Sunscreen use for surfers can be a controversial issue, but with climate change and ever-increasing temperatures, it’s an essential one. I’ve spoken to many of my fellow surfers about this, and only one guy out of maybe 50 uses any form of protection while surfing. As he said to me “I’ve been surfing since I was five years old – no skin cancers here!”
Indeed…but do these guys realise that they are lucky? With their genetically inherited dark hair and complexion from generations before them, it won’t affect them as badly when they reach middle age. As a pale skinned surfer who has suffered with spots even before hitting puberty, over the last 10 years I have had to deal with regular breakouts on my shoulders, back and face. In fact last year I had two raised red lesions which I’m pretty sure were both basal cell carcinomas (or skin cancers). Luckily they have been removed and I don’t need further surgery at the moment.
Why you need sunscreen for surfing in Portugal
As you can tell from the image above, for me sunscreen isn’t optional – it’s a necessity before even hitting the ocean in Portugal. Surfing will always be more enjoyable without a layer of sticky lotion or cream covering your body, but using sunscreen is an essential part of protecting yourself from cancer in later life if you want to keep surfing for years to come!
I’ve used different brands over the years depending on how much burn protection they offered. In fact in this article I discuss the leading brands which will prevent redness and sunburn on your next surfing holiday.
Best Surf Sunscreen for Portugal
Sunscreen brands for surfing – some of the best ones around (in no particular order)
1. Anthelios – La Roche Posay
La Roche Posay is a French pharmaceutical company that has been producing dermatological products for over 100 years! As their name suggests, their most famous product is the Anthelios family of sunscreen essentials, which offer excellent protection against UVA & UVB rays from both natural and artifical sun light. The SPF range goes up to 60+ (which offers pretty good anti-aging benefits too). My personal favourite of these is the Anthelios XL Ultra Light Fluid SPF 50+, which is a great all-rounder and works well in the water.
2. Invisible Zinc – Piz Buin
No list of sunscreens would be complete without at least one good zinc-based product. I’ve personally used this brand for years, as it’s light, non greasy and dries quickly after application. It also has that classic ‘sun cream’ smell that you all know so well! The downside to this type of sunscreen is that although it offers good protection against UVA & UVB radiation, it doesn’t really offer any anti-aging benefits (like La Roche Posay). This is mainly because zinc isn’t considered suitable for sensitive skin. However if you don’t have any issues with zinc, then it’s a very safe way to not get burned when surfing in Portugal!
3. Gold Bond Ultimate – Johnson & Johnson
Another classic sun cream is the popular gold bond ultimate protection range – which offers several different strengths (30+, 45+ and 60+) as well as unique features like anti-inflammatory ingredients to take care of your skin after a long day in the water. This stuff really does work, even for sensitive types like myself! It smells nice too. As it contains zinc, it isn’t recommended if you have an oily skin type or are prone to blocked pores/blackheads (like me). However if your skin can deal with this mineral this is another great product on the market.
4. Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection – Shieido
This is probably the most expensive brand on this list (15’000 vatu for 100 ml in local chemists). However that’s because it offers great protection against UVA & UVB rays, as well as being water resistant. It also contains a large amount of skin nourishing ingredients including antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. The only down side to this product is that it does leave your skin slightly white when applied, which can be a bit off-putting if you are worried about being seen by other surfers while waiting for waves at the beach! So I would only use this stuff if I was going surfing with my own gear or out in the middle of nowhere where no one else would see me.
5. Loreal Pro-Vita – L’oreal
This is the most affordable option on this list, with a 100 ml bottle costing 10’000 vatu in local chemists. The protection against UV rays is excellent, and it’s also oil free (which works great if you have an oily skin type). However I did find that after using this product my face got a bit red when out in the sun for extended periods of time – while at the same time I noticed no real difference between this brand and Invisible Zinc in terms of UVA & UVB protection! For me personally, I would use Gold Bond Ultimate instead as it gives similar protection but doesn’t leave my face looking like Rooster Red after two hours in the sun!
6. Anthelios – La Roche Posay (Sport)
This is a slightly different type of SPF cream from the one mentioned above, but it still works really well. You can get it in many places around town, including Rili rili and Paradise Beach – or you can order it online from bula-bula.pt . It’s also a lot cheaper than the high-end version: I got 100 ml for just 3’200 vatu at my local chemists! The best part about this material is that although it offers excellent UVA & UVB protection, it goes on clear! This means that you don’t have to worry about your skin looking white after application – so you can still go surfing and not worry about looking like a ghost when other people come out of the water! The only downside to this stuff is that it’s not completely waterproof, so if you have any tears or cuts on your skin after going in the water they could get infected.
6. Anthelios – La Roche Posay (Kids)
The kids version of this material is exactly the same as the one for adults, but it has been specially formulated for children with sensitive skin types (which means they don’t smell quite so funky). There are three different strengths: homme (for men), femme (for women) and enfants.
7. Giorgio Armani Sun Fluid Light – Armani
I got this sample of Giorgio Armani Sun Fluid Light in a magazine I was reading, but you can also buy it online from sites like Douglas.com . It’s a really good sunscreen that keeps your skin looking hydrated and dewy – without the ‘white’ look you get from other brands! However it does contain alcohol, which is no good if you have an oily skin type (like me). So although this product works great for someone with dry/sensitive skin, I wouldn’t use it on my own face as too much alcohol isn’t good for anyone!
8. La Roche Posay Anthelios XL SPF 50 Waterproof Fatais
Ok so last but by no means least, there is this amazing product from La Roche Posay (they really are the kings of good sun protection!). I got a sample of it in a magazine that was sent to me recently, and I have been using it religiously every day while surfing. It has an SPF rating of 50, which means you can use it even when diving or swimming in the sea! You never know what creatures might be lurking under the waves at Praia do Norte…
The best part about this sunscreen is that it’s waterproof so you don’t need to worry if you get caught while ‘surf showering’ after going in for a wave! In terms of how your skin looks, I couldn’t see any difference between mine and my friends who had used other brands. So for anyone with oily skin, or who has experienced an allergic reaction to some other sunscreen this could be the perfect product for you!
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