Summer is fast approaching, and, for many people, this means more days by the pool. Whether it's your pool, your neighbor's, or your local community's, hanging poolside is a great way to cool off and relax. Still, the best pool days require a little planning for a day out in the sun—and sunscreen is essential to keep in mind.

Choosing the right sunscreen for swimming can be tricky, and a lot of misconceptions are out there. For example, how long should you wait to swim after applying sunscreen to ensure you're staying protected? Read on to learn everything you need to know to make your pool days as safe and enjoyable as possible.

How Can You Stay Sun-Safe by the Pool?

Whether you plan to take a dip or dive into your new book by the pool, it's important to follow standard sunscreen application practices to keep your skin protected from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and apply at least one ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) for your entire body.

Remember those hard-to-reach places and parts of your body you don't normally think about needing sun protection, like your lips and the backs of your hands. The goal is to cover any and all parts of your skin that will be exposed to the sun.

UV Sheer sunscreen resting at the edge of a pool

How Long Should You Wait to Swim after Applying Sunscreen?

When it comes to applying sunscreen to get ready for a day at the pool, give it enough time to absorb into your skin before you head out the door. The general rule of thumb is to allow at least 15 minutes prior to sun exposure. Once you're at the pool, follow the same guideline to allow your sunscreen to absorb fully before you take a dip. Reapply immediately after you swim and dry off (or every two hours if you're not swimming).

Note that your risk of sun damage and sunburn can increase from the water's reflection. Up to 10 percent of UV light is reflected off of the water's surface, making those harmful rays even stronger. So, it's imperative to reapply sunscreen when you're around water and immediately after you swim.

What's the Best Sunscreen for Swimming?

No sunscreen is waterproof. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), waterproof sunscreen is a misleading label—waterproof formulas simply don't exist. Some sunscreens are water-resistant, which means they contain ingredients that withstand water for a certain period of time. These are a great choice for a pool day, though they'll still wash off and leave your skin exposed eventually.

The FDA requires water-resistant sunscreens to state how long they remain effective in the water (usually 40 or 80 minutes). EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 is an ideal sunscreen for swimming. It protects you for up to 80 minutes while swimming or sweating and won't drip in your eyes and cause stinging. EltaMD UV sheer Broad-Spectrum SPF 50+ is another lightweight and hydrating formula that is silky to the touch while offering sweat and water-resistance for up to 80 minutes.

Developing a Complete Sun Protection Plan

Sun protection doesn't stop at sunscreen. Guard your skin with sun-protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, and seek shade as much as possible to reduce sun exposure. Combined with regular sunscreen use, this will give you the best shot at preventing skin cancer and sun damage.

For a sun-safe pool day, aim to only stay in the water for as long as your water-resistant sunscreen protects you, and reapply sunscreen to dry skin immediately after swimming (in the shade if possible). As always, be sure to wash off your sunscreen at the end of the day. This will help keep your skin clean and your pores free of product buildup, leaving you with fresh, healthy, glowing skin all summer long.


  • Audrey Noble

    Audrey Noble is a New York City-based reporter specializing in features, celebrity profiles, and beauty topics. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Harper's BAZAAR, Allure, Vanity Fair, Refinery29, and more. She is a University of Southern California alumna with bachelor's degrees in print journalism and creative writing.

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