While it’s easy to ignore the risk of sun exposure when you’re young (especially if your parents lather you with SPF 45 the minute you take a step through the front door), as adults, it is important to remember that there is such a thing as getting too much sun.The effort you make now to protect your skin could add years to your life later on.
Less obvious than damage caused by sun tanning are the damages to your skin that occur on a daily basis. If you haven’t made the regular application of sunscreen a part of your daily ritual, it may be time to rethink your routine.
According to the WHO, the health risks of not using proper sun protection are severe and on the rise. Current statistics show that over 3 million skin cancer cases occur globally each year. Moreover, a shocking 1 in 5 Americans will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime including melanoma, the most fatal type of skin cancer.
What is the main factor in the predisposition of melanoma? Recreational exposure to the sun and a history of sunburn. I bet that beach umbrella is looking pretty good right about now.
While sun exposure is a serious issue for everyone stepping out for brief periods during peak hours of the day when the sun is at its highest (11:00am-4:00pm), the danger is double for athletes gearing up for another season spanning the summer months. Whether you’re a runner leaving the treadmill behind in search of outdoor trails or a mountain climber indulging in warmer weather, the only thing that should be burning is the pavement, the turf, or the rock beneath your feet.
That said, it can be hard to combine protecting your skin with an active lifestyle that includes serious exposure to the elements and a whole lot of sweat.
So, how do you take care of your skin while taking care of yourself? It’s as simple as choosing the right sunscreen. Essentially, there are two types of sunscreens on the market today: chemical (odourless and runny) and physical (thick and opaque, and often referred to as sun block).
Whereas chemical sunscreens absorb the sun, physical sunscreens literally act as a barrier between your skin and the sun’s rays. Chemical sunscreens, as the name suggests, contain chemical filters which can cause allergic reactions and aggravate the skin. Physical sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, however, can cause your skin to break out and block pours. Since both types of sunscreens protect against harmful UVA and UVB rays, the best choice of sunscreen is really the one that best suits your lifestyle.
For someone who’s constantly on the go, there are three important questions to keep in mind when purchasing proper sun protection: First of all, is it sweat-proof? If it doesn’t say sweat-proof, it’s not. It will run down your face, your eyes will sting and you’ll end up wishing you were sitting inside playing a game of chess.
Next question: Is it waterproof (or very/highly water resistant)? In order for a sunscreen to be labeled waterproof or very/highly water resistant, the sunscreen must be able to withstand water for up to 80 minutes.
Finally, what is the Sun Protection Factor (SPF)? According to the experts, anything above 30 and you’re good to go.
Also, keep an eye out for sunscreens that are advertised as being “photostable”. A photostable sunscreen remains unchanged during exposure to sunlight. It sounds obvious, I know but it’s not, so pay attention to what you purchase.
To help guide you on your way to better protecting the skin you’re in, here are three sunscreens that meet the criteria for everybody on the run:
Guaranteed waterproof and sweat proof, this sunscreen was developed specifically for athletes by athletes. The maker of Scape (an outdoor enthusiast, biochemist, and developer of the Johnson and Johnson Neutrogena skin line) prides himself on having developed a product that allows the skin to breathe naturally, allowing the body’s temperature to remain steady during the toughest of workouts. Scape is the chosen sunscreen of high-performance athletes around the world including two-time Ironman World Champion, Craig Alexander, spokesman of the product.
Everstride may not specialize in sunscreen but they do specialize in a line of products designed to help and heal the active man or woman. Their products receive great reviews and their sunscreen is advertised as a physical sun block that remains lightweight. Sold in spray form, the Everstride Skin Defense is rub-free and guaranteed to keep the sweat off your face, where it doesn’t belong.
Despite the fact it’s marked as water-resistant and not waterproof, Anthelios has been nominated by one blogger as the best sunscreen on the market for runners. With a variety of products that contain Mexoryl XL (which protects against UVA and UVB rays), and are photostable, sweat and water resistant, Anthelios is also Hypoallergenic and suitable for all skin types.
While a little bit of sun is good for you, a lot of sun will do more harm than good. Stocking up on your Vitamin D is important, and essential in the maintenance of strong bones and teeth, but that doesn’t mean you should spend hours on end basking under the sun’s rays without the proper protection. Be sure to step out of the sun throughout the day and apply (and re-apply) sunscreen as needed. Years down the road, you’ll be glad you took the time to lather up.
Arden Jobling-Hey, known to followers of her personal lifestyle-travel blog as thefriendlygiraffe, is a freelance writer, world traveler, volunteer and co-founder of the Ottawa based NGO, Humanitarian Mobility International. Canuck by birth, Arden is a self-proclaimed citizen of the world and holds an M.A in International Communications and Development from City London University.