The temperatures are getting warmer, the days longer and school is almost out for the summer. Do you know what that means? It is pool season! It is time to kick back, relax and enjoy some fun in the sun this summer. Along with your towel, swimwear and sunglasses, make certain you have the correct sunscreen for swimming. Waterproof sunblock is an essential part of swimming, especially in the heat and sun exposure here in Phoenix. Not all sunscreens are alike. Just because a sunscreen has a high SPF (sun protection factor) rating does not mean that it is meant to be exposed to water. You need to choose the correct sunscreen for the activity and to make sure you protect your skin!
Sunscreen for swimming
First, let us clarify. SPF rating absolutely DOES indeed matter, but it is far from the only factor when deciding on the proper sunscreen, for water or any other application. The higher the SPF rating, the better. A sunscreen with a rating of SPF 40 or better is a good place to start. The lower the number, the more you will need to apply prior to the activity and re-apply throughout your time outside.
And while we are talking about applying the best sunscreen for swimming, let’s talk about HOW to apply it. Before you decide to take a dip in your pool, a good rule of thumb is to allow 30 or so minutes after application before exposing yourself to the sun. This gives the sunscreen time to soak into your skin to work properly. Also, keep in mind that the “one and done” method of application does not work. You should be applying sunscreen once for every hour you are exposed to it – even more often if you have picked a sunblock with a low SPF (as mentioned previously).
Apply the sunscreen to your body systematically so that you can be sure that you are covering all areas. Commonly missed areas include the scalp and the back of the neck. Have someone help you reach all areas of your back if necessary. When showing little kids how to do this, it is sometimes helpful to incorporate a song like “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” to turn applying sunblock into a game and to help them get into the habit of always wearing waterproof sunblock before swimming or doing any other activity out in the sun.
Are you protected?
Not all products tackle protection the same way either. The sun has both UVA and UVB rays. Some sunscreens protect against one and not the other. Be sure to check the labels for the types of protection offered. UVB rays cause more of the sunburn we see and feel immediately. UVA rays cause the longer-term damage, leading to wrinkles and skin cancer (though both rays can contribute to this to some extent). You need to find a product that protects against both types of rays.
Now, generally speaking, there unfortunately is not anything on the market technically considered “water proof.” However, that does not mean you have to be worried about not getting protection from the sun’s rays while enjoying the water. For example, unless you have an absolute preference to use spray sunscreen, using a lotion—or physical sunscreen—is better for use when being in the water. And if you do choose spray-on sunblock, be sure to be especially thorough when applying sunscreen to areas like the tops of swim diapers — depending on the angle you hold the can, the sun may be reaching skin even though the sunscreen is not.
Regardless of whether you choose to use a spray or lotion though, be sure to reapply after you exit the water. Either type of protection can run off, especially if you are toweling off. And although the FDA only certifies water resistant sunscreen up to 80 minutes, using these products will be helpful as well.
Has it expired?
Like most products you purchase, sunscreen also has an expiration date. If the current sunscreen you have has been sitting for a while, check the expiration date make sure you are not using something that may not do any good. The good news is, most are designed to last three years, so you can afford to let it sit there for a while. But if in doubt, go ahead and spring for a new bottle. It is better to be safe than sorry!
It goes without saying, but protecting your skin from the sun is no joke. It does not matter if you are an everyday person on the street or a celebrity like Hugh Jackman. The Australian actor, who spent much of his young life down under hanging out in the sun, has been treated for basal cell carcinoma at least five times. He has been very open about his treatments and the importance of taking care of your skin in the sun.
If you have any questions about other steps you can take to guard against skin cancer, including having a qualified practitioner check out any suspicious moles, please contact us and schedule an appointment. We are here to help.