Guest post: Sunscreen!
It’s not often that we have a guest contributor on this blog. When one of our regular readers, Bob Stuke, began quizzing me on sunscreen and I told him that I didn’t have enough info to write an intelligent post about it, he offered to write something for us. The text below is the result of that exchange. Comments are welcome and encouraged. Bob tells me that he has thick skin, and if we can believe what he wrote below, I’d say well-protected skin too! 🙂
Rebecca showing off her tan lines!
- I am an avid follower of Mike and Rebecca’s adventures, and like most others, enjoy reading their blog. I grew up on the Intracoastal Waterway in Juno Florida, and spent most of my childhood and early adult life SCUBA diving, water skiing, boating and sailing in South Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. When I was a kid, we didn’t wear sunscreen. It really had not even been “invented” yet. There were barriers, like red petroleum, and zinc oxide, but nothing like we have today. Even Coppertone did not start conducting research until 1971. I was 10 years old by then.
Fast forward to today, as I prepare to have stitches removed from my forehead after having MOHS micrographic surgery to remove a small spot of Basil Cell Carcinoma. Yes I will be fine, and I am thankful that I go to the dermatologist every year to get checked out. Most skins cancers are thought to be caused by long term exposure to ultraviolet rays. I am not a doctor, but generally agree with this assessment. I also personally feel that you are more at risk of skin cancers if you overexpose your skin to sunlight and cause redness and burning: sunburn. Most of us have experienced this, and know it is painful, and can have an adverse effect on a trip to the Caribbean.
Mike and Rebecca are acclimated to the sun, as they spend all of their time in the Caribbean on One Love and Zero to Cruising. Even though they are acclimated, they still tell me that they use 70SPF sunscreen on their faces, shoulders and depending on the activity, other parts of their body. They also wear a hat depending on the activity.
So the question becomes a conversation on best practices when you are out in the sun for even a short time. My observational experience is that most people do not apply the correct SPF sunscreen, apply it at the wrong time, and also do not reapply often enough. If you burn easily, you will want to also consider rash guards and other clothing that have SPF factors.
So lets drill down on these three aspects, and you will be well on your way to an enjoyable experience when you are stand up paddle boarding in the Caribbean!
What SPF to use? If you can look in the mirror, and not see any tan lines, have fair skin, or you burn easily, you need to start with a minimum of 70SPF. The best sunscreen technology today is called “Broad Spectrum.” Make sure the sunscreen has this on the bottle. If you have a tan or some color, 50SPF is a good place to start. If you have a good tan, you can drop down to SPF30, but I still recommend SPF50 or above for your head face and shoulders. Also make sure the sunscreen is fresh. If you have a bottle of sunscreen that has been in the cabinet more than one year, throw it away and buy fresh sunscreen to take with you.
When to apply? This is where most people make the biggest mistake. They wait until they are out in the sun to apply sunscreen. You should always apply sunscreen before you get hot and start sweating, generally 15 to 30 minutes before any activity. I recommend doing this nude so you don’t miss a spot, and don’t forget your back and the back of your legs! If you are going snorkeling, you will quickly burn the back parts of your body, so make sure you cover every inch. Sunscreen needs time to dry and adhere to your skin to be the most effective. Always reapply after getting out of the water and after drying off. It is always best to read the directions, especially when creams and aerosols come into play, they have different requirements.
When to reapply? This is also a mistake people make. Once again reading the directions is best. In general you do not want to wait more than 60-80 minutes before reapplying sunscreen. Even then you still want to reapply if you spend time in the water and dry off with a towel.
These simple steps will help minimize sunburn, and make your time in paradise most enjoyable!