Should men care about skin damage?
"Sunscreen? Sunscreen is for kids and women!", my MACHO friend once said. That night, after hours of being in the sun, he looked like glowing salsa. "So how's the macho man doing now?" If you're not in the mood for looking like salsa (short-term and like a sun dried tomato, long-term)... yes, men should care. And by the way, if you happen to live or be in the desert (literally) and near an aloe field, aloe extract does wonders for your sunburnt skin (this needs to be another post though).
So what's this all about?
I started with the above extreme example, not because most of you reading are that ignorant, but because we often forget the importance of applying the sunscreen on a daily basis. Both the manly man and softest baby skin types are exposed to harmful UVA and UVB rays everyday. Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore would agree that the harmful rays get stronger and worse as global warming continues to take effect in our lifetime. By forgoing or forgetting to apply your sunscreen / sunblock on a daily basis, you're a step closer to looking like that lady from Something about Mary (did you see the picture?!). On a more serious note, extended and continuous exposure to sun can lead to skin cancer (melanoma), first degree burns, or make you look like a burnt tomato that evening - hot, swollen and tad bit sensitive to the touch.
What are UVA and UVB rays?
Let's briefly take a look. UVA and UVB are also known as the Ultra Violet A (long-wave) and the Ultra Violet B (short-wave). UV or Ultra Violet radiation is an electromagnetic light that reaches from the sun. UVA and UVB rays penetrate the atmosphere and can lead to skin damage. UVB is the chief cause of the skin redding effect and has been associated with leading to skin cancer. But, UVA with deeper penetrating rays have been known to be the primary cause of skin aging. (Source skincancer.org - If you want to nerd out about UVA and UVB, this is the place).
What can I use to prevent sun skin damage?
Any sunscreen or sunblock will be better than none, but we prefer sunblock over sunscreen. Most people don't know the difference, but sunblock, true to it's name, sits on top of your skin and blocks (or literally reflects) UV rays from penetrating the skin. Sunscreen on the other hand, are absorbed into your skin and prevents damage against UVA and UVB at the cell level. However, the downside is that ingredients used for sunscreen tend to breakdown after exposure in the sun, thereby needing more frequent reapplication than sunblock. The downside of sunblock is that as it sits on top of the skin, it tends to feel thick and "un-natural" to the touch, although cosmetic companies are mixing different ingredients to make sunblock feel more like lotions. Please note that both sunblock and sunscreen need reapplication based on SPF guidelines.
So basically, any type will do. But, preferably with higher SPF (Sun Protection Factor), which measures the amount to time it takes for the UVB to redden the skin. For example, SPF 30 basically means that it will protect your skin for roughly 30 minutes before the protectant shield wears off.
Do you have any recommendations?
Applying sunscreen can be an easy part of your daily grooming or more specifically moisturizing routine. There are lots of body moisturizers (lotions) or aftershaves that have pre-added sunblock / sunscreen ingredients with baring SPFs. Let's take care of that sensitive skin. Start with some of these products of varying price points from Men's Health.
Oily: To avoid acne, use an alcohol-based product, such as Neutrogena Wet Skin Sunblock Spray, SPF 30 ($9, neutrogena.com).
Dry: Fight scaliness with a moisturizing block, such as Clarins Sunscreen for Face Wrinkle Control ($30, clarinsusa.com). Its aloe hydrates, and titanium dioxide blocks the sun's harmful rays. Lubriderm also offers daily moisturizer lotion with SPF 15.
Sweaty: Often, lotions end up in the eyes of active guys. Go for a solid, like Coppertone Sport Stick SPF 55 sunscreen ($11, cvs.com). It won't blind you when the ball heads in your direction. Also products like Neutrogena Face Lotion SFP 50+ comes in sweat proof!
So... you can enjoy the (disco) inferno without necessarily getting burned!