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How to Choose the Best Sunscreen for Sports and Outdoor Activities

How to Choose the Best Sunscreen for Sports and Outdoor Activities

The best sunscreen that won’t streak or leave you greasy when you’re working out

1. How does sunscreen work?

    a. Is sunscreen safe?

2. How to apply sunscreen

    a. How long does sunscreen last?

3. How to choose the best sunscreen for sports

    a. What’s the difference between sport sunscreen and regular sunscreen?

Sunscreen may not be the flashiest part of your skincare routine, but it’s a high performer, delaying the formation of wrinkles, dark spots and other signs of aging while also protecting you from developing skin cancer. With all the good that suncare does, it should be a no-brainer to wear sunscreen every day. Except many of us don’t.

According to a 2019 survey from market-research company Leger, one in two Canadians aren’t applying enough sunscreen to protect themselves from harmful UVA and UVB rays and nearly a quarter say they don’t wear any sun protection at all. Unfortunately, compliance drops even further for those who like to work out outside.

If greasy skin or stinging eyes are causing you to skip your SPF, you’re not using the right formula. Read on to discover how to choose the best sport sunscreen for you, the difference between sport and regular sunscreen and how much sunscreen to apply when you’ve got a good sweat going on.

1. How does sunscreen work?

Before you understand how sunscreen works and what SPF is , you need to understand why you need to protect your skin. Ultraviolet radiation (UV rays) from the sun hits skin at wavelengths ranging from 290 to 400 nanometres. These rays expose skin to both UVA, which causes damage like collagen breakdown, skin cancer, and UVB, which causes sunburns.

Without a broad-spectrum sunscreen lotion (which protects from both UVA and UVB rays), the energy from the radiation goes into the fat and proteins in your skin. This generates free radicals that attack your cellular machinery. In the short term, this damage triggers an inflammatory response such as sunburn. In the long term, the radiation can introduce mutations in your skin cells’ DNA. If these mutations get passed along, they create cancer cells.

The simple fix is to wear sunscreen. There are many ingredients in sunscreens, but the active ingredients mainly fit into two groups: mineral and chemical:

  • Mineral sunscreens that contain physical filters (such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) achieve their sun protection factor (SPF) by physically blocking the UV rays from penetrating the skin. To put it simply, they act as a mirror to create a barrier between the skin and the UV rays that directly reflects them from the skin.
  • Chemical filters (such as octocrylene or avobenzone) protect skin by absorbing UV rays. Instead of deflecting the UV rays, chemical filters work like a sponge and absorb them and transform the energy into heat. Vichy’s main suncare ingredient is a proprietary solar filter called Mexoryl. It protects your skin from UVA and UVB rays and is known for its ability to absorb radiation and then release it in the form of thermal energy before it penetrates the skin. Along with other filters in its sunscreen formulations.

Is sunscreen safe?

Ask any dermatologist and you’ll get a resounding yes! Sunscreens are a key component of preventing skin damage that can lead to skin cancer. According to the Canadian Dermatology Association using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, seeking shade and wearing protective clothing are the three most effective (and safe) ways to protect yourself from the sun.

2. How to apply sunscreen

Canadian Dermatology Association

The Canadian Dermatology Association recommends a broad-spectrum sunscreen (protects from UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of 30 or higher. The best practice is to apply your sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes prior to venturing outside to allow the sunscreen to bind to your skin. If you’re planning on exposing a lot of skin ( if you’re going to wear a swimsuit or running shorts and a tank, for example), apply the sunscreen while you’re naked. This will help ensure you get complete coverage.

The common suggestion is to apply sunscreen “liberally,” but that can be interpreted differently. To achieve full coverage, you should use about half a teaspoon for your face and a shot glass full for your body. But because not everyone has the same size body, plan to slather on a layer over the areas that will be exposed to sunlight and then massage it into the skin.

How long does sunscreen last?

If you’re outside and wondering how often to reapply sunscreen, the benchmark is every two hours—which means if you’re marathon training or planning on running or biking for longer than two hours, bring some sunscreen along. It’s two hours because that’s when the sunscreen’s SPF value is fully effective. In other words, after two hours, your sunscreen isn’t entirely doing its job anymore.

3. How to choose the best sunscreen for sports

The whole point of working out is to get a good sweat going, but perspiration and sunscreen don’t always mix. Formulas that are not designed for sports can ball up, sting your eyes and leave your skin covered in white streaks once they’re combined with sweat. The best sunscreen for sports features an oil-free, water-resistant and fragrance-free formula to prevent stinging. Apply your sport sunscreen at least 30 minutes before heading outside to allow it to fully absorb and to be sure you don’t skip any areas.

If you’re looking for a sunscreen lotion that you can wear for your outdoor workouts and swims, pick Vichy Idéal Soleil Sport Ultra-Light Refreshing Lotion SPF 60. It has a slight cooling effect when applied and absorbs quickly. Plus, Vichy’s sunscreen lotion has several other benefits that make it the perfect choice for sports:

  • It provides 80 minutes of water and sweat resistance
  • It's designed to be applied on wet or dry skin
  • It has Mexoryl filter technology and other sun filters to provide broad-spectrum protection
  • It is the official sunscreen of Swimming Canada Natation
  • It is fragrance-free
  • It is non-greasy and non-sticky

What’s the difference between sport sunscreen and regular sunscreen?

There’s no standardized test that verifies whether a certain type of sunscreen is better for certain activities; however, sunscreen that’s qualified as water-resistant for 80 minutes is the best for outdoor workouts. Unlike regular sunscreen, water-resistant sunscreens continue to protect the skin when wet. Water resistance testing involves having subjects apply sunscreen to the skin and immerse the area in water. After, their skin is tested to be sure the sunscreen is still effective. Water resistance of 80 minutes means that the sunscreen will continue to provide the labelled SPF for 80 minutes of continuous water immersion like swimming or sweating. However, don’t be fooled, there’s no such thing as waterproof sunscreen.


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