Can Sunscreen be Used to Prevent Burning from Welding?

You are here because you are aware of how harmful the UV radiation from welding can be to your skin. But, you are not sure as to what can be the remedy to deal with these harmful effects. You doubt whether a mere sunscreen will be enough to deal with these dangerous radiations. 

Well, the answer is a big YES! Sunscreens can act as an effective precautionary measure to deal with the harmful effects of UV radiation emitted during welding procedures. But, there are situations when these will not be enough.

So, let’s see more about it…

Can Sunscreen be Used to Prevent Burning from Welding

How are welding burns different from sunburns?

Both welding radiations and sun radiations are similar. But, unlike sun radiation, in welding, you get exposed to the entire spectrum of UV radiation making the effect a hundred times worse. Long exposure to these radiations can cause severe health problems like skin cancer.

There are three types of radiations:

UVA radiation – This is the most common type of radiation that people are exposed to. UV radiation from welding is said to cause an “Arc eye” or “welders’ eye”. This condition develops an inflammation of eyes that causes severe pain and extreme sensitivity to light.

UVB radiation – UVB is not as common as UVA. But these radiations are more dangerous than UVA and can cause skin cancer and other deadly diseases. These radiations are not common as 90% of them are absorbed by the Ozone layer.

UVC radiation – These radiations are highly dangerous, but they are completely absorbed by the Ozone layer. However, certain welding procedures release these radiations. 

UV rays are the most produced radiations during the welding process and some procedures release more than others. GMAW, for instance, releases such radiations in huge numbers and so does those welding procedures with Argon gas.

Therefore, there are a lot of ways for you to be in close proximity to dangerous situations. These can result in premature aging of your skin and cause basal or melanoma carcinoma. 

Why is sunscreen said to be an effective precautionary measure to deal with burns from welding?

You very well know how sunscreens act as protection from the effects of sunlight. Well, that is exactly how it works here. Except for the fact that these sunscreens need to be of very good quality and can deal with much stronger rays.

While welding, you will be very close to from where the radiations arise. Therefore, the shield, to protect your skin that is exposed, needs to be an effective one. The presence of Zinc Oxide is widely acknowledged as a necessity for sunscreen used for preventing welding burns.

As there are various kinds of radiations there, the physical block you use apart from other material things like a long sleeve and leather jacket needs one that can deal with almost any kind of radiation that gets emitted during welding. Therefore people prefer ‘broad spectrum’ sunscreens available in the market.

Moreover, don’t you think it is better to have something nourishing and refreshing on your skin to keep it supple while you are going to work in the heat and start sweating?

See also: How to use welding mask to view solar eclipse

What all to look for while choosing the right sunscreen for welding burns?

1. Know your skin

Knowing your skin is like getting to know yourself. Yes. You have to analyze and understand your skin’s behavior. Each individual has his type of skin that will not be the same as anyone else’s. 

You can find sunscreen suitable for your skin and this is very much a necessity for having good and effortless protection. Those who have oily skin shall prefer that sunscreen with isododecane and silica, while those with dry skin shall go for sunscreens with glycerine, silicone, oils, etc.

Likewise, you can find those which are suitable for any type of skin. Just spend a few hours exploring your skin and understand its need. 

Especially, when it comes to a rigorous procedure like welding you need to be careful in selecting products for your skin as it is that part of your body that will be exposed to a polluted atmosphere and will be under immense heat during the entire time of the process. You choose the best sunscreen therefore would be a huge factor in determining your skin’s health.

2. Be sure of the ingredients

The ingredients say a lot about the kind of effect a particular brand can have on one’s skin. As the welding rays are made of very intense rays, you need to have protection from UVB and UVA protection. You need to have a keen eye to see what all are included and the amount in which they are present.

The most recommended ingredient to deal with welding burns is Zinc Oxide. At least the minimum SPF needs to be 30, but SPF 45 and SPF 50 are much better while dealing with hot metals. 

You also need to be very careful, while checking the ingredients. For instance, an ingredient like oxybenzone can cause very bad allergic reactions and can even disrupt hormones. Always use a ‘broad spectrum’ sunscreen to have protection from almost any kind of rays released during welding.

3. Don’t make your allergy worse!

Another thing that you need to take care of is the presence of alcohol in your sunscreen. Those with acne need to be particularly keen while selecting sunscreens, as the presence of alcohol can trigger your allergy. But, certain sunscreen in a gel formula, which contains alcohol, might not have much reaction. 

Hence, before buying sunscreen you need to do thorough research on these things and read reviews to reach an apt conclusion.

See also: Which type of Apron is used for welding?

What are the situations where sunscreen won’t be enough to deal with welding burns?

Welding burns that can be prevented before happening are the ones that we have been talking about so far. So what about other plausible situations?

Yes, there are a lot of unfortunate situations that can arise during welding which can never be prevented by a cream applied to your skin. Molten metal and sparks are such instances where your skin can get easily injured if it gets in contact with such stuff. 

In certain cases, blisters can pop up irrespective of the precautionary measures like sunscreen as the intensity of heat and the chemical reactions are pretty high. Even a layman can imagine how these situations can affect one’s skin. 

Tragic incidents are reported every year and that too with long-lasting consequences. 

So what is it that you can do to prevent these extreme cases where sunscreen won’t be enough?

You can do a lot. Starting with helmets and leather jackets, you have a wide variety of options that can be adopted in your work to keep yourself safe throughout the process. Some of the things you can use are:

      • Safety goggles
      • Gloves
      • Aprons
      • Flame resistant boots
      • Leather jacket
      • Flame resistant earmuffs and earplugs
      • Long sleeves

You should also not forget to remove any combustible materials inside your clothes before getting into work. Also, avoid using metal screen sheets during heavy cutting or welding.

What are some of the best sunscreens available in the market to prevent welding burns?

We have come up with details of the best sunscreens available in the market for the prevention of welding burns.

Industrial Zinc Oxide Sunscreen SPF30+: claims to be a full broad spectrum and therefore can be an excellent choice. This sunscreen leaves no white residue after rubbing and has anti-inflammatory properties.

Neutrogena Sport Face Sunscreen SPF 70+: It promises supreme sun protection against UVA and UVB radiations. This is formulated with a sunscreen technology for sun protection called Helioplex that helps to nourish the skin. This sunscreen is specially formulated for outdoor activities and claims to reduce the risk of skin cancer.

EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen: This sunscreen is broad-spectrum and is also suitable for those with acne issues. It is a mineral-based Zinc Oxide formula. It helps to keep skin calm especially if you are prone to acne, discoloration, and rosacea. 

Banana Boat Sunscreen Ultra Defense: This water resistant sunscreen is enriched with vitamin A&E and Aloe vera. It is rub free and very water resistant. With this sunscreen you can spray it easily and therefore no need to use your hand to apply the cream.

Baby Sunscreen Natural Sunblock: The producers claim that it is the first to pass the Whole Foods Premium Care requirements. With SPF 50 you can expect the sunscreen to do its sole job perfectly. It can be applied with a non-oily feel and can help those who are looking for products that can blend perfectly with their sensitive skin.

Hope that you got an idea as to how sunscreen plays an important role in the physical health of a person who spends most of his time welding. Remember, your health should always be given priority especially if you are into such rigorous activities!

Steve Goodman
Experienced welder with 7+ years of expertise in all the latest welding techniques MIG, flux and stick welding, drill press, crane operation and metal fabrication. Welding certificate course graduate and 2018 Excellence in Welding award winner.

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