How do I protect myself from the sun while swimming in open-water?
That’s a very important question, and one I hear often at this time of the year.
Here are my two recommendations:
1) A rash-guard or swim-shirt.
If you want no hindrance while swimming the fit must be very tight when dry because it will loosen up a little when it hits the water. You want it to hug the body snugly even when wet. They stretch out after a few dozen uses, taking it on/off. And chlorine will eat away at it within a 2 or 3 weeks. I buy a couple of them each summer to use while teaching. They are not restrictive for slow swimming and drill work, but they do create a little more surface drag and therefore slow the swimmer down a little, which will be noticed at moderate speeds. It may not be bothersome for short swims . In our open water swim camps, there are always a few people who prefer to wear a swim-shirt all the time, and that is ok – I will support them every time. Most swim-shirts I’ve seen are non-buoyant so there is no disruption of balance.
2) A particle block sun screen.
This is the kind I use. I have to buy it in the US and restock each year since I haven’t found anything similar where I live.
You can read this short article written by one of my swim camp students, Margit Skeppar from Lulea Sweden, a dermatologist. She gives her professional explanation of the difference between chemical block and particle block sun screens.
Baby sunscreens seem more likely to use particle block and avoid harsh chemicals. Check labels carefully. If certain chemicals are not recommended for babies then it makes me wonder why they would be regarded as OK for adults. I try to heed the naturalist advice: if you can’t eat it safely, don’t put it on your skin.
(Changing sun screen was the first detox move I made – now I even use a homemade concoction of coconut oil, baking soda, vitamin E, and scented oils for underarm deoderant – and it works 100x better than any chemical kind did! Amazing. Even my wife agrees it is better. I will never go back to chemicals like that.)
I live and work in the intense sun, so I hammered by it a lot. On the Mediterranean my skin has 15 minutes and then it starts to show signs of burning, even on my decent base-tan. I did some research after reading Margit’s advice. The info on chemical versus particle sunscreens led me to the questions about what those chemicals do to the human body and what I found from that got me very concerned – the cocktail of chemicals can harm the body in one way while it tries to help it in another. Once I lined up some of my own symptoms of skin bumps, new dark spots, feeling even more hot, and still getting fried after frequently re-applying ‘quality’ chemical blocks, I realized something was up. After experimenting and testing the difference I will no longer allow chemical sunscreen on my body if I can prevent it – I strictly use particle block sunscreen and, so far, it has prevented all burning on my skin, even after being in the sun for a couple hours. The surface of my skin stays noticeably cooler also, apparently because radiation is being reflected more than being absorbed into the first layers of skin. I re-apply every couple hours, to be safe (and I have a decent base tan too, which helps).
And I hope this article helps you too. Be safe! White skin is cool. Cancer is not.