Can You Sunburn Under Water?

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Hooray for warm weather, swimming, and sunshine! But, with all that fun and excitement, it’s easy to forget the sunscreen and end up with a burn.

When you’re tanning or are exposed to sand, it’s easy to feel the heat of the sun. So you are more likely to know when you’ve had enough. But when you are underwater, you may not feel the warmth at all.

Can you get sunburned under water? Is the water able to protect you from the rays of the sun? And if so, does that mean that if your body stays under water, you won’t get sunburned?

The short answer here is yes! You can get sunburned under water, especially if the water isn’t deep.

In fact, you can burn more quickly if you are close to the surface of the water because it can magnify the sun’s rays. We’ll explain it in this article.


Why Can You Get Sunburned Under Water?

If you’re having fun in the water during the day, you may not notice how powerfully the sun is shining. That’s because your body is submerged under water.

Assuming the water is cooler than your body temperature, you won’t notice the sun’s rays. It might seem comfortable to stay under the sun even for a long time. The temperature can be comfortable, but it doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to get sunburned because of it.

In fact, you can get sunburned even when you are underwater.

We get sunburned because the skin is hit by the UV radiation from the sun.

Water doesn’t shield you from that UV radiation. UV radiation can still penetrate the water to a certain extent. Yes, the water will lessen the impact of UV rays, but much still gets through.

Water that is about 1 meter deep could still have about 80% of UVA rays and about 50% of UVB rays.

UVA rays are what can cause your skin premature aging and also wrinkles. The UVB rays are those that make your vitamin D and nitrous oxide levels increase, but could cause you to have sunburn, and could lead to cancer.

Still, even if your skin doesn’t receive as much as if you weren’t in the water, it could still get sunburned. And it could still get damaged due to the UV radiation from the sun.

In order for you to avoid the UV rays, you have to dive at least two meters (or 6 feet) under the water. Although you could do this for a short time, most all swimmers don’t do this while swimming.

Water that is about 1 meter deep could still have about 80% of UVA rays and about 50% of UVB rays.

If you tend to enjoy water activities like swimming or even snorkeling, you should still be careful. Especially if your head is over the waves or the surface of the water.

You see, the water surface acts like a mirror and could even amplify the UV rays to up to 50%. Remember that even with the cooling effect of water, the skin could still get burned due to the sun’s rays.

Other Reasons Why You Can Sunburn Under Water

There are other reasons why your skin could get sunburned while being under the water. Here are a few of the reasons why:

Exposed Skin Due To Swimwear

Another reason why you can get sunburned is simply because of the clothes that you wear. The swimwear exposes the skin more than what you would expose when you wear normal clothes.

With swimwear, your back, thighs, and shoulders are usually exposed. But, there is also some swimwear that gets your body covered (and some tan-through swimwear).

Whether you are wearing a swimsuit or regular clothes, it would be great if you could use one made of a material that protects from UV light. Be careful in choosing what to wear if you want to avoid getting sunburned.

To further protect the exposed parts from getting sunburned, you should apply sunblock. If you’re going to be in the sun with a UV Index over 3 for any significant amount of time, it is a must.

Sunscreen Can Wash Off

Sunscreen  can successfully help prevent you from getting sunburned. But you have to apply it correctly to get the benefits.

You also have to remember that sunscreen can also be washed off when you go into the water. This remains true for waterproof sunscreens too!

Although it is meant to stick to your skin, some of it could be rinsed off as you stay longer in the water.

Even if you see that the sunblock is labeled as water-resistant, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be washed off. When you towel dry after your swim, you’re further removing sunscreen.

You need to reapply after getting out of the water.

The pool water getting your sunblock wet isn’t the only reason why your sunscreen could be washed off. It could also be due to your body when you sweat.

You should always remember to apply your sunscreen every two hours, and after each time you get out of the water.

Tips To Avoid Sunburn While Enjoying The Water

When you enjoy your time in the water under the sun, it can’t be helped to get yourself exposed to the UV rays of the sun. That’s ok, sunshine is great!

But that doesn’t mean that you should just get a sunburn. Typically those burns don’t just turn into a tan. Here are a few tips to avoid getting sunburned while still enjoying the water.

Allow Your Sunscreen To Set

One of the common mistakes people do is to immediately get into the pool or under the sun.

The best practice would be to allow your sunblock to set into your skin first before jumping into the water. That can help prevent your sunscreen from being washed off.

Reapply Your Sunscreen Often

To make sure that your skin is protected, it is also best to reapply sunscreen. In that way, what is washed off can be replaced.

Every time you get out of the water, you should reapply your sunscreen.

You should put sunscreen every two hours so that you can avoid being sunburned, especially if you have fair skin.

Wear A Sunhat and Cover Wear

Do you notice that it is your face that gets sunburned easily? That’s because while in the water, it is exposed to the sun’s rays. The surface of the water could mirror the rays towards your face again.

Aside from applying sunblock, another way to protect your skin is to use a sunhat. A sunhat can produce a shade not only over your face but it may also over your body, depending on the size that you use.

Grab some beachy cover wear  for those long days.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).