While many boaters' biggest fears involve falling overboard, sudden storms and boating accidents, the real hazard boaters face every time they’re on the water is the skin damage caused by the sun’s direct rays, reflections from the water and deck, the wind and the corrosive effect of salt water.
Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to lessen your exposure to sun damage and UV rays without making a damper on the fun.
Sunscreens and Lotions
The most basic (and important) type of skin care is choosing and using the right sunscreen and following up with a good, rehydrating lotion after a refreshing bath or shower. There are multiple types of sunscreens, all of which provide different levels of protection. Using one should go without saying – they’re your first and last line of defense against damaging UV rays.
- SPF 30 or higher: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you select a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher. Avoid sunscreen marked at more than 50 SPF. They may look more powerful, but they’re not more effective.
- Broad spectrum: These sunscreens protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays from the sun. UVA rays are a direct cause of sun spots, wrinkles and prematurely ageing skin. UVB rays not only cause sunburn, they’re directly responsible for the development of many skin cancers.
- ·Water resistant: A sunscreen labeled as being water resistant doesn’t mean it’s waterproof. Depending on the formula, this type of sunscreen can last between 40 and 60 minutes. Sweat-resistant sunscreens only offer protection of up to about 30 minutes. Best advice: reapply sunscreen often – no matter what the manufacturer’s label suggests.
Some heavier sunscreens can clog pores, so if you have sensitive skin, choose a product labeled non-comedogenic. Lips are also sensitive to skin damage, so invest in a good lip balm containing an appropriate SPF rating.
Hats and Shades
Sunscreen will protect most of your body, but you can still get painful burns on an unprotected head. A wide-brimmed hat (4 inches or more) can fully protect your head and the back of your neck. The wind is often brutal on the water, so choose a hat with either an attached strap or eyelets on either side through which you can thread a cord, lanyard or long scarf.
Avoiding sunburn includes your eyes. Photokeratitis is an extremely painful sunburn that can permanently damage your eyes’ corneas. Choose large sunglasses that are UVA/UVB rated and wear them always. In fact, bring along an extra pair just in case one pair goes for an unplanned swim.
Make Your Own Shade
Obviously, staying out of direct sunlight is a good way to avoid over exposure and UV rays. But even that isn’t absolute on the water, as reflected sunlight can still cause skin damage. If your personal or rented boat isn’t equipped with any deck shade, it’s time to take matters into your own hands. Along with the sun, summer heat can be brutal when sitting at anchor. A large, outdoor umbrella inserted into a fishing rod holder provides plenty of shade. It takes minutes to stretch and tie down a tarp or a length of canvas over a sailboat’s boom.
If you’re going to be on the water for the entire day, resist the swimwear from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Alternate it with some clothing that will keep you cool, yet protect you from the sun. While cotton is airy and comfortable, it offers little protection; go instead with sun protective clothing that’s specially designed to block UV rays.
Proper skin care for boaters goes far beyond merely applying sunscreen. Taking sensible precautions and following up with general skin pampering will help ensure you get the most out of the boating season.
~ VS Glen Community Support