Spending time in nature can do a lot of good for your health, and the beach is a favorite family destination in the summer. Salt water has beneficial properties for your skin and muscles, and swimming and walking along the shore can be great forms of exercise—not to mention the uplifting sights, sounds, and smells.

There's just one caveat: you need to be diligent about sun protection to support your skin health. So, how often should you reapply sunscreen at the beach, and is there such a thing as waterproof sunscreen? Dive in to learn how to safely enjoy your beach day.

How Can You Prepare for a Skin-Safe Day at the Beach?

For optimal sun protection ahead of a beach day, apply sunscreen before you even leave the house.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it takes about 15 minutes for your skin to absorb sunscreen, which allows it to do its job properly. If you wait until you're at the beach to apply your first layer of sunscreen, you put yourself at risk of sunburn or sun damage.

A few minutes of unprotected sun exposure at the beach might seem harmless, but sometimes that's all it takes. Depending on your skin type, it may only take a few minutes for the sun to harm your skin. For example, if you have a fair skin tone, are prone to freckles, and tend to burn instead of tan, just 10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure can result in a sunburn.

Beautiful beach. Chairs on the sandy beach near the sea. Summer holiday and vacation concept for tourism. Inspirational tropical landscape

How Often Should You Reapply Sunscreen at the Beach?

The general recommendation is to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours when spending time outdoors—but does that hold true at the beach? Depending on a few circumstances, you'll likely need to reapply more frequently throughout your beach day.

A few factors can compromise your sun protection and make its effectiveness more short-lived at the beach. For example, water causes sunscreen to wear off more quickly, so you'll need to reapply sunscreen more often if you're taking dips in the ocean. Water-resistant sunscreens are typically effective for up to 40 or 80 minutes when swimming or sweating, so check the label and follow the directions. For example, EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 protects your skin for up to 80 minutes when swimming.

Playing in the sand and drying off with a towel can also cause sunscreen to wear off earlier than the typical two-hour window. Plus, leaving your sunscreen out in the hot sun for prolonged periods of time can eventually cause the active ingredients to degrade and lose their efficacy.

To stay protected all beach day long, reapply sunscreen roughly every hour or after swimming, sweating, or toweling off, and store your sunscreen out of direct sunlight. If you have a cooler, throw it in with your chilled beverages!

What's the Right Type of Sunscreen for the Beach?

It can be hard to find a shady spot at the beach, so you may find yourself in direct sunlight. And if you're on the waterfront between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., you're getting the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays at their strongest. Also, remember that sunlight can reflect off of surfaces like sand and water, so you may have UV rays coming at you from multiple angles. All this to say: opt for a sunscreen with a high SPF on beach days. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends SPF 30 or higher.

There's no such thing as waterproof sunscreen, but choosing a water-resistant sunscreen is also a good idea. EltaMD UV Sheer Broad-Spectrum SPF 50+ is a great face sunscreen for the beach because it has a high SPF and is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

When it comes to application, you have a few choices: lotion, stick, or spray. Sunscreen lotion is reliable, though some people find stick and spray sunscreens more convenient and easier to apply. Spray sunscreen is especially useful for children who'd rather be building a sand castle than sitting still while you apply layers of sunscreen lotion to their skin. If you go this route, just make sure to apply spray sunscreen correctly to ensure adequate protection.

Other Sun Safety Tips for a Beautiful Beach Day

Sunscreen is just one part of a complete sun protection plan. In addition to reapplying sunscreen regularly, the following best practices can help you have fun in the sun without compromising your skin health.

Seek Shade

Bring an umbrella or tent to the beach or find a spot under a shady tree. This is especially important between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is at its strongest. If possible, time your trip to the beach outside of these hours.

Wear Sun-Protective Clothing

Bring a cover-up and wear bathing suits with long sleeves, like rash guards, to shield your skin.

Don Sunglasses and Hats

Sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats keep the sun out of your eyes and away from your face, neck, and ears.

Spending time with your family at the beach is the ideal summer afternoon. Keep the good times rolling by staying on top of your sunscreen reapplications during the day so you don't spend your evening nursing a fresh sunburn. The right sunscreen products are a pleasure to put on, so find one you love and make it easy to keep yourself and your loved ones sun-ready.


  • Lacey Muinos

    Lacey is a Southern California-based freelance writer who combines her passions—fitness, health, and a vegan lifestyle—with her work to help readers feel and be their best. Her work has been featured in Healthline, Livestrong, Verywell Fit, Eat This Not That, KinderBeauty, and more.

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