You Are Here: My Skin Doctor

posted by / Blogs / October 7, 2011

Not my skin doctor. Parko, setting up a quip about staying in the shade for us. PHOTO: Myers


You Are Here, Nathan Myers

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

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  • thatguy

    That’s funny since when sunscreen was invented in the 70’s melanoma rate has gone up more than double. Don’t you ever question how those white pioneering surfers of the 30’s did it? Mind you a handful of them did end up living into their late 80s and 90s. If you think sunscreen will save you from skin cancer you’ve been lied to immensely. Everyone is trying to make a buck these days and the chemicals are killing off the reefs while they do so.
    PS there was an article in one of the biggest magazines in Australia, the place where sunscreen was first pushed on to the public and happens to have the most skin cancer, saying they made a mistake about sunscreens preventing skin cancer.
    PPS I actually know a doctor who cures skin cancers with hemp oil and putting his patients IN the sun.

    White coats are lobbyists for big pharma cartel.

  • …shit

    ill probly get hit by a buss anyway…

  • Mik

    I just had 4 surgeries in two weeks, to remove sun damaged skin. The biopsy after the first cutting showed that one area on my face was cancerous, so another surgery was done to remove it, leaving a hole somewhat wider than a quarter, and about as deep as three quarters thickness. After that another biopsy was done to make sure I was clear. I was, so a third surgery was done to close the gaping wound: 25 stitches and a two inch plus scar down the side of my cheekbone, because they had to cut me further so the hole could be pulled together and closed. 8 stitches on top of the skin, and 17 underneath that will dissolve. Then they did a full body check and cut some more damage out of the top back of my head. More stitches, still in. Biopsy showed clear. I used to surf and waterski all day. Now I surf in the afternoons until dark. No more midday sunburns. MD said the best sunscreens are those with at least 5% zinc oxide. Surfed with all of the stitches in, cause that last swell was good up here… There’s some good watertight bandages out there! Just sayin….

  • Mik

    BTW: Organic means: food and herb sources grown w/o pesticides, which are essentially poisons used to kill insects, etc, that might affect crop yield. You will be wise to eat orgaic, drink organic, and use organic skin care. This MD is typical of the know-it-all mentality of whatever institution he/she was trained in. My health overall is amazing because I have favored organics since college, and have avoided drugs and alcohol as well. Vegatarian / fish diet. But my skin was compromised because I am very fair-skinned, and I burned repeatedly as a kid, and teen-ager. Just went for it day after day. So that’s my Achille’s heel. Still, because I changed my surfing patterns in my 30’s, my skin is overall very good. Just a few weak spots that were burned the most. I offer this to the new generation. Use the zinc-oxide content sun protection. And note that Australia is a cancer pit because the ozone is depleted, and the scientific community has warned of the higher cancer risk today.

  • blind in three nostrils

    which reef is being killed off?
    where is your evidence or is this anecdotal bias that you derive from fringist like Rastavich?
    get your evidence, then make a claim.

  • surferdude

    thatguy: the ozone layer also wasn’t F’d up in the 30’s

  • Mic

    Who is that guy and where do guys like that come up with rants like that.
    Ya man just go skin it with no block in Indo at mid day and rub some hemp oil on it it will be ok. No worries m8….

  • thatguy


    I am not ranting. Just informing my fellow surfers. Do your own research and you will come upon the same conclusion. It takes hundreds/thousands of years for the Ozone to change. There have been studies done on occupations and boat captains and construction workers suffered less skin cancer. Also red necks were called red necks because they got burned because of their lack of nutrients in their diet. Berries will allow you to stay out in the sun longer and not burn. Just be smart about it. Surf early morning or late arvo if you are pale. Again don’t take offense to it, just read it and make your own decision on the matter.

  • thatguy

    Do an experiment: Buy a gold fish, put it in a clean fish bowl, and squeeze sunscreen in that sucker. See how it goes.

  • Jens

    Hey thatguy, here’s another one: go inside your closed garage, turn on your car… see how that goes. Stop killing goldfish, man. That’s not science.

  • blind in the sphincter

    Name the reef and the study.
    Name the actual measurements of coral affected.
    Nice try thatguy… now go surf nude with rastovich who travels by plane creating carbon footprints and rides on boards that use lots of water to create.
    a bunch of wannabe do-gooders with too much time on their hands

  • gus

    Use it or lose it–skin that is.
    Grew up in Cali,then surfed Hawaii for 6 years.
    Protect yourself when your young or get to know a good dermatologist

  • Mic

    I love it Jensen nice one 10!

  • Mic

    I love it Jens nice one a 10!

  • deaf in 7 nostrils

    go do your part,
    save trestles, save the whales, save the obama administration…

  • jsamuels

    thatguy… you are an idiot, squeezing a shit ton of sunscreen onto a goldfish is completely different then putting sunscreen on a human or the effects that has on reefs.

    If you were to take the entire amount of sunscreen placed in the ocean by humans and divide it by the (estimated) amount of water in the ocean it would give you the ratio of sunscreen to water. You could then use that ratio to do the fishtank example. I’m pretty sure the head of a pin dipped in sunscreen would be far greater than the ratio provided by the sunscreen to gallons of sea water ratio and i highly doubt that would do anything to the goldfish.

    Also, sunscreen is developed for human skin, A goldfish has a much different type of skin then humans which may either absorb all the sunscreen directly into its blood stream and killing it, or it may absorb none and the sunscreen may clog its gills not allowing it to breath. I suggest you duplicate the experiment by either rubbing gallons of sunscreen on your lungs or filling your lungs with gallons of sunscreen and see how you fair.

    You sir are an idiot and need to hurry up and expire.

  • Mik

    Is it possible to have a freewheeling flow of comments, without wishing someone die?

    And why the hate on Rasta? We are killing the ocean. We are filling it with massive amounts of plastic garbage. We are fishing it out. We are killing of the whale species. We can’t let it continue. The past 50 years have been a disaster on the life of the ocean. I respect anyone who commits some of their day to environmental causes.

    Don’t waste your time thinking that everything is OK with regards to environmental issues. It isn’t OK. We owe it to future generations to change our approach to life, and factor in the environmental effect of whatever it is we do.

  • Sven

    Jsamuels=nailed it.

  • Tony

    Yo, BADGER sunscreen works really good. Its main ingredients are olive oil and beeswax, 21% zinc and the rest are essential oils!
    None of those nasty chemicals! I burn real easily but this stuff lets me surf for 3 hours straight without a problem! Yeow!

  • Chris the Sponger

    I know this response comes a few years late but to all those ripping on thatguy for his anti sunscreen stance, he actually has a valid point, check for yourself, Hanauma Bay on Oahu has seen a significant decline in reef growth and those studying the bay have actually proven the reef is dying and they’ve proven that one of the main causes is the amount of sunscreen in the water from tourists snorkeling.