Surfing can be rather damaging to the skin. Frequent contact with the sea, sand, salt, and the wetsuit demands specific measures to keep your skin happy and healthy.
Surfing is amazing for the body and the mind but not so much for the skin.
Several variables contribute to damaging the skin's surface and leaving it more vulnerable. Fragile or broken skin is also more prone to infections and other opportunistic aches.
As a surfer, there are a few essential aspects to consider.
Steps as simple as cleaning, moisturizing, and protecting are basic, but different people have different needs that must be met.
Scalp, hands, feet, and face are naturally more exposed to the burning sun rays, the dehydrating salted water, and the friction caused by sand, wax, or wetsuit seams.
Windsurfers, for example, can develop painful blisters on their hands.
On the other hand, the body is often confined in wet, non-breathable fabrics for considerable amounts of time.
All these factors demand specific measures to keep the skin in perfect condition.
Here are a few steps to replenish and care for your skin, leaving it ready for the next session:
1. Know Your Skin
First and foremost, you need to know your skin type, as it allows you to choose the right products.
A dermatologist will help you identify your skin fragilities and prescribe the best routine for your body, scalp, and face, according to your specific needs.
It's also important to adapt your skincare routine to the intensity of your surfing practice.
When you surf more often or depending on the season, you may need a more or less nourishing moisturizer, a deeper or lighter cleaning product, a higher or lower protection sunscreen, etc.
2. Clean It Up
Once you know your skin, it's time to clean and do it right.
Depending on your skin type - oily, dry, or combination - the right cleaning product will wash away impurities (salt, sunscreen, etc.) without stripping the skin from its natural protection.
Avoid harsh detergents and irritant formulations. Instead, it's wise to invest in good shower creams or gels formulated for sensitive skin.
If you're wearing a sponge, make sure it is cleaned right. Otherwise, you will expose your skin to unwanted bacteria.
Again, don't forget the scalp: invest in a gentle shampoo that cleans but doesn't build up or dehydrate. Finding the right one may take a while, but it's worth the search.
It's also crucial to wear a specific cleaning product for the face, whether it is a gel, an oil, or micellar water. Use it every morning and evening and in the shower after surfing.
Every once in a while, you can also exfoliate for a deeper cleanse and promote skin renewal. Be careful, however, so as not to damage the skin.
Opt for gentle exfoliants with rich oils for the body. There are some interesting DIY recipes out there that are worth a try. For the face, choose one that adjusts to your skin type.
3. Moisturize Your Skin
After cleaning, it's time to moisturize. Here, the options are endless.
For the body, choose between oils, creams, or lotions, according to your needs at the time.
You can have a nourishing cream to pack extra moisture when surfing more intensely or a quick-absorbing lotion with a dispenser to wear on the go.
For lazy ones, oils, and spray formulations are the right choice.
An after-sun lotion or aloe vera gel is always helpful in the summer. They calm the skin and boost its recovery after sun exposure.
As for the face, find a quality cream that suits your skin type and apply it morning, evening, and every time you wash it in the shower after surfing.
Depending on their needs, some people benefit from dermatologist-formulated skincare products.
If you have extra sensitive or reactive skin, melasma, or are prone to breakouts, we take you back to the first step and advise you to contact a dermatologist to find out what is best for you.
Another helpful tip: hands and feet are often dismissed at this stage. Don't forget to wear hand cream and apply it frequently.
Care for your feet with a rich foot cream to prevent hard, dried skin. Apply it after the shower and before sleeping to keep your foundations nice and healthy.
4. Protect Your Skin
All surfers, regardless of the weather conditions, are particularly exposed to the damaging effects of the sun.
You must always - and we mean always - apply safe sunscreen, according to the instructions on the packaging, before you hit the water.
There are different types of sunscreen, so try around or ask your dermatologist to find the right one.
It's always better to choose a different sunscreen for the face and body, according to your skin type and sun exposure.
While we don't remember it until we get a sunburn, the vulnerable skin on our heads also needs protection. There are sprays, sticks, and oils specifically created to protect it.
Choose the best one for your hair type and stick to this step, as melanoma in the scalp is rare but more dangerous than in other parts of the body.
Other useful measures are covering your head or pulling your hair up in a ponytail to hide your part and keep it from sunburn.
5. Hydrate Your Skin
When you spend hours in the ocean, your need for water goes up, and your skin can reflect that.
There is no use in lathering it with lush oils and creams if you don't hydrate it from the inside out.
Water is vital for skin health, and as a surfer, you should drink plenty of it. Keep a glass bottle of water always at hand, and drink it before and after surfing.
If you don't particularly appreciate water, you can always make delicious handmade fruit juice or fragrant flavored water.
There are plenty of zero-effort recipes out there, so no excuses to opt for unhealthy, sugared drinks that will do the opposite of what is intended.
6. Eat Right
Water isn't the only source of hydration.
Rich fruits and healthy vegetables are also packed with H2O, with the added benefit of minerals, vitamins, and other fantastic components.
A healthy diet keeps your skin balanced and more resistant while also boosting the action of the products you put on its surface.
Some foods are particularly beneficial: avocados, fatty fish, olive oil, almonds, carrots, green tea, citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, greek yogurt, and eggs.
7. Act When Something Is Wrong
Look for medical advice whenever you notice something wrong with your skin. The skin is the biggest organ in our body, and it often reveals underlying issues.
We are not only talking about skin cancer symptoms but also little ailments that can become big problems if unattended.
Alterations in moles, spots, persistent rashes, broken skin, or nail fungus all should be checked by a specialist.
Now that you know how to care for your skin, it's time to have fun in the waves. It's incredible out there.
Words by Ana de Brito Costa