Why Your Water Resistant Sunscreen Might Not Be

Why Your Water Resistant Sunscreen Might Not Be

You apply your skin protection, toss your hat on the chair and dive in. There’s nothing quite like an outdoor swim in mid-summer. But is that sunscreen really doing anything for you?

Many sunscreens profess to be water resistant. Most of us who wear them know that you need to re-apply them after about an hour in the water.

But a recent test conducted by a consumer group in the UK claims that water-resistance tests for sunscreen are “unrealistic to the point of being meaningless”.

So, do these products really offer next-to-no protection against the sun’s damaging rays?

Here’s the scoop. The UK consumer group Which? tested two different products that advertise themselves as being completely water-resistant. After just 40 minutes spent immersed in salt water, the SPF factor actually dropped by 59%.

That limit, at least in the United Kingdom, doesn’t meet current standards. For a sunscreen to call itself water resistant, the SPF factor can only drop by 50% (which is, in itself, surprising), after two 20-minute periods of being immersed in water.

Related: Crazy but True: This Popular Sunscreen Has Been Recalled as Users Are Catching Fire

Part of the problem lies in the fact that many sunscreens are tested in tap water. Companies don’t try them out in chlorine filled pool water, or salt water that can be moving around.

The effect is different. And when you add in the force of light reflecting from water, sweat pushes that cream out, and things like rubbing your towel on your skin, the amount of sun protection left helping you out could be greatly reduced.

So should you run looking for something other than the latest water-resistant sunscreen brand?

Truth be told, some are calling the report “alarmist”. Even if environmental factors reduce the SPF rating of your sunscreen, it still could be working well. An SPF 30 screen blocks out over 90% of UV rays. A twenty-minute dip isn’t bringing you down to zero protection.

If you’re seeking 100% sun protection, 100% of the time however, you might be best to reapply before that hour is up. Or, take a shorter dip and relish the extra vitamin D you’re getting.

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