Normally, when I go swimming I don't wear sunscreen. I figured that since I spend about 5 minutes maximum with my shirt off outside the water I don't need to apply sunscreen to my back.
However, I noticed recently that my back has a far darker tan than my front and even than my arms which are exposed to the sun when my shirt is on as well as off. The only explanation I could think of for this is that I swim lots of crawl stroke with my back naturally facing the sky. But I had always thought that being blanketed in water blocked harmful uv rays, to what extent is this true (or not true)?
If I'm wrong, is waterproof sunscreen an effective solution? I spend about an hour swimming everyday and it never struck me that that hour could be the equivalent of sunbathing for an hour straight, so I'm kinda worried now.
Water does not block UV rays, sorry, so you should wear a water-proof sunscreen.
Water can actually bounce the rays around and lead to sunburn in unusual places (like under your chin, under your nose, under the eyebrows) which sailors have to be aware of. Also skiers find the same thing.
Alternatively you could swim wearing a full body-suit (we call them rash suits for some reason). In New Zealand (where I live) all children wear these at the beach and many adults too.
Take care. Try not to worry. It doesn't sound like you've been burnt which might mean you are naturally not a burner or that the UV isn't so high where you live.
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