Can drinking water prevent sunburns? In September 2017, Tom Brady, the American football quarterback of the New England Patriots, revealed his sunburn prevention method, news of which has made its way into mainstream media and raised many alarmed eyebrows. According to Brady in his recently published book, “The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance”, drinking water has helped him prevent the occurrence of sunburns. The excerpt which drew considerable attention states:

When I was growing up, and playing outside in the sun, I got sunburned a lot. I was a fair-skinned Irish boy, after all. These days, even if I get an adequate amount of sun, I won’t get a sunburn, which I credit to the amount of water I drink

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So does water prevent sunburns? Despite Brady’s claims, there is actually no scientific evidence that supports drinking water as an effective method of preventing sunburns. 

The health benefits of water are undeniable. Water itself makes up 55% to 75% of your body weight depending on your sex and age and is essential for human life.² It is important for maintaining your body temperature and helps cushion and protect your joints, tissues, and spinal cord.³ It also helps your body get rid of waste through perspiration, urination, and bowel movements. However, even though water serves many important purposes, there is no research that shows it can prevent sun-induced skin damage.

The actual cause of sunburns is due to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. A sunburn is actually your body’s natural defense mechanism kicking in against the overexposure to UV. Your body senses the skin damage and sends out inflammatory responses, leading to the pain and redness you experience during a sunburn.⁴ In other words, sunburns have to do with UV exposure, not the amount of water you drink.

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For proper sun protection, it is recommended to wear protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, along with using sunscreen. To avoid a sunburn, you can also use Sun Index. Available for iOS and Android, the free app not only lets you know how much sunscreen to apply, but also how long you can stay outside with or without sun protection before developing a sunburn.

  1. Brady, T. (2017). The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance. New York: Simon & Schuster, p. 208.
  2. Popkin, B.M. et al. (2010). Water, Hydration, and Health. Nutrition Reviews, 68(8): 439-458. Retrieved October 16, 2017
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016). Water and Nutrition. Retrieved October 16, 2017
  4. Rhodes, L.E. et al. (2009). The sunburn response in human skin is characterized by sequential eicosanoid profiles that may mediate its early and late phases. FASEB, 23(11): 3947-3956. Retrieved October 16, 2017