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Why year round sun protection makes sense & how to do it easily

Skin protection

Posted on 13/04/20

When it comes to self-improvement or trying out new things, it’s very difficult to have multiple plates spinning at any one time.

My relatively limited human brain can only cope with one or two things at once (on top of everyday life).

The trick, as I’ve learned, is to try and make things habitual. If something becomes set in stone as a habit, it tends to stick. It actually helps me to put time slots in my diary for the various things I’m trying to bed down as regular actions. So, for example, at the start of each week, I will put times in my diary for when I hope and expect to exercise. Over time, this becomes less and less necessary as the habit beds down and it no longer becomes a ‘spinning plate’.   

Cutting to the chase, the reason I make this point is because I really believe that daily sun protection, all year round, is a habit worth having. 

Before I lose you to something a little more interesting, I reckon I’ve got a way for you to do all of this without any extra hassle or effort. No need to engrain a new habit into your life and certainly no need to put reminders in your diary. 

But first, here are five reasons why you should…

Reason #1: Ultraviolet rays from the sun cause skin cancer

The first principle is this: we know that 86% of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sun cream reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50%.

Reason #2: UV is always present – even in winter and cloudy weather

When it is cold outside, these cancer-causing rays from the sun still reach the earth. When it’s cloudy, 80% of UV rays pass through the clouds. That’s why you burnt that day when you didn’t think the sun was out. So, when you’re wandering around outside at any time of year, even autumn or winter, UV rays touch your skin. And as we know from the previous point, that can be dangerous.

There is a strange attitude toward sun protection that it is only required once a year on your week’s summer holiday. It is required all year round, wherever you are.

Reason #3: The sun ages your skin and makes you look old

If vanity motivates you (and I see nothing wrong with that by the way), then you should be aware that UVA, a particular strength or ‘wavelength’ of ultraviolet rays from the sun, are known to cause ageing of the skin. Most of the ultraviolet radiation that reaches the earth is in the form of UVA so everyday protection is worthwhile for this reason alone. 

Reason #4: The environment you’re in can make a big difference

If you’re in the mountains or at higher altitude, you are closer to the sun. Whilst that is a rather obvious statement, you might not quite appreciate that UV radiation may be 35-45% more intense than at sea level.

In addition, snow, sand and water reflect up to 80% of sunlight, meaning that you’re often hit by the same rays twice: the rays from the sun and the rays that bounce off snow, sand and water and hit you all over again. This only amplifies the risk of damage.

Reason #5: Even when you’re inside, protection isn’t a bad idea

Firstly, UVA can pass through glass. If you remember, this is the light that causes ageing as well as skin cancer. So even if you’re inside and behind glass (car, office, restaurant), you’re at risk.

Also read: How glass causes skin damage without drawing blood

Secondly, I wanted to table this concept but I’m unable to say how credible it is. It sounds extreme and may sit within the realms of hypochondria, however, it may be wholly valid. That said, at a recent global dermatology conference, doctors presented a new study on the impact on the skin of lower doses of ambient and infrared light emitted by computer and phone screens or overhead lamps. So now the office can damage your skin. Ideal! In several years’ time, we might look back on today’s office environment as we do on smoking sections of airplanes in the 1980s. Who knows? But I’ve included it for completeness.

So I promised you an easy fix. What is it?

It’s simple.

All year round, use a daily facial moisturiser with sun protection factor (SPF) included. 

Put it on your face (or other sun-exposed skin) after you shower, shave or wash. Like you would any other moisturiser or post shave product. This time, you are moisturising and protecting all in one. No extra effort. No two-step process or complexity. 

Two birds. One stone.

For good measure, choose SPF 15 as a minimum. SPF 30 would be better. Make sure the product you use protects against UVA too. For this, it must have a UVA symbol or at least four stars. 

Also read: Understand the risks of UVA. Your attitude to skincare will change forever

Now I admit I’m working on the assumption you’re already using a moisturiser. With only one in eight UK men estimated to use a moisturiser, that assumption is a stretch. But I truly hope this post tips the balance for you.

Why moisturise in the first place?

Ignoring all the marketing nonsense, a moisturiser plays a very simple role. It puts moisture into the skin and provides a barrier to stop moisture leaving the skin.

You don’t need to spend a fortune and a 100ml tube should last about a month.  A good one will remove feelings of dryness, tightness, discomfort from shaving and that unhealthy complexion many men get because they don’t look after themselves. Don’t be that lame, 1940s-tough guy. There is nothing wrong with a man using a moisturiser. Be confident you’re protected outside doing the things you love. All year round.

In the spirit of the Sky cycling team, this really is a marginal gain that will reap huge reward. It is certainly one ‘nudge’ worth making the effort for. Even if self-improvement isn’t your thing.

Thanks so much for reading. 

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