#1 WEAR SUNSCREEN
Runners are continuously exposed to ultraviolet radiation which causes direct DNA damage and skin cancer over time. Finding the right sunscreen to protect you may involve some trial and error. Always look for “broad spectrum” which means that the product protects from UVA and UVB. In the past, doctors did not appreciate the importance of UVA in causing skin cancer, but we now know that UVA is a potent carcinogen and actually targets deeper in the skin than UVB. In addition UVA generates harmful reactive oxygen species!
Sunscreens come in many formulations. Pick one you like! Decide whether you prefer a stick or lotion. Whereas a stick sunscreen may be less greasy, it will take more time to get full coverage than with a lotion, which spreads easily. If you’re balding, apply sunscreen to your scalp and wear a lightweight cap. Pay particular attention to the ears, lips, and nose. I’ve also given the Environmental Working Group’s safety rating when available.
- Badger Sport Sunscreen Stick SPF 35 (certified organic, EWG level 1)
- Banana Boat Ultra Defense Stick Sunscreen SPF 50 (EWG level 5)
- Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Sensitive Skin, SPF 30+ (EWG level 1). I like that the bottle turns blue when exposed to UV rays.
- EltaMDUV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 (EWG level 2). Dermatologists flock to this reliable sun-focused brand for their quality sunscreens.
- MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème Broad Spectrum SPF 50. One reviewer commented, “…feels like a primer in that it blurs imperfections… glides right on and melts into the skin”
ACNE, ROSACEA, OR SENSITIVE SKIN – Look for products specially formulated for “sensitive skin” that won’t burn or sting your eyes.
- EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 (EWG 3)
- TiZO Ultra Sensitive Sun Protection SPF 40 (EWG 2)
- TiZO SheerFoam Sun Protection SPF 30. Who doesn’t love foam?
#2 KNOW YOUR SKIN CANCER BASICS
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common skin cancer and has a predilection for the sebaceous (oily) skin of the nose. The ears and lips are also very high risk for another type of skin cancer called Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Most runners wear short sleeves, leaving arm skin exposed! Try arm coolers to shield your arms from the sun while keeping them cool. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and can occur anywhere, even where the sun does not shine.
#3 KNOW YOUR PERSONAL RISK PROFILE
If you have had skin cancer in the past, or have light skin and eyes, freckles, or prone to sunburns, be extra cautious! If you are on medicines after an organ transplant, you are also considered high risk. Heliocare Ultra is an oral vitamin that actually protects you from the sun all day. Derived from fernblock extract, Polypodium leucotomos, it is a special herb from South and Central America that blocks the sun (you won’t be able to tan!). Consider taking Heliocare Ultra if you plan to be outdoors on a sunny day for a prolonged period of time.