Consumer tips
Boat insurance
Make sure a sunburn isn’t your catch of the day

Life jackets, check. Float plan, check. Fishing license, check. As you're making plans for a day on the water, make sure you add one more box to check: sun protection.

Water can reflect up to 80% of the sun's rays, adding to your overall exposure and putting you at increased risk for sunburn, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. These tips, courtesy of experts including Boating magazine and the Skin Cancer Foundation, can help ensure a safer day on the water:

  1. Pick the right sunscreen. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends choosing a sunscreen with a minimum 30 Sun Protection Factor (SPF), which is measured on its protection against UVB rays. To ensure you get UVB and UVA protection, make sure your sunscreen is labeled for both, usually with the words "broad spectrum." You can look for UVA-protective ingredients including avobenzone, ecamsule (sometimes labeled "Mexoryl"), oxybenzone, titanium diolxide, and zinc oxide.
  2. Understand what that SPF buys you. Technically, the SPF refers to the amount of ultraviolet rays the lotion absorbs. But the SPF numbers don't increase the protection exponentially, and after SPF 30, additional gains are small. A simpler way to think about SPF is to consider how much it lengthens the time it would otherwise take you to burn. And that varies from person to person. Say, for example, that with no sunscreen, you'd start to fry after 10 minutes. With an SPF 30, you theoretically could stay in the sun for a maximum of 300 minutes (five hours) using this formula: Unprotected minutes until a burn x SPF factor = maximum sun exposure time. Remember, though, that those measures are created in a laboratory. In the real world, people tend to use about half the amount of sunscreen that the test subjects do, meaning they'd burn in about half the time. Also, certain medications can increase your sun sensitivity dramatically.
  3. Boaters also should choose a water-resistant sunscreen. Sunscreen labeled "water resistant" must maintain its SPF after 40 minutes of water immersion. A product labeled "very water resistant" must offer 80 minutes under FDA regulation.
  4. Slather it on. To get the full SPF, you'll need to use one ounce (about a shot glass full) 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the ingredients to bind to your skin. Don't be tempted to skimp if you see clouds. You can still burn, even on an overcast day.
  5. Reapply often. The rule of thumb is every two hours or more frequently after swimming, toweling off, or sweating excessively.
  6. Bust out the ugly hat. No prizes for high fashion here, but a hat with a brim of at least three inches all the way around helps protect your face, neck, and scalp from burning rays.
  7. Don your shades. Gravitate toward wraparound styles with dark lenses. Look for glasses labeled "polarized" that offer 100% UVA/UVB protection.
  8. Consider sun-protective clothing. Specially made sun-protective clothing can cut ultraviolet penetration much better than your usual garb. The clothing may be labeled "UPF" for ultraviolet protection factor. A UPF of 30 would mean that only 1/30 of the sun's rays can penetrate the fabric. Don't forget the fingerless gloves that protect your exposed hands, but give you the dexterity needed for fishing.
  9. Consider buying a Bimini top for your boat. It's essentially a sun awning for your boat that gives you a place to escape the beating sun. Sizes and styles vary, and they're available from a variety of manufacturers.
  10. Baby oil isn't a sunscreen.  It will moisturize your skin, but it does nothing to block UV rays. That's why urban myths call it a "tanning oil."
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