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“Can I Get Sunburned On A Cloudy Day?” Plus Tips To Stay Safe When Kayaking In The Sun

Nicola Burridge
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Do you love spending your days kayaking and exploring the great outdoors?

While it’s cloudy, you may think you’re in the clear from sunburn.

The truth is, the sun can still shine through the clouds and cause harm to your skin.

Find out now and arm yourself with tips to stay protected from the sun, no matter what Mother Nature has in store.

"Can I Get Sunburned On A Cloudy Day?" Plus Tips To Stay Safe When Kayaking In The Sun - Pinterest ImagePin

11 Ways To Avoid Sunburn When Kayaking

1: So, Can I Get Sunburned On A Cloudy Day?

Kayaking Under Cloudy WeatherPin

The quick answer is, yes. You can get sunburned on a cloudy day. Remember, it’s not necessarily the sun that burns you directly, it’s the UV rays the sun emits. So, even when it’s cloudy, the sun’s rays can reach your skin.

You’ll often find that the UV rays are reduced slightly when it’s cloudy. But in hot climates that are closer to the equator, and summer seasons elsewhere, the UV rays can often still be very high even when there is cloud cover.

Clouds only shield about 20% of the sun’s UV rays. So in areas with a high UV index, the risk of sunburn will still be very high even when it’s cloudy.

In winter in colder climates, UV rays are often minimal, if not non-existent. However, if you’re kayaking in a high-altitude area, the UV levels may still be high in winter. It’s always best to check the UV index for your local forecast to be on the safe side.

2: Wear Sunscreen

Sunscreen SPF 50 PA+++ on beach sandPin

Wearing sunscreen is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from sunburn. If you live in a warm climate, wearing sunscreen is probably (or should be) second nature to you.

You should opt for a high SPF to provide enough protection for your skin. SPF30 is generally recommended as a minimum for outdoor activities.

SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is what’s used to measure the amount of sunburn protection a product has. The higher the SPF number, the more protection the product can offer.

The number relates to the amount of UV radiation the product can block compared to no protection at all. SPF30, for example, can block around 97% of UV light and SPF50 can block around 98% of UV rays.

A sunscreen with SPF30 means your skin should take 30 times longer to burn versus no sunscreen. However, this doesn’t mean you can stay in the sun for 30 times longer than you planned.

Sunscreen does not last all day. It wears off and rubs off on your clothing. It also washes off if you’re swimming or sweating. 

You should apply sunscreen to all exposed skin.

3: Put On A Sun Hat

Paddler on kayak wearing sun hatPin

Hats can be essential for protecting your head from the sun’s rays. When you’re kayaking, a sun hat can also help to shield your eyes from the sun so that you can see where you’re paddling more easily.

It can be best to opt for a kayak hat with a wide brim so that it can extend the shade around your face and help to protect your neck. You can also get hats with neck protection.

If you’re paddling in very hot weather, a sun hat with good ventilation can be better as this can allow heat to escape and prevent you from overheating.

4: Wear Protective Clothing

As well as wearing sunscreen, it can be a good idea to wear clothing that can protect your skin from sun exposure. There are many clothing products on the market now that are rated with a UPF rating.

UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and is applied to fabrics, not sunscreen. Clothing that has a UPF rating will offer some protection against sunburn.

The highest rating is UPF50+ and this will prevent at least 98% of the UV light from getting through to your skin. The lowest rating is UPF15, which blocks around 93% of UV rays from getting through the fabric.

Clothing with a UPF rating comes in a variety of styles, similar to regular sportswear and leisure wear, so it can be easy to find something to suit your kayaking activities.

> What to wear when kayaking

5: Avoid The Hottest Part Of The Day

Strong Sun and SkiesPin

The hottest part of the day is often when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. This can be between 10 am and 4 pm.

However, we understand that the hottest part of the day can often be later in the afternoon after the heat has had a chance to build up. But generally speaking, the middle of the day is when the UV light is stronger and this is when you are at most risk of sunburn and other sun-related conditions.

It can be better to avoid the high levels of UV light during the midday hours if you can. Try to arrange your kayaking trip before or after this time to avoid sunburn.

6: Find Shade

Green Kayak Laying Under Palm TreePin

To protect your skin from sunburn it can be best to avoid being in direct sunlight for too long. On a kayaking trip, it can be easy to forget about the damaging sun, especially if it’s cloudy.

Take breaks during your paddling trip so you can seek shade. This can give you time to reapply your sunscreen, rehydrate, and grab a snack. While you will probably still be exposed to UV light even in the shade (if it’s outside), a shelter can give you a little extra protection by blocking some of the direct UV rays.

Trees, beach umbrellas, picnic cabanas, and indoor shelters, can all be great for escaping the sun for a while and providing shade. The less sky you can see through your shelter, the more UV rays that shelter can block.

7: Don’t Forget Your Sunglasses

Beautiful Sea with Sunglass and Kayak BladePin

A good pair of sunglasses can help to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays. While the sun may not cause sunburn on your eyes, it can and does damage your eyes and can affect your eyesight in the future.

Exposure to UV light can cause various problems with your eyes, including what’s known as Surfer’s Eye, which doesn’t go away (without surgery) and can eventually impair your vision.

For kayaking and other activities on the water, it can be best to choose a pair of polarized sunglasses. Polarized sunglasses can help to prevent glare reflecting back from the water so you can have a clearer view of your surroundings.

Polarized sunglasses can also be ideal for kayak fishing as they can let you see under the water more clearly.

Make sure any sunglasses you choose are rated to block both UVA and UVB rays.

8: Keep Hydrated

Hand holding water bottlePin

As you probably already know, it’s a healthy habit to keep hydrated when you’re participating in outdoor activities or the weather is warm. While drinking water won’t protect you from getting sunburned, it can help to prevent heat stroke and other heat related conditions.

Drinking plenty of water can also help to replenish lost electrolytes from sweating. It can also help to rehydrate you if you do happen to suffer sunburn.

Sunburn can cause fluids from your body to go to the surface of your skin, drawing them away from the rest of your body, which can cause dehydration.

9: Reapply Your Sunscreen

This can be something that many people forget to do, or simply don’t bother to do. But reapplying your sunscreen can be especially important if you’re participating in activities in and around water.

This is because water can wash off your sunscreen, which can decrease the amount of protection it provides. If you’re in a sit-on-top kayak or you plan to jump off for a swim, you may want to think about reapplying your sunscreen more often.

Similarly, if you’re sweating from the heat or from exercising, your sunscreen can rub or wash off.

Remember to keep your sunscreen somewhere on your deck that’s easy to access from your seat, so you can reapply on the go.

10: Protect Kids

Child in kayak wearing protective hat paddling under the sunPin

A child’s skin can be more sensitive to the sun than an adult’s skin. Children produce less melanin in their skin so the skin is less able to protect itself. This means you need to take extra precautions to protect children from sunburn.

Sunscreen should be applied to children at least 30 minutes before going outside. And it should be reapplied every two hours afterwards. The minimum recommended SPF to use is SPF30.

It’s also a good idea to cover children’s arms and legs with UPF clothing. They should also wear a sun hat to protect their heads.

Sunglasses are also recommended to protect kids’ eyes from UV radiation. Up to 80% of damage from UV rays to the eyes is done before we are 18 years old.

11: Avoid Tanning Or Sunbathing

A pair of beach chairs and beach umbrella for sunbathingPin

Even though many of us like to do this, especially on summer vacations, tanning is dangerous. It can increase your risk of sunburn and skin cancer.

Even if you don’t suffer from sunburn after spending an afternoon on a sun lounger or the deck of your kayak, the sun will still be damaging your skin if there is any tanning at all.

It can be very appealing to kayak to a quiet beach to relax under the warm sun with a picnic and an ice cold beverage. If you plan to do this, remember to bring along some sun shade. There are plenty of options that can easily fit on board a kayak, such as portable sun canopies, beach umbrellas, or small tents.

What To Do If You Get Sunburned

If you do happen to get sunburned, it’s best to cover up and find shade or go inside.

Keep your skin cool with a cold compress (or cold shower) and keep it moisturized to prevent peeling.

It’s a good idea to make sure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

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