Sun protection for swimmers
Bodycare,  FEATURES,  GEAR,  HEALTH,  Product Reviews

How swimmers can protect their skin from the sun

Protecting your skin from the sun while outdoor swimming can be challenging. Read our guide to how to protect your skin from UV exposure, and our review of the best sunscreens for swimmers.

Sun protection and outdoor swimming is a constant challenge. As well as ensuring skin is properly protected from UV exposure, we need to consider the impact on the environment and the water we swim in.

Overexposure to the sun’s UV rays can cause sunburn, skin and eye damage and skin cancer. As an outdoor swimmer you will receive higher UV exposure and an increased risk of skin cancer and according to Cancer Research UK only 50% of us protect ourselves from the sun when exercising outdoors. Skin cancer is rising and a staggering 430 people are diagnosed daily, which could have been largely prevented with adequate sun protection.

Sun protection tips for swimmers

  • Use a SPF 30 or higher, paying special attention to your ears, nose, and shoulders, as well as other areas which are prone to burning.
  • Get into the habit of applying sunscreen 20 minutes before your swim to ensure it has ‘set’ to avoid it being washed off.
  • No sunscreen is truly waterproof only water resistance so it’s best to reapply every 50 minutes of swimming and do so after towelling off thoroughly.
  • The more you sweat and are in water, the more sunscreen you’re washing away into the water. For this reason, consider clothing like a rash vest, guard or sun sleeves.
  • The sun is strongest between 11am and 3pm so on very hot days, if possible, swim outside of these hours.
  • A swim cap will not only help keep you visible, but it will also keep your scalp safe protected! Consider swim goggles that provide UV protection.
  • Be aware of the absence of shade when swimming either at a pool or in the sea. UV rays pass easily through water, so make sure to take regular breaks out of the sun.
  • Remember, sunshine reflects off surfaces, so sun exposure can be more intense near or in water.
  • When removing wetsuits, remember to apply plenty of sunscreen to newly exposed areas of skin.
  • Select a mineral sunscreen without chemicals which are safer for the environment.

The best sunscreens for outdoor swimmers

While a lot of lotions and creams offer water resistance, few are waterproof, so it’s wise to reapply if you are in and out of the water. Editor Ella puts some products to the test.

Supergoop PLAY Everyday Lotion SPF 50 | £20

Offers an all-over face and body formula. Completely invisible it doesn’t leave a chalky white residue. I loved the smell and how quickly it absorbed into my skin. It held well in the water, and I was left with tanned, rather than burnt skin. It is coral reef safe too!

Lavera Sensitive Sun Lotion SPF 30 | £21.95

Another beautiful scent and a favourite with the family. Lightweight and easy to apply. I often suffer from heat-rash and some sunscreens make it worse, this felt lovely and I didn’t get any heat-bumps. It wasn’t as water resistant as others I tested, so not good for long swims. Also, Reef friendly.

Organii Sun Milk SPF 50 | £24.95

This is great protection for everyone, young skin and older. It boasts a high protection formular and I wasn’t disappointed with coverage. It was brilliant on a 6-year-old who was in and out of the sea all day. We reapplied, but with ease and no drama with quick absorbtion.

Premax Suncreen for Sport SPF 50+ | £11.99

This was the best in terms of protection in the water and gave super coverage on a long swim, no burnt skin or heat rash. A bit more affordable, although smaller bottle, compact for sticking in the swim bag. Nothing about reef-safe in the info, but it really did give the best protection in the water.

Stream2Sea Mineral Reef Safe Suncreen | SPF 30 £14

Grab it online at – this is the best in terms of environment credentials. Easy to apply, good for sensitive skin and gave good protection in the water. The tinted version was lovely for my face and gave me a lovely glow.

Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30 | £19.99

Gear Editor Omie Dale gave this a try. Made by Black women for women of colour. Good for everyday use and dries clear. Water resistant up to 80 minutes. Absorbs quickly and leaves a lovely glow to skin without white marks.

This article is from the July 2022 issue of Outdoor Swimmer.

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Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.