When it comes to sun protection, is sunscreen enough? Slathering on some of your SPF of choice may leave you with a false sense of security, so read on to improve your sun protection know-how.
When we first started sailing in Hong Kong waters, we were surprised by the number of sailors at the club who wore head-to-toe sun protection when they were out on the water. I mean, aren’t catamaran sailors all about the sun, the water, the beach, and a carefree approach to life? Within a few short days, we realised that it was nearly impossible to avoid being over-exposed to the sun, even if we did remember to put sunscreen on. Not only does sunscreen wash off almost immediately, but inevitably we would ‘miss a spot’ and regret it later.
As parents, we also realised something important. Putting sunscreen on kids is one of the all-time annoying tasks for both parent and child. You never remember to apply it until you are at the beach (or pool) and everyone is eager to jump in the water. But sunscreen needs at least 15 minutes to penetrate the skin to get the best protection. Kids are wiggling around, sand is everywhere, and no one is waiting 5 minutes, much less 15, to get in the water. That doesn’t even take into account the need to re-apply after the sweat and the water have washed it all off! Top Tip: apply your sunscreen before you leave the house or hotel room – kids and adults!
Things to know about Sunscreen:
- No sunscreen blocks all UV rays. They’re generally only effective for two hours (and that is when you’re NOT in the water).
- Sun Protection Factor (SPF) usually refers only to a sunscreen’s ability to protect against UVB rays. However, UVA rays are also damaging. To get protection against both look for the words ‘broad spectrum’ sun protection on your sunscreen brand.
- Not all sunscreens rated at a particular SPF are actually effective at that stated level. In other words, a brand that claims SPF50, may only offer SPF8 protection. A study done in the US lists sunscreens found effective at the level they claimed.
- A higher SPF doesn’t get you a lot more protection. For example, SPF15 should block 93% of UVB rays, while SPF30 blocks 97%, just 4% more.
- Water-resistant sunscreens last either 40 or 80 minutes, only. Not all sunscreens are water-resistant. There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen.
- Sunscreens produced and approved in the US, may be less effective than European brands due to the slow government approval process for new active ingredients.
Is Your Sunscreen Reef Safe?
- There are specific chemicals that are widely used because they absorb the harmful UV rays. Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are the main culprits. They causing deformations in juvenile marine life and can lead to coral bleaching.
- A higher SPF simply carries increased levels of the reef damaging chemicals
- A safe alternative chemical is a non nano titanium dioxide. So, it pays to read all ingredients carefully and ensure it has been independently tested and approved.