Written by Shaun Swartz
We’ve all been there – standing in front of the bathroom mirror, skin radiating heat with that unmistakable tomato-tint.
Hit with the sudden, searing realization that we probably shouldn’t have spent quite so much time frolicking unprotected in the sun, we wonder where it all went wrong. And while at the surface level it’s easy to laugh off sunburn, overexposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays can actually cause more damage than meets the eye.
So in anticipation of our summer departure, we thought it best to share a few quick sun protection tips and helpful facts to keep all you future sailors and divers out there from turning into crispy red lobsters during your sailing adventure.
Reality check: You’re not wearing enough sunscreen.
There is absolutely no truth to the phrase, “I just need one good burn and I’m good for the rest of the summer.” Skin damage caused by long-term sun exposure is cumulative, and dermatologists agree: “episodes of severe sunburn, usually before age 18, can raise the risk of developing melanoma.”
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the average person applies only 25-50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen. The truth about sunscreen is that the recommended amount might surprise you: “Apply enough sunscreen to fill a shot glass, or roughly 1 ounce of sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors.” The operative word, of course, being “before.” Early application allows sunscreen to properly soak in and protect you from weeks of painful, peeling skin.
Oh, and the phrase “one-and-done” does not apply here. You should be reapplying approximately every two hours, or every time you get out of the water. So don’t forget those lips and the tops of your ears, mateys.
The Truth About Sunscreen: Not all sunscreens are created equal.
Be sure to find a sunscreen that offers protection from both UVA (i.e. “Aging rays) and UVB (i.e.” Burning rays”). Both types of UV rays can be harmful to your skin, and your sunscreen should protect you from both.
Is there a better option?
The bare-skinned truth about sunscreen? It’s probably better to just keep the sun off of your skin by covering up. There’s a reason that all of the staff members onboard your boat are wearing long sleeved shirts, hats, sunglasses, and even face protection throughout the day: Momentary bronze glory isn’t worth the long-term risk of skin cancer. We love photosynthesizing just as much as the next sailor, but extended sun exposure is a very serious threat to your health.
So before we get down off of our sunscreen-soapbox, consider a few final thoughts and facts and sun protection tips, and while you’re at it – go put on some sunscreen while you finish learning the truth about sunscreen:
* 80% of a person’s lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18, so grab a sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater.
* Consider protecting yourself from the sun with sunscreens that are environmentally friendly. An increasing amount of scientific research has shown that standard sunscreens with oxybenzone, a commonly found organic compound found in many sunscreens, actually inhibit the growth of coral. Turns out that sunscreen pollution is a major contributor to the decline of coral populations. Without coral reefs, we lose the portion of the ocean responsible for housing up to 25% of all marine life.
* “Waterproof” sunscreen maintains its SPF level for up to 90 minutes after water exposure, whereas “water-resistant” sunscreen may maintain its SPF level for up to 40 minutes after water exposure.
* Avoid the sun from 10am-4pm (suns rays are strongest at this time) – slap on that sunscreen but also cover up during peak sun exposure hours.
* Glare/reflection from the water increases UV radiation exposure and is a huge strain on your eyes, so consider investing in a good pair of polarized sunglasses for your voyage. Polarized sunglasses reduce glare and subsequent eyestrain. We can’t stress these optical sun protection tips enough. After all, you only get one pair of eyes to protect.