Sun Safety: What You Need to Know About Sunscreen and Swimming
At Texas Swim Academy, safety is our number one priority. We are focused on teaching essential water safety skills to ensure the safety and well being of your family. Now that we have reached the peak of summer, we know this is the prime time for many families to enjoy time in the sun and in the water. And we would like to share some important sun safety tips to keep in mind while you’re having fun, whether it’s at a water park, beach, or pool. Surprisingly, not many families know the common misconceptions associated with sunscreen and sun protection. Even with the best intentions with sunscreen, these common mistakes can take a costly toll on the health of your skin over time.
Misconception: Waterproof Sunscreen Lasts When Swimming
There’s no such thing as waterproof sunscreen! In 2011, the FDA ruled that sunscreen companies were not allowed to label products as “waterproof” or “sweatproof” because the claims exaggerated products’ effectiveness. Instead, sunscreens claim to be “water resistant” for either 40 or 80 minutes. After that time, swimmers will need to reapply. As a rule of thumb, experts recommend that swimmers reapply sunscreen every two hours or after every swim session.
Misconception: The Highest SPF is the Most Effective
SPF refers to the ability of a sunscreen to block out ultraviolet B rays (UVB), which causes sunburns, but not UVA rays. Both UVB and UVA rays contribute to the risk of skin cancer. The SPF rating is a measure of the time it would take you to sunburn if you were not using sunscreen as opposed to the time it would take with sunscreen on. A common misconception that many people make is that they assume SPF 30 is twice as strong as a SPF 15. That’s not necessarily true. According to experts, SPF 15 blocks out 94% or UVB rays, and SPF 30 blocks out 97% or UVB rays, and SPF 45 blocks out 98% of UVB rays. While anything above SPF 45 will protect a percentage or two more, none will offer 100% protection. Experts recommend using an SPF of at least 30 that offers broad spectrum or full spectrum coverage (which protects against both UVA and UVB rays). With the right amount of application and reapplication, you should be well protected.
Misconception: Sunscreen is Only for Sunny Days
Never underestimate the power of UV rays on a cloudy day. Just because there is an overcast does not mean that the sun’s rays are not out doing damage. UV light is invisible – you can’t smell it, taste it, hear it, or see it. UV light also scatters, penetrates through haze, fog, glass, and reflects off bodies of water, white sand, and snow/ice causing sunburn. When heading out to pool, remember to apply sunscreen regularly or wear protective clothing even when it’s cloudy, especially between the sun’s most intense hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Misconception: One Dab of Sunscreen is Enough
When it comes to sunscreen, less is not more! Most of us do not use enough sunscreen to offer us the full benefits. On average, using 1 ounce of sunscreen (2 tablespoons) or enough to cover the entire body evenly is good practice. When in doubt, slather on more. There’s no such thing as too much sunscreen or too much protection.
Misconception: Sunscreen Provides Total Protection
Sunscreen, even with the highest SPF available, does not protect the skin 100% so it shouldn’t be left as the only source of protection against the sun. Hats, sunglasses, protective clothing and avoiding the most intense hours of the sun are additional ways of preventing sunburn and long-term skin damage.