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An Appropriate Sunscreen Regimen for Athletes

Nancy Nickel

Using sunscreen is an important element of caring for one’s skin, but is critical for athletes who compete and train during peak daylight hours. Ignoring a healthy skin care regimen can cause skin to burn and blister. Failing to follow an appropriate sunscreen regimen may also result in skin cancer. There are more than 1 million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year, and one death related to skin cancer every hour in the United States.

Why Sunscreen is Important
Sun damage is cumulative, and for athletes who spend long hours outdoors, this means damage quickly adds up. Athletes are advised to use a minimum SPF of 30, and one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, which are the most damaging ultraviolet rays.

Athletes should protect skin under fabric, too. Gear that implements ultraviolet-protection fabric is recommended for athletes, but sunscreen worn under clothes provides important added protection. Moles, sunspots, and freckles are all signs of potentially sun-damaged skin and should be checked by a dermatologist. Each burn increases the risk of developing skin cancer. Sunburns and sun poisoning may result in headaches, nausea, fever and fatigue. Burns may result from sun exposure even during the winter. Sunburns occur in the winter from direct rays and reflected rays. Moreover, sunlight is reflected off of snow the same way it reflects off of water.

75% of Sunscreens are Toxic
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just published their 2014 guide to safe sunscreens. They reviewed over 2000 sunscreens and over 257 brands. They found more than 75% of the sunscreens contained toxic chemicals that can increase your risk of cancer and other health issues.

According to research from the EWG: Our review…shows that some sunscreen ingredients absorb into the blood, and some have toxic effects. Some release skin-damaging free radicals in sunlight, some act like estrogen and disrupt hormones, and several can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation. The FDA has not established rigorous safety standards for sunscreen ingredients. Sunscreens haven’t been regulated since 1978 in the USA, and the SPF factor only tells you how effective a sunscreen is against UVB rays which cause sunburn.

Some ingredients may:
• Absorb into the blood
• Release free radicals in sunlight
• Act like estrogen
• Disrupt hormones
• Cause allergic reactions
• Cause skin irritation
• Have no rigorous safety standards

Here area list of Unsafe, Toxic Chemicals in Sunscreen
• Para amino benzoic acid
• Octyl salicyclate
• Oxybenzone
• Cinoxate
• Dioxybenzone
• Phenylbenzimidazole
• Homosalate
• Menthyl anthranilate
• Octocrylene
• Methoxycinnamate
• Parabens

Stay away from these chemicals and use the natural sunscreens recommended by Environmental Working Group.

Most Critical Body Parts

Most skin cancers occur on the lips, shoulders, tops of ears, and heads. For sensitive areas where it is hard to apply sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses can provide added protection. Lips can be protected by using a lip balm with SPF protection. When applying sunscreen, apply liberally and don’t neglect the face, nose, ears, hands, and the back of your neck and knees.

When to Administer
A common misconception is that the sun causes cancer. The truth is that the sun is essential to our health. The sun is your best source of vitamin D3 and getting approximately 20 minutes of direct sunlight, your body naturally generates enough Vitamin D3 (Calciferol). Getting a small amount of sunshine daily can actually decrease your risk of some cancers. But you have to know when enough is enough. A sunburn means that sun exposure exceeded the skin’s ability to produce melanin: a pigment created by cells called melanocytes to increase protection against future exposure. Skin will tan even when using a strict sunscreen regimen. If you are an athlete looking for a good, “healthy” tan, be sure to use plenty of natural sunscreen and reapply often.

Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before training and must be reapplied every two hours if remaining outdoors. Perspiring increases the risk of burns, and even when swimming, sweating, or training on cloudy days, sunscreen needs to be reapplied to dry skin every two hours.

Welcome to the fold. When you know better, you do better.

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