If you are planning to spend many hours outdoors with a wetsuit on, then naturally you might be wondering: do wetsuits protect you from the sun?
Yes, wetsuits provide sun protection so that covered up areas will not get sunburned. You cannot get sunburned through your wetsuit, but you can certainly get sunburned where your skin is not covered up. So apply sunscreen on any exposed areas, as well as underneath the wetsuit close to any wetsuit openings in case it shifts around.
In this article, we will explore different types of wetsuits and their levels of UV protection, so you can make an informed decision about what’s best for your water-based activities.
How Are Wetsuits UV Protective?
Neoprene’s UV Protection Capabilities
Wetsuits are made from a material called neoprene, which has unique insulating properties to keep you warm in cold water. One of the lesser-known benefits of neoprene is its ability to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
When wearing a wetsuit, you can enjoy both the thermal insulation it offers and the added sun protection it provides. Neoprene creates a layer over your skin that the sun’s UV rays cannot penetrate, reducing the risk of sunburn and skin damage.
But for complete sun protection, keep in mind that you need to wear a full wetsuit rather than a shorty one. For areas that are not covered by a wetsuit, you will still need to wear sunscreen for adequate UV protection.
Wetsuit Thickness and UV Resistance
A wetsuit’s thickness affects its insulation properties and, to some extent, its capability to block UV rays. Thicker wetsuits provide better warmth in cold water, as well as improved UV resistance.
However, even thinner wetsuits still offer significant sun protection for most water activities, so you shouldn’t worry too much about this parameter. The key is to choose a wetsuit that is a suitable thickness for the water temperature, because it will be thick enough for sun protection as well.
Are There Studies on Wetsuits and UV Protection?
There isn’t a substantial amount of scientific research conducted specifically on the UV protection of wetsuits, but the existing knowledge suggests that neoprene wetsuits effectively block sun rays.
However, there is certainly enough anecdotal evidence to conclude that wetsuits are effective at providing UV protection with how many people complain about their wetsuit tans.
Some wetsuits even come with a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating, indicating their ability to protect your skin against sunburns and other sun-induced damages.
So that you don’t end up with the dreaded wetsuit tan, additional sun protection methods, such as wearing a hat, sunglasses, and applying sunscreen on exposed skin areas, are recommended for maximum safety.
The Unprotected Areas: Face, Hands, and Feet
While a wetsuit can offer significant UV protection for your torso, arms, and legs, areas that are still commonly sunburned are your face, hands, and feet since they are often left exposed.
To protect your face, you can apply a high-quality sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection, and consider wearing a dive head or swimming cap.
For your hands and feet, consider using sunscreen or wearing UV-protective gloves or booties if you’ll be spending an extended time in the water.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you get sunburned while wearing a wetsuit?
Yes, it’s possible to get sunburned while wearing a wetsuit. Although wetsuits do protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, any exposed skin not covered by the wetsuit is still at risk. To minimize the risk of sunburn, ensure you apply sunscreen on uncovered areas of your body.
How does a wetsuit protect from the sun?
A wetsuit, usually made from neoprene, acts as a barrier between your skin and the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. The neoprene layer blocks the UV light from reaching your skin, thus providing protection against sunburn and long-term skin damage.
Are all wetsuits equal in UV protection?
While all wetsuits provide some level of UV protection, the level of protection can vary depending on the thickness of the neoprene material used. Thicker wetsuits offer greater protection, but thinner ones may still suffice depending on the activity. You should choose a wetsuit thickness based on how much insulation you need, because even a thin wetsuit provides adequate sun protection.
What materials offer better UV protection?
Other materials that offer UV protection include specially designed sun-protective swimwear, rash guards, and dive skins made from a blend of synthetic fabrics with a high Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating such as spandex, polyester or nylon with elastane.
Are certain wetsuits designed for sun protection?
Wetsuits are not designed for sun protection, though all of them provide it anyways. The wetsuits that provide the most comprehensive sun protection are ones that cover the most skin, i.e. full wetsuits. The more skin you expose, the greater the chances of getting sunburned even with a wetsuit on.