit with lining will generally last longer, and hold its shape and colour better than an unlined suit. Also, there are many hybrid fabrics for racing/competitive swimming available, but most swim-suits are in blends of nylon/spandex. (Lycra is a specific brand of spandex made by DuPont and is found in many swimsuits.) Despite the advances in fibre technology, chlorine will eventually deteriorate swim-suit fabrics. So when your suit begins to bag or feels looser than when it was new, it is time to replace it.


Remember that the wrong ones can give you an eyesore in the long run. While wrap-arounds offer the maximum protection from the sun, ensure that your shades offer 100 percent protection from UVA, B, and C rays. Prices for a good pair of sun-glasses range from Rs.400 onwards. Metal frames are normally avoided for beachwear; try plastic, polyamide, or nylon models instead. Special eye-wear for swimming are also available. Speedo has a model with anti-fog mechanism.

Skin cover

The sun’s rays comprise a portion of spectrum classified by scientists as Ultra –Violet (UV) rays. These are further divided into UV-A, UV-B and UV-C is mostly shielded by the earth’s ozone layer, leaving UV-A and UV-B to penetrate our atmosphere. UV-A also penetrates both our epidermis and dermis skin layers. To prevent this, we use sunscreen with adequate SPF (Sun protective Factor). Also, one must remember that sand, snow, water, and cement reflect extreme sun rays. Broad-brimmed hats provide a good cover, says Dr Maya, adding, “Indians are dark-skinned. So a sunscreen with SPF as low as 8-10 is more than adequate. Also, for the beach, use water-proof sunscreen”. Sports hats are a good accessory too. Sunscreen with varying SPF is available from various manufacturers, but medically prescribed products include Shade UVA Guard and UVA O. Since we tend to perspire in the sun, dermatologists suggest that sunscreen is reapplied every two hours.

While make-up is a no-no, it is best to protect hair with oil or a good leave-in conditioner, says Dr Maya. Also, a few foreign shampoos have sunscreen incorporated in them. Sunscreen should be oil-free for those with acne problems and should be liberally coated.

For information on swimsuits,

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