4 Tips for Proper Sun Exposure

by the pool

It’s been scientifically proven that adolescent brains don’t process decisions the same way an adult’s would. Oftentimes, they think of the immediate gratification/annoyance instead of the long term benefits. Let’s face it--that’s a problem for some of us adults too. One of the most prescient circumstances where a child or teen may not know of the impact of their decision is related to sun exposure. If you’re the parent of a competitive swimmer or just a teen relaxing by the pool, here are four helpful tips for proper sun exposure to help you get them through the summer months. They’re probably a good refresher for you, too.

1. Everything in Moderation

Our bodies need Vitamin D. Although we can get it in food and other supplements, it’s also important that we get some through sun exposure. The estimated threshold for outdoor sun exposure is 15 minutes on a mildly sunny day (varying slightly with skin tone). This allows UV-B rays to hit the skin long enough to trigger the production of Vitamin D.

Overexposure, however, results in acute burns especially when you are out in the sun for extended periods of time. Being in the water is unique because of the amount of reflection in pool water. The light bounces from the bottom of the pool as well as the surface of the water and exacerbate existing sun exposure often resulting in burns. Whether recreational or competitive, swimmers should be very mindful of the time they spend in the water.

2. Lather Up

This is a no brainer but it still needs to be said. Sunscreen is so important and is your line of defense if you’re in the sun at all. Here are a few sunscreen tips-within-a-tip to keep in mind:

  • Always use SPF 30 or higher from head to toe
  • Apply one ounce/two tablespoons each time
  • Apply 30 minutes before going outside/entering water
  • Reapply every 2 hours, more if you’re sweating through or getting in and out of bodies of water


3. Know the Risks

Skin cancer is a very serious risk with sun exposure. Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, is usually developed after a series of bad burns. While you can get other types of skin cancer after having been exposed to the sun constantly over an extended period of time, your risk of getting melanoma doubles if you have had five or more serious sunburns.

Several things factor into your risk for skin cancer, namely family history, skin tone, and if you have a tendency to get moles. If you have a history of skin cancer in your family and a fair skin tone, you’ll want to be extra careful when you’re by the pool this summer.

4. Additional Prevention

You should know that the sun is the strongest from 10 AM to 2 PM and that is when you should be most on your guard. Seek the shade at this time of day.

Avoid tanning beds. They could not be worse for your health.

Cover up with a wide-brimmed hat, UV-blocking sunglasses, and protective clothing.

Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreen is only recommended for babies over six months old.

Do everything you can not to burn, although 42% of people surveyed by the Skin Cancer Foundation say they burn at least once a year.

Examine your skin head-to-toe every month. Regularly see your dermatologists for check-ups.

See other recommendations at skincancer.org.


So whether you’re in charge of someone in the water or looking to enjoy your pool this summer, keep these four tips in mind and protect yourself and your loved ones. Sometimes those short term decisions (even putting on sunscreen when you’d rather not) are the important ones.

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