Sailing and Sun Safety: How to Prevent and Treat Sunburn
Sailing and Sun Safety: How to Prevent and Treat Sunburn

Protect your skin and prevent long-term damage while sailing with these essential tips for sun safety.

Sailing and Sun Safety: How to Prevent and Treat Sunburn

As you embark on your sailing adventure with your family, it’s essential to prioritize sun safety. The open sea offers little shade, and the sun’s reflection off the water can intensify its effects. Sunburns are not only painful but can also lead to long-term skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer. In this article, we’ll discuss how to prevent sunburns while sailing and how to treat them if they occur.

Understanding Sunburns

Sunburns are caused by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can damage the skin’s DNA and cause inflammation. There are two types of UV rays that can cause sunburns: UVA and UVB. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and contribute to premature aging, while UVB rays are responsible for sunburns and skin cancer.

Risk Factors

Some factors can increase your risk of sunburn, including:

  • Fair skin: People with lighter skin tones have less melanin, which provides some protection against UV rays.
  • Sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.: The sun’s rays are strongest during these hours.
  • High altitude: UV radiation is more intense at higher altitudes.
  • Reflection off water: Water can reflect up to 80% of the sun’s rays, intensifying their effects.

Preventing Sunburns

Preventing sunburns is crucial for maintaining healthy skin and reducing the risk of skin cancer. Here are some tips to help you stay sun-safe while sailing:

1. Wear Sun-Protective Clothing

Invest in sun-protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats. Look for clothing with a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating of 30 or higher. UPF-rated clothing is designed to block a significant amount of UV radiation, providing extra protection for your skin.

2. Apply Sunscreen

Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 30. Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Apply sunscreen generously to all exposed skin, including your face, ears, neck, and the tops of your feet. Don’t forget to reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.

3. Seek Shade

While shade may be limited on a boat, try to create shaded areas using umbrellas, biminis, or other sunshades. Take breaks in the shade, especially during peak sun hours.

4. Wear Sunglasses

Protect your eyes from UV radiation by wearing sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound sunglasses are ideal for sailing, as they provide better coverage and prevent UV rays from entering from the sides.

5. Stay Hydrated

Sun exposure can lead to dehydration, which can make your skin more susceptible to sunburn. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and maintain healthy skin.

Treating Sunburns

Despite your best efforts, sunburns can still happen. If you or a family member experiences a sunburn while sailing, follow these steps to alleviate pain and promote healing:

1. Get Out of the Sun

As soon as you notice a sunburn, move to a shaded area or go below deck to minimize further sun exposure.

2. Cool the Skin

Apply cool, damp compresses to the sunburned area or take a cool shower or bath. Avoid using ice directly on the skin, as it can cause frostbite.

3. Apply Aloe Vera or Over-the-Counter Creams

Aloe vera has natural cooling and soothing properties that can help relieve sunburn pain. Apply pure aloe vera gel or an over-the-counter cream containing aloe vera to the sunburned area. Avoid using creams or lotions that contain petroleum, as they can trap heat and worsen the sunburn.

4. Take Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with sunburns. Follow the recommended dosages on the label and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

5. Stay Hydrated

Sunburns can cause fluid loss, leading to dehydration. Drink plenty of water to replenish lost fluids and help your body heal.

6. Protect the Sunburned Area

If you need to be outside, cover the sunburned area with loose, breathable clothing to protect it from further sun exposure. Avoid tight or abrasive clothing that can irritate the skin.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Most sunburns can be treated at home, but in some cases, medical attention may be necessary. Seek medical help if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe sunburns covering a large portion of the body
  • Sunburns accompanied by blisters, severe pain, or a high fever
  • Signs of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, or pus
  • Sunburns that don’t improve after a few days of at-home treatment


Sun safety is an essential aspect of your sailing adventure. By taking the necessary precautions to prevent sunburns and knowing how to treat them if they occur, you can ensure a more enjoyable and healthy experience for you and your family. Remember to prioritize sun protection, stay hydrated, and seek shade whenever possible. Happy sailing!