Five Sunscreen Tips for Water and Active Play

This article originally appeared on Healthy Child, Healthy World and was reprinted with the author’s permission. 

Is your family heading outdoors for sunny days at the beach, pool or park? When skin gets wet or sweaty, sunscreens may not work as well as you expect.

Before your next outing, check out these important tips for effective sun protection during wet or active play.

1. No sunscreen is waterproof or sweatproof.

Don’t just take our word for it: the Food and Drug Administration prohibits the use of both terms on sunscreen labels because they’re misleading.

If you think your family will get wet or sweaty, choose a “water-resistant” sunscreen lotion; regular sunscreen will rinse off faster. Adults need one ounce or more of sunscreen at a time to cover all exposed skin, and kids need a similarly thick coating. Watch out for easy-to-miss spots like earlobes and any body part that will stay submerged, like feet, since UVA rays can penetrate water.

Click here for EWG’s list of the top-rated sunscreens for beach and sports.

2. Water-resistant sunscreens have a time limit.

Sunscreens that claim to be “water-resistant” must state on the label whether they remain effective for 40 or 80 minutes. After that, your skin is vulnerable to harmful UV rays. So…

3. Reapply, reapply, reapply.

All sunscreens should be reapplied at least once every two hours, but reapply more frequently when swimming or sweating. When your water-resistant sunscreen reaches the end of its effectiveness, either 40 or 80 minutes, reapply. Add a fresh coat after every towel-dry.

4. Give your sunscreen a head start.

You should always apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before exposing skin to the sun. This is especially important when water is involved. Wetness can wash away sunscreen before it’s had a chance to absorb. When reapplying, slather sunscreen on dry skin whenever possible.

5. Don’t rely on sunscreen as your only line of defense.

Whether playing sports, hitting the beach, jumping in the pool or running through sprinklers, sunscreen alone cannot provide adequate protection from sun damage. Wear hats, sunglasses, sleeves and pants. Look for shade. Avoid midday sun. Remember, sunshine reflects off surfaces, so sun exposure can be more intense near water.

For more tips on staying safe in the sun, visit EWG’s Sun Safety Campaign.