Growing up fair-skinned in the beachside suburb of Merewether meant Caitlyn Byrnes learned quickly to cover up when she was out in the sun.
As a youngster, well before rash vests and SPF50+, her mum coated her in zinc cream and dressed her in a t-shirt at the beach to avoid sunburn.
Caitlin dreamed of spending the whole summer at the beach, without the nasty side-effects of the sun.
Fast forward almost 40 years, and the mother-of-two says she has found a way to combine fashion and function when dressing for the city’s waterways.
Leaving behind a successful career as a business analyst, Caitlin has begun producing her own range of swimwear sets, offering an array of styles.
Her range, Shy Skin, is the product born of her childhood memories.
“I always burnt and freckled, it was difficult living on the coast,” she said.
“I couldn’t do nippers – they didn’t have rash vests back then. I would have been red raw after a few hours on the beach.
“You were lucky if you got a stripe of zinc on your face back then.
“It was the 70s and 80s and there were more products on the market to accelerate a tan than to protect the skin.
“Thank goodness we all know better now.”
Caitlin’s creations are made in Australia from recycled materials.
“There are a few non-negotiables for my business,” she said. “I don’t want to just produce cheap swimwear.
“I want it to be made in Australia with good quality, sustainable fabric that provides sun protection.
“I want women and girls to have great looking sun protection swimwear options.”
The fabric used to make Shy Skin’s swimwear range comes from recycled marine waste and recycled plastics.
“Thousands of tonnes of discarded or lost fishing nets are retrieved from the ocean in Europe and recycled into yarn.
“This marine waste and recycled post-consumer plastics are used to create fabrics such as swimwear lycra.”
Aside from using recycled marine waste, Shy Skin swimwear material is printed using environmental practices, which Caitlin says should be a post-2020 focus.
“We need to return to manufacturing in Australia, it’s one thing the pandemic has reminded us,” she said.
After designing long sleeved rash vests for the Dixon Park Surf Lifesaving Club nippers last year, Caitlin says she would love to design a more sun protective nippers hat.
“Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate. It’s not just something you get in your 70s, young people are not immune either, damage can happen from a young age.”
Shy Skin will be accompanying The Hunter Melanoma Foundation at spot checks throughout the summer.