Surfing is one of life’s unique outdoor pleasures, but it can be hard on your skin. So how can you enjoy surfing and still keep your skin happy?
1. Surf Early, Surf Late
Of all the insults to your skin when surfing, ultraviolet light exposure is the most important. Often the best surfing is very early in the morning — the beach is quiet and there is plenty of room to spread out. This is also the best time to minimize sun exposure. When the sun is low in the sky as it is during the early morning and in late evening, the ultraviolet light must pass though much more atmosphere before it gets to your skin, so the sun’s rays are weaker and cause less harm.
2. Cover Up Before Heading Out
The best way to protect your skin is to cover it up. In cold weather, a wet suit made of neoprene will protect you from the sun for as long as you have it on. In warm weather, wear a lycra rash that has UV protection built into it to protect your skin. Go for long sleeves, and consider the hooded variety, especially if you have fair skin and spend a considerable amount of time surfing. Wetsuits and rash guards are better than wearing sunscreen because even the best sunscreens wear off when surfing. Sunscreens can also make your skin greasy, making it (more) difficult to stay on your board. If you don’t have a hooded suit, then consider donning a surf cap that covers your head and ears. The top of your head is particularly vulnerable to sun damage (especially if your comb-over won’t stay put in the surf).
For areas not covered by your suit or rash guard, apply a water resistant sunscreen. Choose one designed for surfing that is alcohol or gel based and won’t make you slippery or interfere with your surf wax. If possible, choose a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These physical sunscreens provide excellent protection for both UVA and UVB light and are less irritating to your eyes and skin. Don’t forget your lips: wear a thick zinc oxide sunscreen, and re-apply often since this thin skin is so vulnerable.
3. Rinse, Moisturize, Repeat
Take your wetsuit or rash guard off as soon as possible after surfing since leaving a damp wetsuit on for hours can irritate your skin. Also the sand in your suit will act like sandpaper against your skin when you move around with your suit still on. The salts from the ocean can be both drying and irritating, so wash your whole body with a mild cleanser such as Dove after surfing. Since you will have lost your skin’s natural oils from hours in the surf and wind, it is important to replenish them with a good moisturizing cream after your shower. If you develop a rash from the seams of your wetsuit, then try wearing your rash guard under your wetsuit or purchase a rash guard gel to apply before putting your suit on.
Post written by Jeffrey Benabio, MD. You might also like:
Photo credit: Mike Baird