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Protect your skin in the water: everything you need to know about water resistant sunscreen

Everyone deserves to enjoy the outdoors all year round. Unfortunately, our skin is prone to damage under the sun's UV rays. UV rays or ultraviolet radiation are energy emissions from the sun and they can damage your DNA, leading to skin cancer. While the skin protects the body from UV rays, it is also susceptible to damage. Protecting your skin involves the use of sunscreen — water-resistant sunscreen.

What is water-resistant sunscreen?

Water-resistant sunscreen is a type of sunscreen that doesn’t quickly wash away as quickly when exposed to water. Any kind of sunscreen can be water-resistant, including physical and chemical.

Formulating water-resistant sunscreen comes down to using water-insoluble, film-forming ingredients. This is why water-resistant sunscreens bead on your hand when you run water over it after applying.

How should you use water resistant sunscreen?

There are some guidelines to best use your water-resistant sunscreen. If you want to actively avoid burning your skin, take a look at the instructions before you apply and leave the house. Ensure you keep a container with you so that you can reapply throughout the day.

Apply before going outside

Apply sunscreen (to all exposed bits!) before you leave the house, at least 15 minutes before sun exposure so it can be fully absorbed by the skin and form a film over it.

Sunscreen can be applied all over your body. Different skin types, however, may need different types of sunscreen for specific areas. For example, you may prefer certain textures on your face, and may choose a different face and body sunscreen. Everyone has different skin types and preferences!

Reapply when necessary

Don’t forget to reapply! One of the biggest mistakes people make when using water-resistant sunscreen is thinking they can apply it once and be protected for hours on end. In reality, you want to reapply every 40 to 80 minutes — as directed on the label. 

Always dry your skin before you reapply, so that it can absorb the sunscreen as thoroughly as possible. Try to wait at least 15 minutes before jumping in the water again.

Double up on sun protection

Sunscreen is a great first line of defense against harmful UV rays, but it shouldn’t be your only line of defense. Bring a large umbrella to the beach, lake or pool so you have shade when not swimming. Additionally, you can wear various forms of sun protection. Swimsuit coverups, a loose t-shirt, a sun hat, and sunglasses can significantly reduce your  sun exposure.

What are the benefits of water-resistant sunscreen?

If you plan to spend time outdoors, you should always have sunscreen readily available. Different sunscreens for different events and seasons can rotate in and out of your medicine cabinet. Still, if you plan to be near water, you need water-resistant sunscreen.

Adequate sun protection

The sun reflects off the water, making sunscreen just as vital whether you're in or out of the water.  Sunscreen is the best way to protect all of your skin against the sun. No matter the clothing you choose, odds are you will have some skin showing.


Less worry about sun damage

Most people understand how inconvenient and painful sunburns can be. The damage caused by the sun doesn’t end when the sunburn heals, however. Burns may lead to the development of skin cancer, premature aging, and other skin problems.

The sun has also been shown to damage the collagen in your skin. (Collagen is what leaves your skin looking plump and youthful.) Sun damage can lead to premature fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration, and skin cancer, among other concerns..

When should you use sunscreen?

If you have different sunscreens in your cabinet, then odds are you have sunscreens for daily use, sunscreens for the summer, and sunscreens for outings. Even on cloudy days, UV rays can still penetrate your skin. While the clouds can minimally protect your skin, they aren’t a substitute for sunscreen. (Yes, you need to wear it every day — even when the sun’s not out!)

Protect your skin whenever you plan to leave the house. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you need a sunscreen that you can easily and comfortably reapply throughout the day. 

Outdoor recreation

Most types of outdoor recreation will expose you to UV radiation. Many people know to cover up with sunscreen in the spring and summer, but what about throughout the year? If you plan to go sledding or snowmobiling, do you need sunscreen? The answer is yes. UV rays are dangerous all year round. Keep sun protection in mind 365 days a year. 

Using water-resistant sunscreen in the winter can also be helpful. In snowy climates, the sun can reflect off the snow and burn your skin. Additionally, if you’re active and bundled up in warm clothes, you have a high chance of sweating. You could also end up rubbing off your sunscreen in the snow if it’s not water-resistant.

Working out

When the weather is warm, many people like to exercise outdoors. (Some even enjoy an outdoor workout in cool weather!) As you exercise, you may get sweaty, and all that exertion can wash away traditional sunscreen. Water resistant sunscreens protect you against sweat as well as water.

Playing around bodies of water

Everybody loves a day at the beach, but it can also lead to terrible sunburns if you don’t take proper precautions. Not only does the ocean intensify UV rays, but so does the beach. Light-colored sand reflects the sun, and can also be harmful to your eyes, as well as your skin. Keep yourself protected, even on cloudy days.

If you plan to be at a lake, river, or ocean, reapply your sunscreen regularly. Pay attention to your body. If you feel as though you are overheating or experiencing discomfort in direct sunlight, find shade to cool down and stay out of the direct line of UV rays.

How can you find a water-resistant sunscreen?

There are various types of sunscreens on the market. When it comes to finding the right one for you, remember to take these factors into account.

Use cream-based lotions

Sunscreens come in lotions, creams, and sprays. However, we don’t usually apply enough spray sunscreen to work optimally — some research suggests we need about 250 seconds of spraying per limb, especially in windy conditions. It’s best to choose creams or lotions to rub into the skin for peace of mind, rather than sprays.

Check the SPF number

All SPFs have a number, which signifies how long the sun's UV radiation would take to redden your skin when using the product exactly as directed versus the amount of time without any sunscreen. You should always  use SPF 30 or higher.

Look for broad spectrum

UV rays include UVA and UVB rays. Almost all sunscreens protect you against UVB rays, but UVA rays are just as concerning. UVA rays contribute to premature skin aging and skin cancer.Be sure to read your labels and always purchase broad spectrum sunscreen.

Choose the right amount of resistance

You will never find a sunscreen that claims it won’t wash away with water or sweat (or at least, you shouldn’t trust it if it does!). This is why reapplication is essential. Water-resistant is the proper term for a product that has a specific timeframe within which the sunscreen likely remains effective. When looking at water-resistant sunscreens in the US, you will likely see two different numbers: water-resistant 40 and water-resistant 80. 40 allows you to play in the water for 40 minutes before you need to reapply, while the 80 lets you swim for about 80 minutes.

Think about skin type

Everyone’s skin type can react differently to different sunscreens. In general, if you have sensitive skin, look for physical / mineral sunscreens formulated for your skin type.

People who have sensitive skin tend to have problems with synthetic fragrances, so avoid sunscreens containing synthetic fragrances if you can. Do a patch test of any new sunscreen and discontinue use immediately if you experience itching, burning, or discomfort. 

Look for a lightweight cream or lotion if you experience breakouts regularly, and look for sunscreens that have been tested as non-comedogenic in a third-party lab. If your skin is dry, you may benefit from a heavier, richer product as a secondary source of hydration, apart from regular moisturizer!

If you have darker skin, consider a tinted sunscreen that can blend in seamlessly. Remember that while melanin protects the skin, you can still develop other skin concerns, like hyperpigmentation.

Bring home water resistant sunscreen

Sunburn, skin cancer, and premature aging are all consequences of too much sun exposure. Prevent premature aging by investing in a sunscreen that protects against UVB and UVA rays. In addition, look for water-resistant sunscreen that can stand up against sweat and water.