Passing through Singapore, I took the opportunity to visit a renowned skin doctor (who asked that I not mention his name) – mostly just to have my own yucky red spots checked out. Scary stuff, that skin cancer. Especially for us surfers. More dangerous than drowning, and sneaky. We’re in the sun all day, washing off any protection we might have started out with. We see the waves and can barely remember to lock the car, much less ask a buddy to smear potentially cancerous white goo all over our bodies. We are so screwed.
I realize there’s already a lot of info out there on this. Much of it conflicting. And complicated. And boring. So what’s one more opinion? Well, this doctor was pretty respected in his field and, even better, his answers were straightforward, simple and up-to-date.
No biggy. Just thought I’d share.
SURFING: What’s the best brand of sunscreen to use?
DOCTOR: They’re basically all the same. Don’t be fooled by branding.
So, how should I choose one?
Sunscreen is such a big industry, go with a well-known, reputable brand. They will be protecting their investment in the brand by reducing any questionable ingredients — anything we might find out years from now was harmful to us.
What about organic sunscreens? Might they be safer to rub into our skin everyday?
Perhaps. But anything that comes in a tube is no longer really organic. Organic is something directly from nature.
What about water resistance? Is that legit?
The terms “waterproof” and “sweat-proof” are actually illegal in most countries now. Even the most resistant sunscreens are dramatically reduced after 40 minutes and gone completely after 80 minutes. And those times are even faster in the water.
What about Zinc and Vertra?
Those types of sunscreen are somewhat better because they provide a physical and visible layer of protection. At least you know when they’re washed off and no longer working.
So, what’s the best solution to sun protection?
UV protective clothing. Australia is actually leading the world in this department. But many reputable outdoor brands now take this into consideration.
Is my sun damage going to heal over time?
Nothing gets better overnight. Sun damage is not a matter of days, but years. And after the age of 30, even if you stayed in a cave things would still be going pear-shaped. But people get hit by cars crossing the street every day, and that doesn’t stop people from trying to cross the street. Sun damage is part of life.
So…there you go. Big news, right? For my own part (I know you were worried), I passed my exam with no lasers or razor blades getting involved, just a few spots of very damaged skin that would take years to heal living inside my cave. The doctor also pointed out that the skin from mid-chest up was much worse the below (the water level), and my back was much worse than my front (paddling). Basically, he pointed out that I have sun damage from surfing.
I can live with that. For a while… —Nathan Myers