can you get sunburned under water

Can you get sunburned under water?

Having a good time in the water throughout the day might make you forget the sun’s intensity because your whole body is now underwater.

However, there are some unwelcome consequences of swimming in the pool for too long, as in the case of sunburn.

Read more to receive an even more in-depth explanation of why people who spend hours in the pool will likely get sunburned by the time they leave the water.

Also, learn some of the greatest strategies for preventing sunburn when swimming.

Stay until the end!

You may get sunburn in the pool because the UV rays can penetrate through water and reach your skin. Pool-goers are often more sensitive to sunburn as swimsuits reveal more skin than conventional clothing, and the water may rinse away sunscreen.

What Causes Sunburn?

sunburn causes

The process of getting a sunburn is known as tanning.

To determine whether you can get sunburn underwater or not, we must first examine the tanning process and why our skin changes color in the first place. 

When skin is exposed to the sun’s Ultra rays, it gets a tan. Depending on the wavelength, UV radiation can be put into three groups:

  • Ultraviolet A 
  • Ultraviolet B 
  • Ultraviolet C 

Not all UV rays are the same.

Ultraviolet A and Ultraviolet B  rays have different lengths of waves, which lets them reach different parts of the skin.

Ultraviolet B rays are able to penetrate the outermost layers of skin due to their short wavelengths.

UVA rays might potentially penetrate farther into the dermis (the skin’s main layer) due to their longer wavelengths.

sun tan

How the sun’s UV rays cause sunburn

The melanin in our skin changes color when UV rays hit it. Melanin is a pigment found in our skin.

It is made by cells called melanocytes, and it is what gives our skin its color.

Ultraviolet A (UVA)

UVA tans skin by oxidizing melanin. When melanin is exposed to UVA, it starts a chemical process that makes it darker.

When melanin looks darker, it makes the skin look tanned and dark.

Ultraviolet B (UVB)

UVB tans in a different way. UVB makes the skin make more melanin and changes how the cells that store melanin work. When these UVB rays hit the skin, they make it darker, or tan.

Ultraviolet C (UVC)

UVC rays are the least dangerous in terms of how easy they are to get. UVC rays should never come from tanning beds.

They have the shortest wavelength of the three UV ranges. Most of the ultraviolet C photons that reach Earth are absorbed by the ozone layer.

But if they ever got to Earth, they would be the most dangerous.

Can You Get Sunburned Under Water?

get sunburn underwater

You may not realize how brilliant the light is if you’re having fun in the water throughout the day, particularly if the water is colder than your body temperature.

However, you may get sunburn even when underwater. 

Keep reading to learn how this occurs. There are numerous reasons why your skin might get sunburned when swimming.

Here are some of the reasons:

1. UV Light Penetrate Through Water

Sunburns are caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

It is well known that exposed skin may absorb UV rays through the air, but what about water?

Can you get sunburnt in water? UV radiation may penetrate the water’s surface.

Contrary to common belief, water does not provide an effective barrier against the sun’s rays. 

uv rays penetrate water

Recent research found that three feet of water only blocks 20% of UV radiation. This modest proportion of blockage is insufficient to avoid sunburn.

Unfortunately, 80% of UV rays that pass through water are more than enough to cause skin damage.

Sunburn is a significant threat for pool goers since they spend the bulk of their time up near the water’s surface in this three-foot zone.

The longer time spent in the pool away from the shade, the more likely you will become sunburned. 

Note: As a result, while swimming in a pool, taking the same precautions as you would on land is advisable. 

On some pool days, the UV rays emitted by the sun might be very harmful.

Under these conditions, UV rays may readily travel through water and produce sunburn at a considerably faster pace.

2. Swimwear Exposes More Skin than Regular Clothing

Another key cause for getting burnt in the pool is that regular swimwear exposes far more flesh to the harmful effects of the sun. 

exposed skin

Regular garments, in general, give greater coverage of the:

  • Shoulders
  • Back
  • thighs

While there may be some exceptions, most people will find that wearing a swimsuit increases their risk of sunburn.

It’s crucial to realize that ordinary clothing and swimsuits provide varying amounts of UV protection, so choose your pool gear wisely. 

If you’re worried about being tanned at the pool, wear darker and more densely woven fabric since this style of fabric gives somewhat greater UV protection.

It’s also important to remember that damp clothing exposes you to more dangerous UV radiation than dry fabric.

Note: If you choose not to wear a protective covering, sunblock is the only protection you have for these exposed parts. 

Unfortunately, as we shall see later, sunscreen is not always completely effective in pool water.

3. Sunscreen Can Disappear in the Pool

water wash sunscreen off

Applying sunscreen regularly will help mitigate the sun’s effects, but only to a limited amount.

Swimming pool water for an extended period can ultimately wash away part of the sunscreen on your body. 

This is because sunblock is water-resistant rather than waterproof. Contrary to common assumptions, these two words are not interchangeable.

However, the rinsing action of pool water is not the sole issue. 

Natural biological activities such as sweat and skin absorption may also gradually remove sunscreen, reducing its efficacy.

People are often so absorbed with pool activities that they are unaware that any of these elements are acting against them.

Insufficient Application of Sunscreen:

A single sunscreen application is insufficient for a full day at the pool. Unfortunately, many pool goers assume differently. 

not enough sunscreen

This erroneous perception gives them a false feeling of security, which frequently results in severe sunburn.

Using sunscreen regularly is essential whether you’re in or out of the water.

Note: People's initial response after learning that sunburns might occur in the pool is whether they would sunburn quicker in or out of the water.

Although there is still debate on the matter, it is believed that being in pool water does not enhance the risk of sunburn. 

In other words, being on land or in water does not inherently enhance the sun’s detrimental effects.

In actuality, any extra sunburn caused by swimming in the pool might be attributable to other factors such as:

Water’s Cooling Effect

water cooling effect

The coolness of pool water may conceal the development of sunburn.

This pain relief makes it significantly less likely that you will identify the warning indications of sunburn. 

As a consequence, the sunburns become worse over time. Sunburns will continue to occur if the issue is not handled early on.

Less Skin Coverage 

We mentioned it previously, but standard swimwear exposes far more skin to damaging UV radiation.

This persuades swimmers that their sunburn is due to the water rather than clothing.

insufficient shade around pool

Insufficient Shade

Recreational pools are often built in the open, with no shade around.

Anyone who spends the whole day in the water will be at the mercy of the sun compared to those on land. 

The surrounding environment gives at least some semblance of shade to reduce solar overexposure during land activities such as wandering about the park or hiking on a path.

Reduced Sunscreen Effectiveness

Again, the period in which sunscreen truly works is somewhat shorter in water than on land. 

As a result, some individuals believe that any extra sunburns are caused by the water rather than the lessened efficacy of their sunscreen.

Tips for Avoiding Sunburn While Swimming

avoid sunburn

Can you sunburn underwater? When you spend time in the water in the sun, you can’t help but be exposed to the sun’s UV rays.

That’s OK; the sunlight is wonderful!

However, this does not imply that you should have a sunburn. Those burns usually do not fade into a tan.

Here are some suggestions for avoiding sunburn while still enjoying the water.

1. Allow Time For Your Sunscreen To Set

One of the most common mistakes is jumping into the pool or the sun. The best practice is to allow sunblock to set into your skin before jumping into the water.

This can help keep your sunscreen from washing off.

2. Reapply Sunscreen Frequently

reapply sunscreen frequently

It is also a good idea to reapply sunscreen to ensure your skin is protected. What is swept away may therefore be replaced. 

You should reapply sunscreen every time you come out of the water.

Apply sunscreen every two hours to prevent becoming tanned, particularly if you have pale skin.

3. Wear a Cap and Cover-up

Do you ever notice how quickly your face gets sunburned? Because it gets exposed to the sun’s rays when in the water.

The surface of the water may reflect the sunlight toward your face. 

Aside from sunscreen, another approach to protecting your skin is to wear a sunhat.

Depending on the size, a sunhat may provide shade for your face and your whole body. Get some beach cover-ups for those long days.

4. Purchase Sunscreen with a Higher SPF

sunscreen higher spf

You may be more prone to sunburn depending on your skin type than others. If you get sunburned easily, make sure you have the right sunscreen. 

SPF stands for sun protection factor for those who are unfamiliar. The greater the SPF of your sunscreen, the less likely you are to become sunburned.

Final Verdict

Can you get sunburned under water?

Sunburns are caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It is well known that exposed skin may absorb UV rays through the air, but what about water?

It is possible to obtain a sunburn when submerged in water. Water doesn’t shelter you from UV rays. 

UV light may still permeate the water to a certain level. Although the water will minimize the effect of UV rays, plenty still gets through. 

To escape the UV rays, follow the guideline provided above, or dive at least two meters (or 6 feet) beneath the water. Thanks for reading!