Perhaps you remember the days before sunscreen, spending long hours in the sun coated in baby oil to bronze winter white skin? My childhood memories include several painful sunburns as a summer vacation rite of passage. Fast forward 40 years and unless you are living under a rock, most American’s are aware of sun dangers and take steps to reduce harmful exposure.
Would it surprise you to learn that despite the use of sunscreen, the cases of melanoma have consistently risen since 1975? As an athlete, who spends a lot of time outside, it begs the question, what is the best sunscreen for sports? Many of us don’t understand how sunscreens work, making that a good place to start.
To answer the question, what is the best sunscreen for sports, most of us need a better understanding of how they work.
There are four different types of ultraviolet radiation that can hurt us. Two we don’t need to worry about, UVC never comes through the atmosphere, and the other happens with welding. However, both UVB and UVA can damage our skin. A simple way to think of it is UVB burns your skin and UVA ages your skin.
What is SPF?
Sun Protection Factor. SPF is a measurement of how well a sunscreen will protect the skin from the burning caused by UVB Rays, ONE of sun’s TWO damaging ultraviolet rays.
Essentially what it means to the consumer is how long you can stay in the sun before you burn.
Here’s an easy way to understand SPF. If it takes 10 minutes for your skin to burn a value of SPF 35 means, you can stay out in the sun 350 minutes (10×35=350) before you will start to burn. Everyone is different but typically fair skin burns in 10 minutes, olive skin in 15 minutes and dark skin 20.
How do I protect my skin from both UVB and UVA rays?
Sunscreens labeled Broad Spectrum address the issues caused by both UVB and UVA rays.
How does sunscreen protect your skin?
There are two types of sunscreen. Physical sunscreen sometimes referred to as non-organic or mineral sunscreen and chemical sunscreens sometimes referred to as organic.
Physical sunscreen contains ingredients like titanium oxide and zinc oxide which block and deflect the UV rays from entering your skin.
Chemical sunscreen contains ingredients like benzo salicylate which absorbs and scatters the rays.
What is the best sunscreen, physical or chemical?
Most experts recommend physical sunscreens. However, the active ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide have a pasty texture and white color. You may remember the days when a lifeguard’s nose was covered in white? That’s the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Science has now micronized those ingredients which make them easier to rub into the skin.
For those of us with sensitive skin, physical sunscreens cause fewer reactions.
The downside to physical sunscreens is since they are thicker and harder to rub in there may be gaps in coverage.
Also, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are expensive to process correctly. It’s best to make sure you purchase from a company that doesn’t shortcut the manufacturing process.
What about spray sunscreens?
I’ve seen a lot of this, particularly on the pickleball courts. It’s an excellent idea, keeping your hands out of the application process, but most experts agree that spray sunscreens typically lead to coverage gaps on the skin.
What is the best sunscreen for sweating?
A sunscreen that is water resistant helps but nothing beats frequent application.
Speaking of application….Most experts agree to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before venturing outside and reapply every 80 minutes.
All that said, there is no proof that sunscreen alone will eliminate your risk of cancer! What?!!!
Sunscreen should be part of an overall sun plan, which includes covering up, spending time in the shade and planning your outdoor time when the sun is lower in the sky, mornings or evenings.
Living in the mountains and spending an average of 120 days skiing significantly increases my sun exposure. I rely on high-quality sunscreens and covering up. Lightweight, sun protection clothing, and hats in the summer. For the winter sun, a buff covering my face is indispensable.
What is the best sunscreen?
It’s from a trusted manufacturer, broad spectrum, applied thoroughly, reapplied after 80 minutes and used consistently as part of an overall sun protection plan.
It’s likely you will never completely eliminate the harmful effects of the sun but with some knowledge and pre-planning, you can minimize them.
Superior sunscreen from a source you can trust is essential. If you would like to learn more about the products I use personally click here.