As athletes and outdoor enthusiasts we love being active while immersed in nature; we are drawn to the mountains, forests, and oceans. But our time in the outdoors leaves us exposed to nature's forces; wind, rain, gravity...and sunlight.
Studies show just how much this time in the sun is impacting our skin, becoming a major factor in aging and skin damage, including skin cancer. In this SPF blog we look at the facts behind daily sun exposure, why using sunscreen 365 days a year is so important to KINeSYS, and how changing the mindset around our sunscreen routine can make a difference.
Outdoor lovers are more susceptible
While regular physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of most cancers, skin cancer is an exception. Whether you are a hiker, pickleball player, or triathlete, individuals who regularly exercise in the outdoors are exceeding recommended UV limits. During the summer and Autumn months this can increase up to 8 times the suggested daily exposure.
“Sun protection in athletes is especially important as multiple studies demonstrate an elevated risk of skin cancer for those who regularly participate in outdoor sports or exercise. Surprisingly, fewer than 25% of surveyed athletes reported regular use of sunscreen, so there is clearly more awareness-raising that needs to be done.”
Incidental exposure makes an impact
While using sun protection for planned outdoor activities seems a no brainer, research actually shows that for the average person incidental sun exposure accounts for 78% of all sun damage. What exactly is incidental sun exposure? It’s the time you are unintentionally exposed to the sun. On your way to work, taking a trip to the coffee shop, walking the dog around the block, coming in and out of the grocery store. Every little adventure into the sunlight is slowly increasing your hours of exposure.
We also want to bust the myth that cloudy days are safer. While overcast conditions may cool temperatures, they only reduce UV radiation by 20 to 40 percent. Clouds can filter UVB rays, which cause sunburns, but won’t block out UVA rays, which are responsible for causing lasting damage and premature aging.
Another important fact people need to be aware of is that UVA rays penetrate glass. That means if you sit directly behind a window at work, you are likely being exposed to eight extra hours of radiation per day. But since UVB rays don't penetrate glass, you won’t tan or burn, and there’s no benefit from the production of Vitamin D.
Busting Sunscreen Myths
There is a lot of conflicting information online when it comes to the safety of sunscreen, dispelling fiction from science isn’t always easy. Here are some common myths which substantial research disproves.
‘Sunscreen doesn’t protect from the three common types of skin cancer’
There are excellent studies which show sunscreen protects against the three main skin cancers; squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma. The degree of protection that sunscreen provides is directly related to the degree to which ultraviolet radiation is associated with the formation of each particular skin cancer. For instance, in prospective studies of sunscreen, the incidence of squamous cell carcinoma is reduced the most—as much as 40% over four years.
‘Nanoparticles used in sunscreens with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are harmful’
Nanoparticles, that are used as physical sun blockers, are made using a process called micronizing that breaks up larger particles. This makes the sunscreens easier to apply and allows them to disappear into the skin, in contrast to the greasy, white sunblocks of the past. Nanoparticles have not been shown to penetrate beyond the level of the skin and migrate into the bloodstream, which means that they are unlikely to create health risks.
‘Wearing sunscreen will make you deficient in Vitamin D’
Being concerned about vitamin D deficiency should not be a reason to avoid sun protection. Like most things in life (except chocolate!), it is about moderation and finding a balance. Spending even a short time in the sun without sunscreen can provide the body with all of the vitamin D it needs for the day. For a person with light skin, this could be 15min.
365 Sunscreen, It’s just like Toothpaste
Of course we are talking metaphorically here, and not literally.
Just like brushing your teeth, application of sunscreen needs to become part of your daily routine.
Yep, that is 365 days a year. If you are only applying sunscreen for planned outdoor activities, when the weather looks sunny, then the fact is you are not protecting your skin enough.
A study conducted in Queensland Australia, has shown that daily use of broad spectrum sunscreen slows down the ageing process of skin, as well as preventing skin cancer. The world-first study of 900 young and middle-aged men and women showed that after four and a half years, those who applied sunscreen most days had no detectable ageing of the skin. They also had 24 per cent less skin ageing than people who used sunscreen only some of the time, if at all.
Including sunscreen application in your daily routine means you don’t have to add up incidental exposure, or attempt to predict the weather. You will know with certainty that you’ve taken a substantial step toward protecting your skin against long lasting damage.
If you are going to do it, do it right
Research has shown that even people who are consistently using sunscreen are often making vital errors. So we decided to leave you with five tips for getting the most out of your sunscreen routine.
Check the Expiry
Yes it's true, sunscreen does not last forever. In fact if you are using a sunscreen that is beyond the expiry date it’s SPF is not effective.
Keep them Cool
The majority of people don’t realise that sunscreen deteriorates when stored in extreme temperatures, we recommend below 30 degrees celsius. If you leave bottles in the car or out in the sun, effectively you are cooking your sunscreen and it will lose effectiveness.
85% of people are not applying enough sunscreen. It’s important to carefully check the directions on your sunscreen bottle, and apply as directed. This is true to the amount of sunscreen used, and to how often you should be reapplying. Sunscreen is a barrier that relies on a particular amount of product to deliver the advertised SPF, and on average you should be reapplying at least every two hours, immediately swimming or towel drying or every 80 minutes if you are sweating.
Sunscreen, One Part of the Puzzle
While daily correct application of sunscreen will go a long way in avoiding sun damage, your approach to protection shouldn’t be limited to just this. Wear protective clothing that is UV rated, always head out with a hat and sunnies, and make an effort to take shelter from the sun during peak UV times.
Our purpose for KINeSYS is to play a role in creating a future free from skin cancer, this is why educating people about 365 sunscreen is so important to us. Looking at the science it’s easy to see that taking the daily approach to protection provides significant benefits for your skin. Changing routines isn’t always easy for humans, but changing our mindset can be a powerful first step.