I am a very fair person–a ginger, the fairest of them all (ha!) … as in, if I spend more than about a half hour outdoors, even with sunblock, my skin can start feeling about a half size too small. While this is unfortunate in and of itself, I enjoy being outdoors as much as the next person, and I also enjoy outdoor sports. Specifically, endurance sports and water sports–which are pretty much the antichrist for ginger nuts like me. Being a person that is also quite vain and likes not looking like grandpa’s busted old leather suitcase, I have learned a lot over the years on sports skincare: how to balance, as best as possible anyway, having an active life outdoors with not looking like Magda.
I decided to do a three-part series on how to look fly AF while simultaneously not prematurely aging and getting skin cancer AND kicking ass and taking names. It’s easier than it looks (well, not the kicking ass and taking names part. I’m still working on that).
Today, we’ll start with protecting your skin (the most important bit). Seriously, I don’t care how amazingly bronzed or deep your skin tone naturally is (OK not true, I totally do, because I’m insanely jealous)–you should be wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen every day. EVERY DAY. Face, neck, and rub the extra on the backs of your hands. If you’re wearing a vneck top, I’d slap some there, too (seriously, you’ve seen ladies with the crazy leathery chests, right? That skin is thin and it needs your help.
Sports Skincare: How Do I Know My Skin is Protected?
Notice how I said broad spectrum in the last paragraph. This is super important. The SPF number on your tube of sunscreen corresponds to how much UVB is blocked from your precious skin. Those are burning rays, and of course you don’t want to look like a lobster so this is good. Aim for 30 or better (and don’t go ham over anything over 50, the amount of protection offered above 50-factor is practically nothing). However, the sun also hurtles different, longer wavelength UV rays at you each day called UVA rays. Because they are so long (and so strong), they’re about to get the friction … wait, no. Anyway, these rays penetrate deep into your skin to potentially cause cancer and premature aging. Don’t make me put Magda’s picture up again.
The SPF number (protection from UVB) is standardized worldwide, but there (gulp) is no standard for UVA protection. Western companies may advertise with the word “broad spectrum” and Asian companies often use the PA + system (mo plusses is mo betta).
So, we now know in sports skincare we need a sunscreen that’s broad spectrum and at least SPF30. Everyday. Right? You also, to get the full benefit of that factor, need to apply enough sunscreen. That means 1/4 teaspoon for your face, and about an ounce for your whole body.
But I Don’t Like Sunscreen–It Runs Into My Eyes, Looks White, Feels Greasy, blah blah blah
Tough titties, lady (or man). MAGDA. CANCER. Seriously though, you maybe just haven’t found the right sunscreen. And NO, coconut oil is NOT sunscreen. Stop it already with the damn coconut oil.
Sunscreen is sticky/thicky/yucky enough for ladies that lunch, but things get shitty real fast if you’re a sweaty betty. But, not all sunscreen is like that. If you’ve only used American sunscreen, you’re missing out. Here’s why:
In every country but America, sunscreen active ingredients are considered cosmetics and regulated as such. In America, the FDA considers them to be drugs, and therefore subject to the crazy FDA approval system. What this means to you is that it has not been cost effective for sunscreen companies to push through any of the handfuls of sunscreen ingredients that have been developed recently. Companies reserve those newer (read: better) ingredients for products sold outside the U.S., and we get our old, white, greasy, often not even full spectrum hot messes of sunblocks.
The top performing sunblocks (proven to block the highest percentage of UVA and UVB rays) currently are made in France. Which, weirdly, has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Come on French people … They also tend to be pricey and heavier feeling than …
Japanese sunblocks. Also very high performing, Japanese sunblocks pair superior full spectrum UV blocking with cosmetic elegance. AKA, they look clear and feel like nothing on your face. They also tend to be reasonably priced.
But I Told You, Sunblock Runs Into My Eyes
Yeahhhhh, that one. That’s a big one. What Japanese sunscreens don’t tend to do well on (but if you know of one, TELL ME!!!!!) is being super water and sweat proof because, well, that would make them NOT cosmetically elegant and that’s their charm.
What to do: if you are the second-sweatiest person on the planet (sorry, I hold the first place spot there), try my most excellent two-layer system. Step one: put on an adequate layer of your broad spectrum sunscreen of choice (PA ++++ is the highest level, shoot for that if you can). Step two: when it is dry, spray yourself down with a layer of either a. Coppertone Sport spray sunblock (it has to be the spray, in the blue can; the lotion doesn’t glue down as well) or b. an effective makeup setting spray like Urban Decay All-Nighter (this is great for your face, but you’ll go broke real fast spraying this one all over your body).
Um, Meaghan, if I just put on sunblock, why am I adding another layer of sunblock on top? Can’t I just use the spray?
No, you cannot. Unless you like cancer and premature aging, because that’s how you get cancer and premature aging. The Coppertone spray is not full-spectrum, but what it is awesome at is gluing to you like a toddler on your leg on his first-ever trip to the babysitter. Voila, your full spectrum sunblock that doesn’t make you look like Casper or a greasy hotdog is locked down tight.
Sports Skincare: Be Smart (honestly that’s the answer to everything in life, isn’t it?)
If your workout schedule allows, try and exercise outdoors outside of the hours of 10-2, when the UV index is highest. That’s not always possible, and when it’s not, make sure you’re wearing a hat and 100% UV protecting sunglasses. Covering as much skin with sun cut fabrics as you can will also minimize your exposure (far better than sunblock). And … reapply, reapply, reapply. Out of the pool/ocean: reapply. Been running two hours? Reapply. No sunscreen (or sunscreen system) is going to withstand 8 hours of sweat and water. Don’t forget SPF in your chapstick, either. The skin on your lips is suuuuuuper thin.
And, my sunscreen rule of thumb (after wear it every.damn.day of course) is to keep it cheap. If you’ve bought yourself a little bottle of super fancy, $60 sunscreen, you’re going to be a cheap ass with it and put it on too thin or try and use it less. Get yourself the $6 bottle of Biore and spread it on thick.
If you liked this, check out the next two installments of this super entertaining and fact-filled adventure on sports skincare … looking fly AF whilst sporting it up, and getting your skin clean and keeping it looking nice after all that sweat/sunscreen/saltwater, mud, sand … I could do this all day. Better yet, click subscribe over there on the right so you don’t miss any of the fun.
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