Does Surfing Make You Wrinkly?

Surfing is a popular water sport enjoyed by people of all ages. However, many surfers wonder if spending so much time exposed to the sun, wind and saltwater could potentially cause premature wrinkles and aged looking skin. In this article, we will explore the aging factors associated with surfing and determine if regular participation in this sport truly makes skin look more wrinkly over time.

Effects of UV Exposure from the Sun

One major concern is ultraviolet (UV) ray exposure from the sun. UV rays are the number one cause of premature skin aging signs like wrinkles, age spots and loss of elasticity. Surfers can spend many hours weekly in direct sunlight on the ocean without much protection.

The reflective properties of water and surfboards increase UV exposure compared to land. While sunscreen helps, frequent reapplication is challenging. Over decades, this chronic UV damage accelerates signs of photoaging like deepening wrinkles and sagging skin.

Tips to Reduce UV Damage:

  • Apply broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen before every session
  • Wear a rash guard, wetsuit or sun protective clothing
  • See a dermatologist annually for skin checks
  • Limit sun exposure 10am-4pm when UV rays are strongest

Dehydration from Saltwater and Wind

While saltwater has benefits, long term exposure is drying. It draws water away from skin cells causing them to shrink, potentially exaggerating wrinkles. Over-diluted moisture levels lead to a less plump, supple appearance over time according to dermatologists.

Wind exposure also dehydrates skin through moisture evaporation. Surfing subjects the face to repeated saltwater splashes and strong winds further depleting the skin’s hydration levels which can manifest as fine lines and uneven texture.

Best Practices to Combat Dehydration:

  • Moisturize within 3 minutes of surfing to seal in hydration
  • Choose a non-comedogenic cream rich in ceramides, hyaluronic acid and oils
  • Apply hydrating face mask 1-2 times weekly

Oxidative Stress from Pollution and Sun Exposure

Near coastal cities and industrial areas, surfers are exposed to additional oxidative damage from water pollution. Oxidative stress happens when free radicals outpace antioxidants in skin, accelerating normal aging.

Long term oxidative damage breaks down collagen and elastin, leading to premature wrinkles, sagging and loss of firmness. Surfers accumulate higher oxidative insult over decades compared to non-surfers.

Tips to Boost Antioxidant Defenses:

  • Consume foods high in antioxidants like berries, nuts & green tea
  • Topically apply serums with antioxidants like vitamin C, ferulic acid
  • Limit surfing in polluted industrial areas when possible

Effects of Cold Water Temperature

Going in/out of cold ocean water may temporarily constrict blood vessels and reduce inflammation. However, prolonged cold exposure causes vasoconstriction leading to reduced blood flow and collagen synthesis over time.

Less blood reaches the skin surface, impairing delivery of nutrients. Poor circulation exacerbates signs of aging due to lowered cellular metabolism and repair functions. To minimize damage, quickly warm skin after surfing.

Tips for Post-Surf Skin Care:

  • Shower with warm water within 30 minutes of surfing
  • Massage skin with firm pressure to improve circulation
  • Use a warming mask or treatment with caffeine/essential oils

Cumulative Effects of Repeated Sun/Salt/Wind Exposure

Over decades of many weekly surf sessions, the combined chronic effects of UV rays, dehydration, pollution and temperature fluctuations can accelerate visible aging signs. Repeated insults deplete skin’s defenses and damage collagen/elastin support fibers leading to sagging and deep wrinkles.

Adopting sun protection strategies, moisturizing daily and protecting skin barriers through proper nutrition helps surfers defend against these impacts according to dermatologists.

Anti-Aging Lifestyle Tips:

  • Limit unprotected sun exposure as much as possible
  • Hydrate skin within 3 minutes of each session
  • Eat a diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Use retinoids and other medical grade anti-aging ingredients

Other Lifestyle Factors Affecting Aging

Additional surfing lifestyle habits like sleep deprivation, tobacco/drug use, excess alcohol consumption and lack of regular medical care can also accelerate visible signs of aging according to physicians.

Adopting an overall healthy anti-aging regimen including adequate hydration, nutrient-rich whole foods diet, exercise, limited sun and avoiding vices like smoking helps surfers optimize natural protective mechanisms against environmental damage and signs of premature skin aging.

Additional Anti-Aging Tips:

  • Sleep 7-9 hours per night
  • Do not smoke or consume excessive alcohol
  • Visit your doctor annually for checkups
  • Practice relaxation techniques to manage stress
  • Wear sun protective clothing when possible


In conclusion, while surfing provides enjoyment and fitness benefits, decades of regular unprotected sun, wind, cold water and waves can prematurely age the skin through cumulative damage according to dermatologists and evidence. Adopting proper sun safety habits, moisturizing diligently and an overall healthy anti-aging lifestyle can help offset these risks.


At what age will surfing start to show on my skin?

Most experts agree signs of photoaging from surfing are unlikely to appear noticeably until your 40s or 50s due to skin’s ability to cope with damage when young. Be vigilant with sun protection always to delay visible signs for as long as possible.

How many hours per week of surfing is considered high risk for wrinkles?

Dermatologists state any unprotected sun exposure can cause damage. However, more than 10 hours weekly of regular surfing without proper sunscreen and protective measures increases risk significantly of accelerated wrinkles according to studies.

Will a daily moisturizer and SPF be enough protection for a surfer?

While daily moisturizer+SPF use helps immensely, additional protective strategies like rashguards, wide-brimmed hats and limiting peak UV hours (10am-4pm) further safeguard skin, according to dermatologist recommendations. A multi-factor approach is best.

At what age should a regular surfer see a dermatologist?

It’s recommended all regular surfers establish a relationship with a board-certified dermatologist by age 30 to monitor skin health and catch any signs of skin damage or cancer early according to American Academy of Dermatology guidelines. Annual checks are ideal.

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