Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sunscreen and the Triathlete

I spent a lot of time outside this weekend - cycling, running and gardening.

I am diligent about putting on sunscreen, except during a triathlon.

This month several magazines I get lectured about the importance of sunscreen.

From one magazine - A shot glass's worth of sunscreen is enough to cover your whole body, but dermatologists say you may want to add a second coat to your nose, lips, hands, ears and the tops of your feet.

I am well acquainted with the shot glass. I use several of them every morning when I take my vitamins.

What's another shot glass to my regimen. I just hope I don't get my shot glass full of sunscreen confused with my shot glass of Kefir. I may need several cups of coffee before I start this regimen.

One magazine recommended running in the morning because a study from the University of North Carolina found that a protein responsible for DNA repair is more active in the a.m., which may mean morning sun is less likely to damage your skin.
It would be great if I could get my run done in the morning every time, but sometimes it just doesn't work out that way for me. Sometimes I have to run in the afternoon, or at noon. Yikes. I guess I will be applying more sunscreen for those after a.m. runs.

Another magazine recommended using a minimum of SPF 30, water resistant and broad-spectrum formula.
I actually have a couple of tubes of sunscreen in my bathroom that are SPF 70 and SPF 95. At what point do the numbers not make that much difference?

From what I read, SPF 30 products block about 97% of UVB rays and SPF 45 products block about 98% or the sun's rays. After that, well, the amount of ray's block is not that significantly more, the products just cost more.
There is NOTHING that blocks 100 Percent of the sun's rays.

One doctor quoted in a magazine (see if I put it that way I don't have to make a bunch of notes or asterisks or underlines) staid that SPF 30 products are find as long as people apply sunscreen as heavily (think of my shot glass) or as often (that 2 hour limit) as they should.

It is also recommended that you wear a hat or use sunscreen on your part or your entire scalp if your hair is thin.
Nice hat!

While some companies, such as Paul Mitchell Sun Shield Conditioning Spray, are making sprays for your hair, they don't replace the hat and the sunscreen.

Think you can't get cancer on your scalp, even when it is covered by hair? Think again.
It happened to me. I thought I had a wart on my head, but it turned out to be basal cell carcinoma and the doc took a big chunk out of the side of the head and stitched up the gap. No worries, he left all the important stuff inside, I think.

I am saving you all by not posting any picture here. But if you aren't putting sunscreen on your scalp and ears, well, just goggle "images of cancer on scalp" and it will make you sick enough to hopefully run and get sunscreen and cover you scalp....no matter how greasy it makes your hair look.

Put your sunscreen on 20 minutes before you go out in the sun UNLESS it has titanium dioxide in it or zinc oxide.

I think maybe for for next triathlon I will apply zinc oxide as warpaint on my face. It even comes in colors - RED, WHITE and BLUE - that would cover me for Team Aquaphor and Triathlon Connection.

Here's the advice that has me in a conundrum - all the magazines said you can go 2 hours without reapplying if you are NOT sweating or in the water.

Well, I start sweating as soon as I lace up my running shoes, or as soon as I zip up my wetsuit.
I can get through a sprint triathlon in less than 2 hours, but I am not fast enough to make it through an Olympic Distance in that time. I have my first half Ironman on my calendar for October, and I KNOW it is going to take me 2 hours TIMES ??? to finish it.

So, do I take time during transition to reapply sunscreen? Will the other athletes in the transition area frown on me if I grab an aerosol bottle of sunscreen and start spraying?

Maybe I could get help?

Just when I thought I had the whole triathlon transition thing figured out, this sunscreen issue pops up.

I foresee my transition time suffering because my skin will not.

Does anyone have a sunscreen they love? That stays on? That keeps you from getting burned? What do you do in a triathlon to make sure your skin is staying safe from the sun's rays?

Let me know so I can train-n-tri without getting burned.


  1. Good post! I do use sunscreen when I'm training, but not in a race. I feel like it blocks the ability for the sweat to evaporate and I live in the hot, humid south! :)

  2. I live with zinc on my face and neck and Target's Up & Up brand was rated very highly by Consumer Reports and I reapply it all day long when I am at the pool. My shower at night is glorious as I wash off all that stuff. The other option is a sun shirt. I buy mine at Coolibar, but I hear Costco has some available right now. I use arm shields when I ride my bike and run, which claim to be 50 UPF. A big hat is a must and I will not give up the brim on my helmet, which all the "real bikers" say is nerdy. Oh well. I look at Vicki's cookie sheet helmet and it is looking more inviting as I age and try to protect my face. Maybe next year...

  3. i figure if i take care of myself throughout training, one race without reapplying sunscreen isn't going to kill me. I live in miami so OWS is always with a sun shirt or my back is toast (no pun intended). I am also a big sunglass freak. I didnt use to be and now I am paying for it with some eye issues and a hat, always. Enjoying your blog! you can find me at www.triathlonmami.blogspot.com

  4. Ladies, Thank you for your suggestions. I did compete in an Olympic Distance event earlier this year and I put on sunscreen before the swim, but did not reapply after I took off my wetsuit. At the end of the day after my bike and run, I was sunburned. Ouch!