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Enjoy the water while staying sun safe

Megan Moore (pictured) is a Kaiser Permanente dermatologist who is also an outdoor swimmer. Learn her practical tips for protecting your skin while on the water.

As a dermatologist with many long-time patients at Kaiser Permanente Park Shadelands, Megan Moore, MD, has been dispensing skincare and healthy living advice for 13 years.

But it was one of her senior patients who one day returned the favor.

“She called me out,” Dr. Moore said with a laugh. “She said, ‘You are always saying someday you will start swimming again. Stop making excuses!’”

Coincidentally, that same day Dr. Moore received an email promoting her local pool’s masters swim team. And so the dormant swimmer returned to the water.

A meditative sport

Growing up in Hayward, California, Dr. Moore ran cross-country and swam, eventually competing on a Division 3 swim team her freshman year of college. “It was never my identity, though; I did sports to be with my friends,” she said.

In medical school, she still swam some and even ran a marathon. She chose her specialty after being inspired by a dermatologist she met and admired in college, who brought “humanism to his medical practice,” Dr. Moore said. “He said the best thing about the practice of dermatology is the patients. Because after a time you will see that they are much more interesting than their skin conditions.”

It was after having her 4 children that Dr. Moore joined the Walnut Creek Masters Swim Team 2 nights a week, rediscovering the benefits of swimming. “I love that in the pool I am completely unreachable,” she said. “I have goals that are hard but have nothing to do with work or family. And it’s a unique sensory experience that is very meditative.”

The Trans Tahoe Relay

In mid-July, Dr. Moore joined 5 other women on her masters team ranging in age from 30s to 60s for their third year swimming the Trans Tahoe Relay — a competition legendary for the cold, deep water that even attracts Olympians. 

Each team has a colorfully decorated boat, alongside which the 6 swimmers take turns in 10- to 30-minute increments in crossing the 12 miles of water. Dr. Moore’s team finished in 4 hours and 52 minutes. This year the water was a balmy mid-60s and too shallow for boats to celebrate the race end at the shore. “We spend the morning swimming, cheering, and dancing,” she said. “Our boat is known for playing loud girl power anthems.”

While she described the relay as a “bucket list open water swim for many,” Dr. Moore said her team does it for the personal challenge and sheer fun. In fact, she doesn’t even know where they placed this year.

Embrace the outdoors

Dr. Moore is in a unique position to advise others on sun safety. “Dermatologists know swimming is a bad sport for skin,” she said, adding that nonetheless she is hooked; among its many gifts, it reduces stress and improves sleep. 

Dr. Moore offers 3 simple tips for water-sun safety:

• Swim outdoors early in the morning or in the late afternoon or evening. (She now swims at 5:30 a.m.) If possible, swim indoors or under a covered pool. Seek out shade as much as you can.

• Zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, while white and sticky, are best when in the water. Wear a minimum SPF 30, which blocks 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. An ounce of sunscreen must be reapplied every 2 hours. (More frequently if washed away by water or sweat.)

• While rash guards can be draggy for lap-swimmers, wear one and a wide-brimmed hat while playing in the water.    

“The biggest risk to Americans now is being sedentary,” Dr. Moore said. “Getting outside with others has significant mental and physical health benefits. I tell my patients to be as active as they can while observing simple sun safety.”

Read more about summertime safety in Preventing heat dangers in the hottest summer on record.

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