The Top 6 Things To Look For In A Sunscreen For Surfers

Posted by James Marshall on

For surfers, it is no surprise that your skin gets a really hard time. Just think about it for a moment, between the sun, the salt water, the wind (and probably the lack of sleep from all of those dawn surf sessions) you are putting your largest organ through its paces. The good news is, that not only are there things we can do about it, but you are also reading this which means you are keen to do it right.

SETT Sunscreen At The Beach

Not All Surf Beaches Are This Dreamy...But Some Are

But even in addition to the above, there are a few extra considerations when buying a sunscreen for surfing to keep in mind. Of course, the same applies for many different pursuits involving the water (wake boarding, ocean swimming or even a family day at the beach) as they are susceptible to the same risks.

Lets have a quick look at the top 6 to look out for.

1) Surfer Level Water Resistance

Just hear me out - this may sound like stating the obvious but when it comes to surfing, water resistance requires more than meets the eye. Remember, this isn't a calm pool which you are relaxing in. It is a massive, powerful and at times violent washing machine throwing you around (and washing machines are designed to wash things off of clothes...). What's more, is that if you're in the tropics, you will be sweating a lot too which will has a tendency to remove sunscreen as the sweat releases from your skin. This all points to sunscreen becoming less effective faster than for the usual user.

So a long lasting water resistance is key. Some providers claim 60-80 minutes water resistance, but there are products out there with 2-4 hours which are likely a safer bet if you are going to be surfing.

SETT Water Resistant Sunscreen

Water Resistance Is Top Of The List Of Requirements For Surfers

NB: In a highly regulated market (let's not forget sunscreen ultimately ONLY exists to prevent skin cancer) anything sold without an SPF rating has not been tested and proven to provide protection or even to be safe to use. It might be, but it might not be...without appropriate testing, you simply don't know what you're buying. Side note, both UVA and UVB rays cause damage so make sure it is not only SPF rated (for UVB coverage) but also provides 'Broad Spectrum' coverage.

2) Defence from Drying Winds and Salt Water

The wind batters surfer's skin, and over time creates that salty old sea dog look which you may or may not be after...If you dont want your face to look like a leather handbag later in life, then prevention is where it's at; applying a sunscreen that has moisturisers to boost the skin's natural defences in preparation for exposure to the elements will help it be resilient in the face of drying winds and salt water.


Epic Wave...But You Know That Brown Sand Will Be Abrasive On Your Skin

3) Gentle on Reefs and Marine Life

While there is a lot of mis-information out there on this one (check out our green-washing article for more info) the underlying concerns are valid. There is increasing evidence of the damage which chemical sunscreen ingredients cause to coral reefs, and marine life. Be sure to use active ingredients that are natural options like Zinc and Titanium Oxide which are far better than Octinoxate, Oxybenzone, Avobenzone and others as listed here by National Geographic. Dont forget that some emulsifiers can be damaging also.

4) Fast Acting Protection...Fast!

We all know, that if you arrive at the beach and the waves are PUMPING that it takes super human strength to not jump in the water immediately. Sadly, that is what a chemical sunscreen asks you do because they require 20-30 minutes to bond to your skin before they can break down the rays as they enter your body (which also just sounds kind of dodgy doesn't it?). Physical blockers like Zinc are like literally applying a layer of reflective metal on your skin - once it is there, it will provide protection immediately so you can froth on into the waves.  

SETT Sunscreen Lotion

If zinc is on you, zinc is protecting you.

5) Visible

Really this probably goes for all sunscreen, but you dont want to miss any spots, but how do you know if you cant see it? Having a slightly visible sunscreen can work in your favour in this instance. What's more, if you're in a hurry as per the 'fast' point above then you don't have time to think about it  - slap it on, look in the mirror for any gaps, fill in those gaps, and then get out there.


6) No Slippery or Runny Residue

Wax is there to help you stay on your board. A slippery substance will do the opposite. Make sure the sunscreen isn't slippery, and isnt running off your body onto your board. This doubles up as a protective factor as sunscreen does a waaaay better job of protecting your body, when it is on your body...

So how does SETT stack up?

✔️ Tested and proven protection with SPF 30, Broad Spectrum Coverage

✔️  Up to four hours water resistance (but we suggest you reapply at least every two hours)

✔️  Nourishes with natural moisturisers, Vitamin E, Green Tea and Rosehip Oil

✔️  Non-Nano Zinc active ingredients (no chemical blockers)

✔️  Zinc provides immediate coverage

✔️  Subtle white layer is visible to ensure coverage

✔️  Face Stick includes Beeswax to stop it running

See you out there,

James (Mammoth) Marshall

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