Going to the beach: Then versus Now. (Baby oil, anyone?)

It’s fair to say that growing up on the Gold Coast in Queensland, I spent A LOT of time in the sun – far more than was healthy or wise.

My 40-year-old skin is a testament to this. I can only imagine now how much better it might look had I not literally cooked myself like a well-basted Sunday roast as I tried to impress boys with my kick-arse tan.

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I was never warned to ‘slip slop slap’. In fact, my mother actively encouraged me to pour BABY OIL on myself so I’d tan quicker. I don’t blame her – those were the days when our parents smoked cigarettes as they sat on the couch next to us watching TV.

Back then, we'd have actual competitions to see who could peel the largest piece of intact skin off another person's back after a heavy duty dose of sunburn.

But it wasn't just the sun safety message (or lack thereof) that was different. The whole beach experience was different. Very different. In all sorts of ways.

1. What we used to wear.

If the bikini bottoms didn't go over our hip bones then we really weren't trying hard enough. Our costumes (and I do mean costumes) had to be bright, they had be easily dislodged when dumped by a wave and most importantly of all, they had to enable a good tan line. There was little regard to covering ourselves from the sun's UV rays.

That's me, out the back getting dumped by a wave. (Image via. Pinterest)

What we wear now.

More like what don't we wear? When our kids head down to the beach in 2015, we have them in head-to-toe rashies with nothing exposed, slathered in sunscreen. This generation will never know the pain that is being so sunburned they can't be hugged goodnight, roll over in their sleep or have a sheet touch any part of their scorched skin.

Nigella Lawson being ultra sunsmart. (Image via getty)

2. The sun protection we used back then.

Not only did we NOT wear SPF sunscreen of any kind, often we could be found baking ourselves in some kind of oil. I dare you to smell a bottle of Reef Oil (below) without being hurtled back to your misspent youth. Not only did my mother fail to mention sun protection, she actively encouraged me to use olive oil and baby oil so that I could tan 'faster'. Yep, she gave me instructions on how to cook myself like a roast chicken in the Australian sun. She'd then compliment me on my golden skin.


If I did use a SPF, it was to write "I love Shane" so it would leave  a permanent outline declaring my undying love for my teenage boyfriend on my upper thigh.

Reef Oil. ALL the memories. (Image via. Creative Commons)

The sun protection we slather on now.

SPF 100 plus! Can you believe it? Now we aren't even content with good old 15 plus. Oh no, we we need to be covered in something that is water resistant for 80 minutes and will leave the sun no chance AT ALL of penetrating our lily white skin. This is a great thing and I truly believe will have outstanding benefits in the generations to come.

SPF 100+ (Image via Creative Commons)

3. Supervision by parents back then.

Swim between the flags? What flags? Oh ...

They were probably there, but we were left to our own devices, swimming wherever we wanted with little regard to rips or warnings. Where were our parents? Well, if they were there at all, they no doubt had their head in a book or were asleep. 'Free range parenting', I believe they call it these days.

What are those strange red and yellow flags for Mummy? (Image via iStock)

Supervision in 2015.

Everyone must, in 2015, swim between the flags. Hell, most parents still have their kids wearing built in flotation devices and are just one step away from inserting a tracking chip into their upper arms. Kids now get 'lost' at the beach, whereas 20 years ago they were simply 'off having a good time'. No one raised an alarm 'til sundown.

Helicopter parenting at the beach takes on new meaning (Image via. iStock)

4. Hair care back then.

It was all about bleaching the absolute SHIT out of our hair back then. Whether we used 'Sun In' (if we could afford it, or convince our parents to buy it) or just good old lemon juice, we were all about getting some "natural" blonde highlights. This, of course, led to hair that was dry, coarse, and often unmanageable - but damn we thought we looked hot.

Sun In. A few shots of this was all an '80s gal needed. (Image via. Pinterest)

Hair Care now.

We still like a bit of the 'naturally lighter look' gifted by summer sun, but we are less likely to help the process with a chemical spray. We are more inclined to make sure that our hair gets back the moisture it may have lost after a day at the seaside with a variation of something like this:

Safety first. (Image via. Pinterest)

5. The food we ate then.

IF we ate anything at all, it was a hastily purchased snack from the milk bar. Usually, let's face it, one of these:

The ultimate beach cuisine. The Sunny Boy. (Image via. Creative Commons)

Or, one of these:

The Chiko Roll. So bad so good. (Image via. Creative Commons)

What we eat at the beach now:

Now it's all about the healthy green smoothie or home-made muesli bar after running a kilometre up the beach to secure our spot.

Green smoothies. Take the joy out of life since 2013. (Image via. Creative Commons)

Going to the beach these days, as a parent, a child or simply as an adult who clearly remembers the less-conditioned, less ordered, earlier days, has changed. In a lot of ways for the best but sometimes, it would be great to revisit those older times.

For a bit of nostalgia, here's the 1981 Trailer for Puberty Blues. What a great time, brilliant time of life.  (Post continues after the video)

Serious note: Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer of any country in the world, so of course the way we go to the beach has changed in the past 20 years. It had to. It might have felt like a more carefree time back then, but there is no denying that in decades to come, our children will thank us for slipping on a shirt, slopping on sunscreen and slapping on a hat.

In fact, according to a research paper into the Sunsmart campaign, for the first time ever the diagnosis of skin cancer has plateaued after being on the increase for many years.

And that, can only be a good thing.

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