I can remember when it was important to get a tan. Back in high school it was just the thing to do. In fact, I remember buying “tanning lotion” to move the process along.

It was like slathering on liquid Crisco.

And it was stupid.

But even into my adult years I often gave sunscreen little thought — until about 10 years ago when I was assigned a B.A.S.S. Times story on skin cancer.

That put the fear of God into me. Now I take great pride in my white legs and arms.

One of the little-known secrets to effective use of sunscreen that I learned while working on the aforementioned skin cancer story was that applying after you get on the water isn’t very effective.

Be honest: Once you’re on the boat, you never think about sunscreen until you feel the telltale signs of a burn.

And by then it’s too late.

Sure, putting sunscreen on will prevent further burning, but you are already sunburned — and that’s skin damage that can one day result in having pieces burned or cut off of your arms, legs, face and other exposed areas.

The key is to apply sunscreen before you hit the water. In fact, I take care of this chore as soon as I walk out of my house.

And I never get sunburned (unless, of course, I miss a spot) — even though I rarely reapply sunscreen during the day.

The experts I interviewed told me the reason why application prior to sun exposure is so effective is that it provides time for the lotion to dry and “set.” That effectively seals off the skin from any harmful UV rays, protecting you from sunburn and minimizing your risk of skin cancer down the road. 

In case you’re wondering, I wear a visor that leaves the top of my head vulnerable, particularly since I sport a 1/4-inch crew cut. But I take care of that by simply applying sunscreen to my entire head, face, neck, hair-covered parts and all.

My sunscreen of choice is Coppertone Sport 30 spray, which is awesome at providing good coverage without all the nastiness of a lotion. I just close my eyes, hold my breath and spray a liberal coating on everything above my shirt’s neck line (I actually ensure I spray under the shirt a little to account for the shirt moving around during the day).

Then I spray my legs and hands. All done.

During the day, I use an SPF 30 lip balm to ensure my lips don’t get blistered because drinking water and eating snacks will wear off the initial coating. I learned that the hard way.

Dermatologists do recommend reapplication of sunscreen every two hours.

Why don’t I spray my arms? Because I wear a lightweight, long-sleeve fishing shirt. The Sportsman Cool Breeze models are awesome (hey, you didn’t think I’d pass up the chance to advertise our brand, did you?). The shirts keep me cool and prevent any sun from reaching my arms, shoulders and torso.