It’s important to apply sunscreen before swimming outdoors as it protects the skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. It’s easy to lose track of time spent under the sun while you’re having fun in the cool water. Long-term repeated exposure to the sun without protection can have some pretty nasty effects. UV rays cause wrinkles, dark spots, dry skin and changes in the collagen. Collagen is the structural protein of the skin. When collagen changes (from sun exposure) it leads to the premature ageing of the skin amongst other negative effects. In addition to this, the sun damages the fibres in the skin called elastin. When these fibres break down, the skin begins to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching. Knowing how to protect skin from sun while swimming can save your skin!

Over a lifetime, repeated episodes of sunburn and unprotected sun exposure can increase a person’s risk of skin cancer.  People with fair skin and light eyes are at greater risk of sun-related skin damage and skin cancers. This is because fair skin contains less melanin, which helps to protect the skin from the effects of UV radiation.

Prevent sun-damaged skin by applying a sunscreen before swimming. Choose a water-resistant sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or above, with a broad spectrum of protection against both UV-A and UV-B rays. Be sure to reapply often to avoid sweating it off or washing it off.

So, When Do I Apply Sunscreen Before I Go Swimming?

You get the greatest mileage out of your sunscreen when it’s applied on clean, dry skin about 20 minutes before you head outside. If you really can’t wait to get to the water, apply your sunscreen when you’re still at home. Doing this will give your skin ample time to let it soak in while travelling.

You skin needs time to absorb the UV filters and really get proper protection. If you hit the water before those 20 minutes are up, some of the sunscreen is going to wash away before the absorption has taken place…and you’re going to be less protected.

Apply A Lot

And apply it everywhere! Your face, lips, nose, neck, back – you get the point. You don’t want to be applying little dots of sunscreen to your skin, you want to cover every bit of your skin that’s going to see sunlight and you want to be thorough about it. Basically, sunscreen really is one of those situations where you either want to go hard, or stay at home where the sun can’t find you.

Re-Apply Every Hour

Waterproof sunscreen isn’t a thing. However, sunscreen is water-resistant; which means it will wash off once you start swimming. You should re-apply every two hours, if you’re staying on dry land. It’ll roughly take that amount of time before a combination of sweat and absorption (through your skin) dissolve the first layer.

When you hit the water – even if you’re wearing water-resistant sunscreen – you’re going to wear off the sunscreen even faster, so plan to re-apply every hour and make sure you’ve got a reliable means of telling when it’s time.

What Type of Sunscreen Do I Use?

There are two different types of sunscreen, and they both protect you from UV rays. The first type creates a physical barrier which blocks and reflects UV light. Kind of like how a white wall reflects light. It includes things like zinc cream, making the sunscreen noticeable.

The second type of provides a chemical barrier that absorbs and filters ultraviolet radiation. In comparison, it tends to be a lot less visible to the naked eye. This second type of sunscreen is most effective when the compounds get absorbed into the pores and creases of your skin.

As mentioned in the beginning, you want to use a sunscreen that blocks UV-A and UV-B rays with an SPF of 30 or more. This Nivea sunscreen has SPF 50+. It combines strong UV-A and UV-B filters that shield the skin from sun damage. It’s formula also protects the skin from the drying effects of the sun.


Learn more about how to choose the right sunscreen for your child.

Sunscreen Isn’t Your Sole Protector

You shouldn’t solely rely on sunscreen to protect your skin, especially if you’re going to be under the sun for a period long period of time. Consider getting a hat with a wide brim. You can find some that are waterproof and stay secured so that you can still swim with a hat on. While you’re poolside or sitting on the shore consider getting yourself a light beach cover-up. Clothing can provide some UV protection, the amount of protection depends on the material, color and weight of the fabric. You can still look cute on the beach with a dress or shawl.

Remember to find an area with shade or bring an umbrella! It’s good to have the option of hiding away from the sun when it gets too much. It’s also a sure-fire way to avoid burning.


You should always be thinking about how to protect your skin from the sun while swimming outdoors! Stay safe and happy swimming!