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Sunscreen for Cruises

What Sunscreen Do I Need for a Cruise?

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Updated March 23, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

The sunscreen you bring on your cruise will definitely dictate how well you enjoy your time at sea. Bring a sunscreen that contains too little SPF, and you will likely spend your time nursing a bad sunburn. If you don't bring a sunscreen type that is "ocean-friendly," then you may be turned away from shore excursions. If you do bring sunscreen with an appropriate SPF and one that is environmentally friendly, it will be one less thing to worry over.

Choosing the Right SPF for Your Cruise Sunscreen

SPF is available in levels 2-60. Higher levels don't always equal better protection, however. An SPF of 50 only provides 1% to 2% more protection than an SPF of 30. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing an SPF of 30 for maximum protection. Most cruise destinations have high UV index ratings, so be sure not to skimp on the SPF levels. (Read more about SPF levels for cruisers.)

If you have children joining you on your cruise, you may want to consider buying them a different sunscreen for their personal use. You will want to consider the SPF level, their sensitivity to sunscreens, and what formula is easiest to apply (sprays, sticks, lotions, etc). See Best Sunscreens for Kids, written by a pediatrician for parents who want advice about sunscreens for their children.

Waterproof Versus Water-Repellant

Sunscreen that doesn't wash off in the water is a must for a cruise. You may notice some labels say "waterproof" and others are labeled "water-repellant". There is a big difference between the two, so choose carefully. Waterproof sunscreens usually last about 80-90 minutes in the water, while water repellant or resistant are effective for about 40 minutes. Brands vary, so read the label to determine how often you need to reapply.

The Facts About Biodegradable Sunscreen

On shore excursions, some destinations require that you use a special type of sunscreen that is biodegradable. Whenever we go swimming with sunscreen on, the chemicals from the sunscreen contaminate the ocean water, potentially causing damage to coral and other sea life. If you do not have biodegradable sunscreen at some destinations, you will not be allowed to participate in the water excursions. (Read more about buying and using biodegradable sunscreen.)

UVA or UVB Protections

You will notice that some sunscreens offer protection against UVA, UVB, or both types of UV radiation. UV rays are light waves from the sun that we cannot see or feel, but they can damage our skin. Both UVA and UVB can cause wrinkles, premature aging, sagging skin, and worst of all, skin cancer. Choose a sunscreen labeled "broad spectrum," as it will provide protection against both UVA and UVB rays from the sun.

Summary

In summary, you want to choose a sunscreen that is:
  • SPF 30 or higher
  • Waterproof (if you are spending a lot of time in the water) or water-repellant (if you will spend minimal time in the pool or ocean)
  • Broad spectrum to protect against UVA and UVB rays
  • Biodegradable for sea excursions at certain destinations

Source:

"Skin Cancer Symptoms". What You Need to Know About Skin Cancer. National Cancer Institute. 01 Aug 2005. Accessed 21 March 2011.
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/skin/page14

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