Can You Tan Underwater

Most of us love spending our summer days in the pool cooling off from the hot sun. We all know that you shouldn’t overexpose yourself to the sun, but can you safely tan underwater? The answer is yes and no.

Let me explain.

 It actually depends on how deep the water is. Whether you want to continue tanning as you take a swim or you’re cooling off underwater, there are a few things you should know about tanning underwater.

Tanning through water

Getting an underwater tan is very different from the above-water tan. The visual appearance of an underwater tan is different depending on the type of water you’re swimming in.

Most people swim in clear water or chlorinated pools and the difference in your tan is because of the light absorption. The UV rays from the sun are naturally absorbed by water, but only until a few meters down. This means your skin can get tanned or get burned when at the surface of the water.

In cloudy or musky waters, the absorption of light is much higher which gives you a weaker tan underwater.

Why do you sunburn faster in the water?

It’s easier to tell when you’re getting a sunburn when you’re out of the pool, but the trick is to know when you’re getting sunburned while in the water.

Being in the water even a few meters deep lowers your body temperature and you forget about the UV rays so you don’t remember to use sunscreen.

However, you must continue to apply sunscreen frequently even when in the water because you can still get a burn while in a chlorinated pool or even worse since water reflects the sun.

Chlorine effects

Chlorine helps to disinfect the germs in the pool water, but in the process produces byproducts that can be an irritant to you the swimmer.

Using chlorine in pools can cause runny noses and red eyes and even sometimes give you dry and itchy skin.

Chafed and under-hydrated skin is easily damaged when exposed to the sun which means you will feel the sun on your skin much faster than non-swimmers.

Sunburn effects

Overexposure to the sun and sunburns cause damage to the outer layer of your skin. If you’re light or pale-skinned, after prolonged sun exposure your skin will turn red and later you will experience irritation, swelling, and sloughing off dead skin.

Your body will then react to the damage and the skin tan by producing melanin. Most redheads rarely tan instead they burn, while others burn from overexposure and later tan. The bottom line is overexposure to the sun dries out your skin which leads to creases and wrinkles and even develops to a more serious problem like skin cancer.

Here are a few suggestions so that you don’t get burned while in the pool.

  • Wear a hat or something that will protect your scalp from the sun.
  • Put on sunscreen 20-30 minutes before you get in the pool.
  • Make sure you buy a waterproof sunscreen.
  • To avoid getting burned, go swimming either early in the morning or late in the evenings.
  • Ensure that you run sunscreen on your entire body.

Everybody’s skin is different and you might burn faster than your friend even after applying the right SPF cream while others don’t even turn red after being out in the sun all day.

Apart from the individual skin differences, the weather and temperatures also vary so there is no automatic way for you to void a burn. It doesn’t mean that since the last time you achieved a perfect tan in one hour, that the next time you’ll achieve the same results.

How to protect your skin underwater

You don’t need to stop swimming just because you’re worried about tanning underwater. There are some ways you can protect your skin underwater.

  • Wear protective clothing

You can wear sun-protective clothing that you can purchase at most swim stores which can be either leggings or long-sleeved rash vests. These are excellent in protecting your skin from the sun, but make sure the clothes are made with sun-protective material.

  • Applying sunscreen

This is the most obvious way of protecting your skin against the sun. However, make sure you get a sunscreen with a high SPF and one that is meant to be used underwater. Some sunscreens aren’t meant to be used underwater because they will wash off immediately your skin gets wet, washing away your skin protection.

Luckyly for you, we have a complete guide to finding the best best sunscreen to prevent tanning.

  • Keeping yourself hydrated

Staying hydrated is very important when you’re out in the sun or the water. Your skin and body get dehydrated very fast when you’re outdoors, so you need to remember to take lots when you’re outdoors. This can also help your skin to quickly recover from a sunburn.

  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat

When you’re out in the sun, you need to be mindful of the most vulnerable parts of your body that can get burned like your neck, face, head, and shoulders. The upper part of your body doesn’t stay underwater for too long so it’s at risk of getting burned from the reflective rays from the water. Wearing a hat with a wide brim can provide shade and protection for your face and shoulders, but be sure the hat is made with protective material and doesn’t have gaps or holes.

  • Stay moisturized

Always keep your skin moisturized when you’re out in the sun or pool. Your skin needs to be moisturized if you’re going to expose it to the sun and applying a nourishing lotion helps to minimize the sun’s damage and your skin’s recovery from the sun’s exposure.


According to tanning experts, the deeper the water is the more light that gets absorbed and the fewer UV rays that penetrate the surface of your skin while swimming. This way, your skin is less likely to burn or tan, so water doesn’t provide you with complete protection from the sun. This means the UVA and UVB rays can still cause serious damage to your skin. Water that is half a meter deep can still give you a serious sunburn and you won’t even realize it’s happening because the water will have a cooling effect on your skin.