Should Welders Wear Sunscreen? [Ask A Pro]

Welding can be a huge risk for occupational workers who are exposed to this activity for long durations. As we know, welding has some side effects. These effects can cause enough harm to even cause cancer. This is due to the amount of UV radiation welders get exposed to while welding. This fact can at times raise a question, should welders wear sunscreen?

Yes, they should. Using biodegradable sunscreens made out of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can protect you from harmful UV rays. Using sunscreen can protect welders from skin cancer by blocking out UVA, UVB, and UVC rays.

In this article, I will talk about the harmful UV radiation of welding in much more detail and how something as simple as sunscreen can help protect against serious illnesses like cancer. So, if you are a professional welder, I urge you to keep on reading.

Can Welding Harm the Skin?

By harm, let’s keep it exclusive to health for now. Welding indeed can be physically straining and can wear out even the best of the best after a long day of work. However, you can still get back to working after a noticeable amount of rest. The real impact of welding is its exposure to harmful rays. These harmful rays can cause burns, conjunctivitis, and cancer.

Steady, constant, and long-term exposure to harmful rays emitted while welding can be fatal and quite severe if left unchecked. The radiation that’s given off through the arcs of welding is called electromagnetic radiation. These radiations include infrared (700-1400 nanometers), ultra violet (200-400 nanometers) and visible light (400-700 nanometers).

However, in this article, our focus will be on skin-related impacts. The main culprit for skin-related harm caused by welding is UV rays. The damage to the skin from infrared or visible light is almost negligible. However, exposure to UV rays works almost the same way as UV rays from the sun does when you’re on a beach.

When welding, if your skin does not have any sort of UV protection, the harmful UV rays will cause burns. However, the close proximity working conditions and long-term exposure only makes the damage far worse as you may suffer from burns similar to the nature of ‘sunburns’.

These burns can be as severe as second or even third-degree burns if you prolong your exposure to the harmful UV rays with no proper protection. UV radiation burns can be severe if left unchecked as they can cause infections. High intensity UV radiation is artificially given off when welding materials like aluminum.

On the other hand, slow yet constant low-intensity exposure to UV radiation can also cause skin cancer if left unchecked. Either way, if you’re into welding, just know that avoiding these dangers are impossible and are an important element of this field. There is no way to stop these radiations, the only possible way to fight them off are through protective measures.

How to Prevent The Harms Of Welding?

Personally speaking, the best way to tackle these harmful elements is through proper clothing. Full-fledged welding appropriate equipment like welding helmets with filters, PPE, leather boots, leather jackets, caps, and flame-resistant gloves will certainly provide full protection. These are all a must-have if you’re planning to pursue a career in welding. And as an extra layer of protection, sunscreen helps too.

Some welding jobs may even fire you if you fail to follow these clothing guidelines. Making them an essential ally when fighting against UV radiation. Thus, I’ll be clear on the stance that your clothing is a very important aspect in terms of protecting yourself against burns from welding (source).

Considering a scenario where you aren’t a professional welder and maybe you’re just playing a dad or an uncle trying to weld a household or hobby item together, where does that leave you? Buying an entire outfit of expensive welding equipment might not seem a great investment if you’re only looking forward to welding once in a while.

Hence, if you’re looking for a cheaper yet effective alternative towards UV protection, read the next section of this article.

Should Welders Use Sunscreen?

As long as there is proper clothing, then there is enough protection present already to reduce the exposure. However, clothing still can’t always cover your skin at all times. Additionally, clothing just might not be your ideal choice when your surroundings are too hot to handle.

In these cases, both professional welders and hobbyists can find the protective clothing to be inconvenient. Those who do sculpting through welding may also find it difficult to stay true to their art without having full naked control over their hands for wearing gloves.

Thus, sunscreens come to play as the only means of proper protection against UV burns when protective clothing is not worn. Even if you wear a full-blown PPE, the extra layer of protection can do you good. It’s better to be safe than sorry when being sorry means getting cancer.

However, choosing the right sunscreen is just as important if you are to protect yourself from UV burns and certainly do so ethically. The right sunscreen can provide instant protection against all types of UV rays with full coverage.

What Kind of Sunscreen Should You Use?

For 97% protection against UV rays use SPF 30, if you want 99% protection then SPF 100 would be your best bet. A perfect middle ground would go to SPF 45 rated sunscreen. Also, it is of utmost importance that you go for biodegradable sunscreen as non-biodegradable ones are extremely harmful for the environment.

It is no foreign news that too much usage of sunscreen that is considered non-biodegradable can affect coral reefs.

You may have had prior knowledge about this as Hawaii and many beaches have banned the usage of non-biodegradable sunscreen. As it is widely claimed, swimming with this sunscreen can seep on water and end up reaching the corals. How is this relevant to welders and their application of sunscreen?

This is a common question as welders are only expected to apply sunscreen exclusively for their workplace. Hence, why should it matter if they’re not gone swimming to beaches right after work? Well, once you’ve finished your work after an excruciating day of welding, it is only natural for you to take a shower with sunscreen on.

Once you wash off this sunscreen, they are washed down to our oceans through the drains. These ultimately end up reaching Coral reefs. Hence, the only type of sunscreen you should use are biodegradable Sunscreens consisting of non-toxic zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (source).


That should just about cover all that there was left regarding whether or not should welders use sunscreen? To sum it up, you should always use sunscreen even as an additional precaution, especially on days when you lack the appropriate clothing. Protecting yourself with heavy garments may not always be the ideal choice given the context of your surroundings.

Thus, your best bet for protection lies under the hands of sunscreens. Even while you do rely on them to help you stay clear from burns and the risk of developing skin cancer, make sure that you do so in a way that is safe for your environment as well. I hope you’ve learned a great deal from this article and I thank you for your time till the end. Make sure to weld safely. Farewell.

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