As the days get longer and the sun brightly shines above us, there’s no denying it feels good to be outside – especially if you’re regularly training or practicing a sport. The sun enhances our mood and helps us feel less stressed, so it’s only natural that we enjoy our time in the fresh air. However, athletes and outdoor fanatics are at elevated risk of skin cancer due to being routinely exposed to the sun, and high levels of UV radiation1.
Extended time outside, whether you’re playing a sport or not, puts you at risk of sun damage, which in turn can cause sunburn, skin cancer, and premature aging. But athletes are a particularly important risk group, as many forget to apply sunscreen, wear uniforms that don’t adequately protect them from the sun, or even feel that sun protection for sport directly interferes with their performance.
There are ways, however, to enjoy sport and time outside without putting yourself at high risk. Here are our comprehensive tips to help you keep your skin safe while enjoying sport:
Find the right time
Adjust your outdoor training schedule so you avoid being outside when the sun is at its strongest. The rays of the midday sun are generally the most intense, so try to head outside early in the morning or later in the evening. If you really can’t avoid being outside, stick to the shade and don’t exercise under the burning sun.
Don’t be fooled by clouds
Just because it’s cloudy outside doesn’t mean you’re safe from the sun. The sun’s rays can penetrate clouds in varying degrees, depending on cloud coverage. In a phenomenon called “broken-cloud enhancement”2 , UV-B levels can be higher than they would be under clear skies, as scattered sunlight passes through the clouds along with direct sunlight. Don’t forget to protect yourself even under cloudy skies!
Use sunscreen correctly
Apply sunscreen half an hour before being exposed to the sun, to clean, dry skin. You should reapply at least once every two hours, and if practicing water sports or sweating considerably, reapply more frequently. Apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of skin, and use a water-resistant broad spectrum product which won’t leave your skin feeling greasy. Correct sunscreen application is one of the key factors in sun protection for sport.
Make sunscreen an everyday habit
Sunscreen should be part of your daily routine, whether you practice sports or not! Everyday protection is important, especially on those areas we often forget – the neck, ears, and back. You’ll enjoy the sun even more if you’re properly protected when you go outside, as you’ll know there’s one thing less to be worried about.
Cover yourself up
Wherever you can, use protective clothing in addition to your daily sunscreen as combined, it’s one of the best shields you can use against UV radiation. Baseball caps, while covering the face, don’t protect the ears and back of the neck. Choose a wide-brimmed hat if possible, or a baseball cap with built-in neck protection. Wear sunglasses which block UV rays, and look for clothing with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) which is often specially designed for athletes.
Go for regular check-ups
Get to know your own skin, regularly checking it yourself for signs of skin cancer or changes you might detect. Along with becoming more aware of your skin and what it looks like, schedule regular check-ups with your dermatologist to follow your skin’s progress and catch anything out-of-the-ordinary with ample time.
At ISDIN, we’re passionate about caring for your skin and protecting it from the sun, helping others to live young and enjoy life. We have over 40 years’ experience in developing and providing a complete range of dermatological solutions to help fight against photoaging. Our products fulfill three fundamental objectives: protect skin from the sun, repair existing damage, and correct visible signs of aging.
1 Hobbs C, Nahar VK, Ford MA, Bass MA, Brodell RT, Skin Cancer Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviors in Collegiate Athletes, Journal of Skin Cancer. 2014 doi: 10.1155/2014/248198
2 Byrne et al. Broken-Cloud Enhancement of Solar Radiation Absorption, Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences Vol. 53, No. 6, 1996.