Surfing is one of those activities that take place at times and places most humans are not ideally suitable. Not only the direct UV rays but also the countless reflections increase the damaging effects done to our bodies.
How to protect our skin from the Sun when surfing?
There are plenty of products to choose from when you are into water sports. You can protect your skin with the following:
- UV-resistant clothing
- Lotion for the skin
- Lip-balm for lips
- Zinc for the face
- Long Hair for your scalp and neck
What is the UV Index scale?
Generally, UV rays are strongest at midday, but still, behold the damaging effects before and afternoon.
- 0-2 Low
– A low danger for the average person. Sunglasses are recommended, but being in the water can double the exposure.
- 3-5 Moderate
– Try to avoid being in the sun at midday. SPF 30+ Recommended.
- 6-7 High
– Try to avoid sunlight from 10 am to 4 pm. SPF 30+ Sunscreen Recommended. As being on the water reflects the UV, the intensity of the sun exposure to your skin is rather high.
- 8-10 Very High
– Time to avoid direct sunlight from 10 am-4 pm. Wear sunglasses and a hat when out of the surf. SPF 30 – 50+ Recommended. Try not to go in the water to save your skin, lips, and eyes.
- 11+ Severe
– Time to avoid direct sunlight from 10 am-4 pm. SPF 50+ Recommended. Wear sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen to protect yourself from UV radiation. Not a bright idea to go surfing.
The Shadow Rule:
A great way to check the UV is by looking at your shadow. In the mornings and evenings, your shadow is likely to be large and tall – which means the UV index is smaller. During the daytime – when the sun hits its peak (zenith) – your shadow is likely to be smaller than you – which means that the UV radiation is quite intense.
What is the SPF?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Doing water sports, an SPF30+ for your lips and skin is a must! Sunscreen is a measure of how well a sunscreen will protect skin from UVB rays, the kind of radiation that causes sunburn, damages skin, and can contribute to skin cancer.
To get maximum protection from the sun – It is advisable to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going out in the sun. Sunny or cloudy – Always better to be safe than sorry.
Face & Head
The best way to protect your face when surfing under the burning sun – is using zinc.
Zinc generally leaves a physical “mask” on your face and protects your face and skin most efficiently. Although this Zinc Oxide by Sun Bum comes in a clear form, most other Zincs leave an intense hue on your face. Zincs usually come in all sorts of colors you could ever imagine.
Do not forget to cover the back of your ears, eyelids, and everywhere else around your head to protect against those UV rays! Trust me – you’d better want to look like a ghost under the thick layer of zinc than getting beaten by the sun.
Another thing to remember with the face zinc is not to rub your face while surfing, especially after duck diving. Generally, the zinc is harmless, but it is easy to rub off the protective layers without noticing it.
Long Hair is a great way to protect your head and neck. Probably the reason back in the day why surfers grew their hair long.
Body & Ears
Using a wetsuit or a rashguard, a t-shirt with a UV-protection is one way to protect your skin. Another way is to use proper Sunscreen Lotion on your body. (Generally not suitable for the face)
- A Rashguard – Suitable for super warm waters. A rashguard not only protects you from the chest rash but also the sun and the UV.
- T-shirt – Surfing fashion at its best, many different t-shirts have a tremendous SPF50+ protection factor on t-shirts
- UV-Lotion Sunscreen – Great for arms, legs, neck, and the rest of the body. Why not the face? Although most sunscreens do not contain alcohol, a creamy matter is not as a long-lasting lotion on the face. Essential sunscreens are available on spray-on cans or tubes. It’s best to use zinc in the face as the creamy matter easily
Lips are more prone to sun damage than you could think of. An SPF30+ sun-protective lip balm is the least you could get to keep your lips protected!
Saltwater dries your eyes, and the sun gives that extra funk to make your session sometimes a challenge to compete with. One way to keep your eyes hydrated is to use moisturizing eye-drops after and before surfing. Moisturizing eye-drops are available in most pharmacies and supermarkets.
Did you know, that eating watery fruits before a surf session increases your body’s performance with fatigue and ‘drying up’? It helps to keep the body well hydrated.
Another alternative is to get a pair of surf sunglasses.
Related: Surfing & Eyes
What Causes And How To Avoid The Eye-Sting On Water Sports?
- Constant duck-diving through the whitewater waves
- Alcohol-contained sunscreen on your face or arms (after application)
Rinse your hands right after applying the sunscreen to your body to minimize the chance of getting the alcohol-contained cream in your eyes. You could also use moisturizing eye-drops after and before going to the water.
There’s nothing against the whitewater sting, you could dive deeper or open your eyes later, but don’t forget about the other surfers around you!
After your skin has soaked in the saltwater and penetrated by the sun – the best way you can do is to take a shower and apply proper aftersun ‘cool down’ lotion afterward.
You should always have that with you when there’s a chance you’ll be spending some time under the unforgiving sun! Those after sun lotions go a long way towards speeding up the recovery, as most of the time, your skin is having a hard time healing by itself!
I created Nulltuul to share my experience, research and analysis with other surf enthusiasts out there. If I'm not surfing on my travels - I like to photograph waves, surfers, and the surf lifestyle in general.