6 Things Triathletes Should Know About Sun Protection

Professional triathlete Alicia Kaye provides six key tips to keep in mind as you protect your skin against the elements this season.

Photo: Competitive Image

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Professional triathlete Alicia Kaye has been racing as an elite athlete since she was 16 and over the years has realized the toll outdoor training in the sun has taken on her skin. As a result, Kaye and her husband, and fellow professional triathlete, Jarrod Shoemaker have become passionate about skin protection and have created a line of skincare products named Endurance Shield. Kaye provides six key tips to keep in mind as you protect your skin against the elements this triathlon season based on new guidelines released by the FDA in 2012.

1. Reapply every two hours and wear protective clothing.
The FDA advises that all sunscreens, regardless of their SPF, be reapplied every two hours. As triathletes, we ask a lot of sunscreen as it must fight against sweat, water, wind and toweling off. Keep in mind that the sun UVA and UVB rays pass through clothing, especially thin technical garments, so sunscreen should be applied even under clothing.  Darker colored clothing protects best, but can also retain heat. Many clothing brands now offer a UPF rating and these garments are a great addition to the use of sunscreen.

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2. Remember that SPF starts to expire the second you apply it (even if you’re inside or it’s dark out).
Put your sunscreen on as close to the beginning of your workout or race as possible as the clock on expiration starts immediately. On race day bring sunscreen with you to the start line, or put it on last when you leave transition before putting on your wetsuit.

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3. Store your sunscreen in a cool, dry place.

If your sunscreen reaches abnormally warm temperatures, some of the active ingredients can expire faster than their normal rate rendering the sunscreen ineffective. Ingredients can also separate causing the sunscreen to not work as it should. It’s also important to remember to check the expiration date on your sunscreen. If it’s past its due date, throw it out!

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4. Apply the sunscreen 10 minutes prior to sun exposure.
You’ll get the most out of your sunscreen if you give it the time to absorb into your skin before you jump in the water or start perspiring.

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5. Notice the labeling.
You want sunscreen (not block) that is sweat and water-resistant (not proof). Due to new FDA regulations, no SPF product can be called sunblock, even if this product contains an active ingredient (such as zinc) that is truly a physical block of UVA/ UVB rays. This is due to the consumer misconception that sunblock meant the product was truly blocking the sun and consumers did not need to reapply it. By the end of 2013 will label all SPF products as sunscreens. The same sentiment guided the FDA’s decision to only allow products to be labeled as sweat/water resistant.

Finally, the FDA also created standardized testing so you’ll notice that sunscreens will be certifying themselves as either 40 minute or 80 minute sweat/water resistant. There is no certification higher than 80 minutes due to the requirement that all sunscreen be reapplied every two hours.

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6. Don’t miss the commonly forgotten spots.

Don’t forget to apply sunscreen in the less-obvious places like your ears, back of your hands and legs, and always use a lip protectant with SPF. Lastly, always wear sunglasses when exercising outdoors. You can also develop melanoma on your eyes, known as Ocular Melanoma.

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