A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holiday, by Tim Roxborogh.

I used to think Sheryl Crow was getting a bit carried away about sunscreen SPF levels when she sang "I've got my 45 on so I can rock on". It was 2002 and her single Soak Up The Sun had floated into the upper-reaches of most international charts. I always loved Sheryl, but in those days I was firmly a factor-15 guy — an SPF triple that amount tempered my appreciation for the song. You're not soaking up any sun with the SPF 45 on, Sheryl.

Though, as the years went by and melanoma worries and SPF levels soared, I've softened my stance on Sheryl's enthusiastic sunscreen preferences. SPF 45 doesn't even sound that high anymore, especially with SPF 50 now so predominant on supermarket and pharmacy shelves that it's essentially become what 30 used to be. As for finding SPF 15, good luck.

And forget about those freewheeling factor-8 days of the 80s.


That said, I had a taste of that freewheeling good luck in Miami last year. We'd run out of sunscreen on holiday — often a treacherous experience — and for old times sake, I bought some Coppertone SPF 15. We'd walked into a supermarket in South Beach and it was like finding a Willy Wonka golden ticket. Coppertone SPF 15. One whiff of that magnificent smell and I was straight back to hot blue-sky holidays of the 1980s.

Coppertone was our family's sunscreen of choice during my first couple of decades on this planet and its slow departure from Kiwi shelves has been vaguely devastating.

I made that Miami-bought Coppertone SPF 15 last almost a year, mixing its usage up with some Nivea SPF 30 for the harsher New Zealand sun, but tragedy struck when it ran out during our recent Malaysian honeymoon. Scouring the shops in Malaysia for something that would protect us from the sun but still allow for some tanning was tricky. Like many places in Asia, Malaysia is home to a population determined to avoid the glories of their equatorial sunshine as much as possible.

Nobody wants a tan and no SPF rating is too high. Where once I laughed at seeing SPF 70 and 80 a couple of years ago in New Zealand, here I was in a Malaysian pharmacy where SPF 130 was stocked. 130! I'm sure it's nothing but marketing and from what I can gather, many doctors are dubious about anything above 50.

Regardless, the sun in other parts of the world is less brutal than New Zealand's, even if the temperature is hotter. SPF 30 (not 130, though that too) in Southeast Asia meant no sunburn, but also not much tan either. So lesson learned: if you want a tropical glow from your holiday, buy the sunscreen you want before you fly out. Even if it means a trip to Miami on the way. Rock on.

Faces on business cards

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the perils of forgetting to bring business cards when you're in Asia. Even when you're on holiday, locals will expect you'll have them with you at all times, ready to be dished out to anyone you've said more than "hi" to. What I didn't then reveal was the almighty mistake I'd made with my cards and one I was reminded of every day during my recent three weeks in Malaysia: I'd put my face on them.

It seemed a good (if a little neurotic/vain) idea at the time. Selecting my five-year old Facebook profile pic that I refuse to update, it's fair to say I'm significantly leaner and more radiant (even without the Coppertone) in the photo than the 2017 Roxborogh vintage. I'd chosen the image because it was my favourite, but evidently forgot that if you're giving someone your card, they can already see what you look like.

And if you don't look like the picture any more, you'll get double-takes that — let's be honest — aren't great for the self-esteem: "Is that really you?"


Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's The Two, Coast Soul on Coast and writes the RoxboroghReport.com