Please note: this post may contain affiliate links. For more information see our disclosure policy.
As kids growing up, sun protection was not exactly high on our list of priorities when it came to summer-time fun. Getting a tan, however, certainly was. We not-so-proudly admit to all-day tanning sessions with low (think SPF 4) or no (eek!) sunscreen, using baby oil to attract the sun, and not wearing sunglasses or hats – and as a result, had many days of lobster-red skin to show for it. We can’t believe we’re even saying this, but we went to the tanning salon in the winter to keep up our “base”.
Shame on us, right?
But you know what? We didn’t know any better. We weren’t taught about sun safety in school, and our parents were sunbathing right alongside us. SPF 30+ sunscreens weren’t the norm and polarized sunglasses, rash guards and UPF clothing didn’t exist in the mainstream.
Thankfully we now know better; times have changed and it’s now a top priority to teach our kids to respect the sun and its powerful rays.
One company that has had a major hand in turning the tides, is Cabana Life, one of our favorite go-to brands for sun protective clothing that is both functional and stylish.
We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with Melanoma survivor and founder of Cabana Life, Melissa Papock, to learn more about sun safety and what we can do to inspire our children to not follow in our footsteps.
What Moms Love (WML): Melissa! Thanks for taking the time to chat. Your story is so powerful, can you tell us a little bit about your cancer diagnosis and how it was the catalyst for change in your life?
…and even though I am quite fair with strawberry blond hair and freckles, skin cancer wasn’t on my radar. But when I was 26 I went to a dermatologist for a regular skin check and it was so quick that when he asked “do you have any questions?” I threw out a bunch of “what’s this-es?” And one of the spots was a little pink mark on my arm that I thought was a teeny scar from a mosquito bite or something that I wasn’t really worried about. But to my surprise, it turned out to be a malignant Melanoma. To be honest, at the time, my concern was “am I going to have a scar?” until the Dermatologist said “this could kill you sweetheart” and that put it all in perspective.
Luckily they were able to remove it all, but I had a crash course in the dangers of the sun and how regular clothing wasn’t protecting me as much as I thought it was.
WML: So what was available in terms of Sun Protective Clothing at the time?
Melissa: (laughs) What was available could only be purchased through catalogs found in Dermatologists’ offices and when I saw the selection my first thought was “does it have to be ugly to provide protection?!” I was working in the fashion industry for Conde Nast, telling people what to wear to be stylish, and had never heard of this type of clothing – I wondered if it could be made more fashionable. That’s when I started researching sun protective fabrics and getting inspired.
WML: Inspired to launch Cabana Life?
Melissa: Yes, in 2005 we launched our first collection which was only for children. Although selfishly I wanted more stylish clothing to protect myself, I knew that it would be easier to change the behavior of parents when protecting their kids, so we started there.
WML: And the level of awareness did start to change!
Melissa: Yes, six years ago we added a women’s line and that was a big game changer. The level of knowledge about sun safety was steadily increasing in the general public so we felt it was the right thing at the right time. And it’s been a wild ride ever since!
WML: Is it that passion that spurred you to take an active part in educating parents to be good role models for their kids? In educating the next generation?
Melissa: Absolutely. I can take my experience and inspire people and I think everyone can inspire someone in their lives to make better choices or act a certain way.
In fact, we’ve teamed up with the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation to stress the importance of being a sun safe role model for your kids.
WML: On a lighter note, if you were to go to the beach today, what would you throw on?
Melissa: I love a rash guard, that’s my go-to – I love our extendable silhouettes that can convert to a dress. They’re super flattering for everyone with side ruching – women of every age and body type look amazing in it.
I love our beach pants paired with a scallop rash guard which gives you full coverage from your ankles to your wrist and neck.
Now I live in Florida I love to stand-up paddleboard – so I wear our swim leggings and zip-up rash guard for a sportier look.
And I’d never leave home without my huge beach bag for my sunscreen and all my kids’ beach supplies.
NAVY TICKING STRIPE RUCHED RASHGUARD | BORA BORA BEACH PANTS | NAVY SCALLOPED RASH GUARD | NANTUCKET SOUND ZIPPER RASH GUARD
WML: And finally, what’s your plan for Cabana Life for the next 10 years. Where do you want to go from here?
Melissa: Good question! Some people come to us for sun protection first and bonus, it’s fashionable. Others see fashion first and then learn that it’s sun protective. We want to continue to expand our assortment to include more everyday lifestyle pieces and to expand more into athletics. People have come to identify and love our prints so we’ll also be doing more collaborations with that.
WML: Thanks so much Melissa, we’re thrilled to help spread your story and inspire others to be sun safe role models.
We’re so thankful for companies like Cabana Life who have made the daunting job of protecting ourselves and our kids from the sun that much easier. As the weather heats up, it’s more important than ever to be diligent with sun safety – we hope the tips below will serve as a good reminder for preventing harmful damage to your skin:
TIPS TO KEEP YOU AND YOUR FAMILY SUN SAFE
Pick A Good Sunscreen & Apply (& Reapply) Properly: We love the EWG guide for safe sunscreens and highly recommend these 2 top picks which are easy to rub in and don’t leave a white residue.
RELATED: Our Top Safe Sunscreens For Babies & Kids That Won’t Leave Them With That Ghostly White Residue
Apply liberally 30 minutes before you head outside. Make sure you remember your ears, feet, hands, behind your neck, shoulders and lips. Reapply every 2-3 hours or more if you’re sweating or swimming.
Wear Sun Protective Clothes: We were shocked to learn that a light-weight T-shirt is the same as wearing an SPF of 5! Trade them in for clothing with UPF 50, like Melissa’s suggestions above. And feast your eyes on these incredible pieces for your kids:
SARDINIA SANDS SWIMSUIT & COVER UP SET | BLUE PIRANHAS RASHGUARD SET | SARDINIA SANDS RASH GUARD SET | CABANA COAST SWIMSUIT & TERRY COVER UP SET
Don’t Forget Your Eyes! Protect your eyes from damage with a pair of UV protective sunglasses. Our top picks for babies/toddlers and tweens/teens are all 99% UVA/UVB protective and stylish.
RELATED: 5 Stylish and Safe Baby & Toddler Sunglasses For Your Burgeoning Hipster
…Or Your Head! Protect your scalp and shade your face with a wide-brimmed hat with built-in UV protection.
Seek Shade Or Cool Down Inside When The Sun’s Rays Are At Their Strongest: It’s hard to tell your kids they can’t play outside after being cooped up indoors all winter, but try to avoid unnecessary exposure when the sun is directly overhead (usually midday). Even on cloudy, overcast, windy or cooler days, UV rays are still strong and can cause damage. Be aware that most sun damage occurs as a result of incidental exposure during everyday activities, not from a day at the beach.
Set a Positive Example For Your Kids: Our kids are learning from us, and what’s the message we’re sending if we’re slathering them with sunscreen and covering them from head to toe, if we’re leaving our hats and long sleeves at home? Let them see you protecting yourself, and they will follow suit.
To learn more about how to be a sun safe role model, head over to Cabana Life’s site for some more valuable tips.
How are you a good sun safe role model for your children? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Such cute stuff, and so very important. I actually went to the dermatologist a few months ago, and it was a wake-up call. I need some of these cute clothes for me and my kids this summer.
Skin cancer terrifies me! I def need to look into uv protective clothing for my kiddos
This is great! My husband and I are both fair skinned, so I work overtime in the summer to make sure that my daughter is covered! I’m so glad there are products like this available now to help. I will definitely be looking into it!
I love how that rashguard converts to a dress! Very cool. I’m all about taking better care of my skin now that I have a daughter!
Thank you for sharing your story. My boyfriend was recently diagnosed with skin cancer and it completely caught me off-guard. We are doing all that we can to keep him healthy and ironically the kind of cancer he ha requires sun exposure for him to heal (with sunscreen of course).
My mom is a melanoma survivor too so I love the idea behind this company!!
I learned the hard way as a kid. When I had children they were alway covered and sun blocked to save their skin.
We are all about the sunscreen!!! & those swimming outfits are SO adorable!! Thanks for sharing!
Those are adorable, and what a smart idea! I’ll definitely be getting some of these as my kids get older!
Never knew this existed. I’ll check it out for my family now!
I am alllll about skin protection. Even in middle school, I’d occasionally put sunscreen on in the winter.
I have always been super careful with applying sunblock, and it is a habit I am passing on to my girls. I love these clothes! Really cute stuff.
Thanks for sharing this! I have never heard about it! I have very fair skin and so do my daughters. We are planning a beach vacation this year so this would be great for that!
I’m a big believer in sunscreen and cover ups! And I’m loving all these bright gorgeous swimsuits!!
My kids always wear sunscreen, hats, and rash guards when we’re at the beach or pool. We’re in the middle of planning a beach vacation, and I think I need to check out the products available for me!
Never heard of this company before, but I love the products. We love rash guards and cover ups when we are out in the sun!
Omg! I’m 26 right now, and also have freckles and strawberry-blonde hair. I worry all the time about melanoma and have been so frustrated by the options that are out there now. My current fix has been avoiding the beach; or if I have to go, standing under an umbrella and wearing as much clothing as possible, or lathering on SPF-100 sunscreen every 40 minutes. It’s miserable. Sun-safe clothing makes so much sense.
Such a wise stance and what ADORABLE protective swim gear!!! I love it and will be checking it all out now!