Ahh, the beach. Listening to the waves hit the shore whilst enjoying a cooling sea breeze in the sun. That’s the life, am I right?

As great as that may sound, you are still not exactly safe from the sun’s scorching heat and harmful UV rays. So, if you don’t protect yourself accordingly, this can result in a nasty sunburn forcing you to stay indoors and potentially miss some killer waves. 

Not only does sunburns feel nasty, they can also cause permanent damage on your skin. Sadly, one in five people develop skin cancer in the US alone. That’s why we feel it is very important to help you both stay looking young and prevent skin cancer. 

Here we’ve gathered some basic information on how ultraviolet rays affects your skin and how you can stay in tip-top shape even while spending long days on the water. 

"Use a broad range sunscreen every time you are in the sun."

The intensity of UVB rays depend on your location, season and time of day – midday being the most intense. So you better be sure to stay protected when you are out on the water!

There are two different UV rays

Sunlight reaches us in two different ways: long wave ultraviolet (UVA) and short wave ultraviolet (UVB) rays. Sadly both of these can be harmful for the human skin and cause sunburns, premature aging and wrinkling. UVA rays have the ability to penetrate deep into the skin’s thickest layer, the dermis. UVB rays on the other hand burn the superficial layers of the skin and is one of the leading causes of skin cancer. 

The intensity of UVB rays depend on your location, season and time of day – midday being the most intense. So you better be sure to stay protected when you are out on the water!

What causes sunburns and skin cancer?

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancers in the world. Researches say that up to 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 86% of melanoma skin cancers are caused by UV radiation. 

These harmful UV rays can cause a mutation in your DNA, which controls cell growth. This causes skin cells to grow and divide and spread rapidly causing cancer cells. The most common cause for this is exposure to UV light from either the sun or even a tanning bed. 

Sun damage and history of sunburns are the biggest risk factors in developing skin cancer. Other significant factors include skin pigment, location and older age. 

The less pigment you have, the less protection you also have from harmful UV rays. Also, if you are located closer to the equator or live at a higher elevation you will inevitably be in contact with more sunlight. In addition to these, you will also experience more UV rays as you age. Therefore, you will be more likely to develop skin cancer as you grow older. 

However, you can always prevent skin cancer by taking a few simple precautionary measures like sunscreen when you are out enjoying the waves.

Fun fact:Just a SPF 10 sunscreen will block up to 97% of all harmful UVB rays. On the other hand, SPF 50 will keep you protected from 99% of all UVB rays.

Comparison between UVA and UVB rays

We’ve made a little comparison chart about the differences of UVA and UVB rays. We haven’t gone too far into the specifics but it has everything you need to get a basic understanding about their differences. Hope it helps!

  • Long wave ultraviolet light
  • Penetrates deep into the skins thickest layer, the dermis
  • Unprotected exposure can lead to premature skin aging and wrinkling
  • Short wave ultraviolet light
  • Burns the superficial layers of the skin
  • Plays a key role in developing skin cancer

Traditional sunscreens

Sun protection factor or SPF describes the sunscreen’s ability to absorb harmful ultraviolet rays. It is calculated by comparing the time it takes for your skin to burn versus unprotected skin. Protecting your skin with a high-quality SPF helps you tackle premature aging and also prevent skin cancer.

We recommend you use a water resistant broad spectrum sunscreen when you are out there catching waves. This means that it will block both UVA and UVB rays. Use at least an SPF 30 and apply it generously to the whole body and take extra care when applying it to your face. It is also smart to avoid midday sun especially if you live close to the equator. 

Remember that traditional sunscreen also require 20-30 minutes to bond to your skin in order to be effective. They also lose some of their strength throughout the day. That’s why it is important to reapply every two to three hours. 

Mineral sunscreens

While classic sunscreens use synthetic chemicals that absorb ultraviolet rays, mineral sunscreens use ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to form a barrier that scatters harmful UV rays. One of the pros about using a mineral sunscreen is that it starts working immediately. So no more waiting for your traditional sunscreen to dry on your skin! 

Often times people think that mineral sunscreens leave your skin chalky but that is not entirely true. You just have to apply the right amount and rub it evenly on your skin. 

Tips for using mineral sunscreen

  • Moisturize your skin first
  • Apply a small amount at a time. Too much you’ll look chalky
  • Apply mineral sunscreen fast! They tend to dry out quickly

It doesn't matter whether you use traditional or mineral sunscreen. They both offer great protection from the sun and help you prevent skin cancer and sunburn. 

Comparison between traditional and mineral sunscreens

Both traditional and mineral sunscreens have their own unique properties. The good thing is that no matter which one you choose, they both offer great protection from the sun and help you prevent skin cancer and sunburn. 

Here’s a small comparison tab between the two options.

  • Very Easy To Use
  • Looks Clear On Your Skin
  • Protects from UVA & UVB Rays
  • Needs Less Product To Protect From The Skin
  • Lets Your Skin Breathe
  • Stays On The Skin Relatively Well
  • Easier To Add Additional Ingredients In
  • Takes Time To Bind To Your Skin
  • Requires 20-30 Minutes To Provide Protection
  • Lasts Less Than Mineral Sunscreen
  • Can Cause Irritation On The Skin
  • Some Products Can Clog Pores
  • Can Cause Irritation Of The Eyes
  • Shorter Shelf Life
  • Some Products May Be Harmful For The Environment
  • Immediate Skin Protection
  • Protects from UVA & UVB Rays
  • Lasts Longer Than Traditional Sunscreen
  • More Delicate To Your Skin
  • Less Likely To Clog Pores
  • Needs More Product To Protect Your Skin
  • Environmentally Friendly
  • Longer Shelf Life
  • May Look Chalky
  • Can Rub Off Easily
  • May Increase Perspiration
  • Can Cause White Drips When You Sweat
  • May Be Less Protective If Not Applied Correctly

Do not use products that contain oxybenzone or oxtinoxate because they’ve been known to damage coral reefs.

Stay environmentally friendly

Not all sunscreens are created equal. That is why we urge you to not use products that contain oxybenzone or oxtinoxate because they’re known to cause viral infections in the algae that nourishes coral reefs. This causes corals to bleach and essentially die. 

Oxybenzone and octinoxate are even banned in the state of Hawaii due to this. So look for products that use other ingredients to help you prevent skin cancer and sunburn. 

UV-protective clothing

There has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding UV protective clothing. But, the good thing is that they actually work! The technology behind them is a tightly woven fabric with zinc and titanium minerals added to them. These help reflect UV rays before being in contact with the skin. 

Most UV clothing on the market today offer a UPF 50 protection which is roughly the equivalent of using a SPF 50 sunscreen. This means that only 2% of UV rays can penetrate through the fabric! As a comparison, a plain white cotton shirt only has a UPF of 5%.

UV protected clothing also come with an added benefit of being both breathable and very comfortable. Of course, you’ll never have to think about reapplying sunscreen on areas under the garment. 

We suggest you use a quality UV protected rash guard for all-day comfort on the sea. 

UV ray index recommendations

Here’s a few recommendations for different weather situations. We’ve created it according to the UV index so that it gives a more consistent result regardless of your location. However, we suggest you use a broad range sunscreen every time you are in the sun. The higher the UV index is the more other measures you have to consider to prevent skin cancer and sunburn.

Rating Risk Minutes To Burn Protection
0 – 2 Very Low 60 Minutes Sunscreen, Sunglasses
2 – 4 Low 45 Minutes Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Hat
4 – 6 Medium 30 Minutes Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Hat & UV-Protective Clothes
6 – 10 High 15 Minutes Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Hat, UV-Protective Clothes & Sun Umbrella
10 – 15 Very High 10 Minutes Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Hat, UV-Protective Clothes, Sun Umbrella & Avoid Midday Sun

List from University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics 

Protecting your eyes from the sun

So you’ve got your skin covered. But don’t forget that it is just as important to shield your eyes from the sun! 

Wearing a good pair of sunglasses not only make you look good, they also protect your eyes on bright summer days. You see, extended exposure to sun has been linked to thinning out the membrane in your eyes. This is commonly known as the surfer’s eye and can cause discomfort, irritation and vision problems. That’s why you should always use a quality pair of polarized sunglasses, such as Spy or Electric sunglasses, to help you block those pesky UVA and UVB rays.

There are also multiple UV protective contact lenses on the market today. 

You have to apply mineral sunscreen evenly to prevent looking chalky.

Quick tips to help you prevent skin cancer and sunburn 

  • Always use sunscreen with broad range protection. Even when it is cloudy!
  • Traditional sunscreens should be applied 20-30mins before going out
  • Mineral sunscreens offer immediate protection from the sun
  • Never use products that contain oxybenzone or octinoxate
  • Wear UV protected sunglasses
  • Use UV protected surf tees rash guards
  • Put a hat on if needed

Did you learn anything new on how to prevent skin cancer while surfing? Let us know in the comments below.

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