I spend a lot of hours in the water and in the sun, which is awesome and makes me happy. Unfortunately, my skin is starting to disagree. And the older I get, the more it shows me its disapproval. I do use sunscreen (Island Tribe) and know all about its benefits, but earlier this year, I had to pay a visit to the dermatologist because of a sudden brown spot on my hand that got bigger each day.
Honestly, that freaked me out completely! Ozzie surfer friends were telling me all of these scary stories about people suffering from skin cancer in Australia. Fortunately, the doctor gave me a cream (apparently it happens a lot to surfers in Bali, something to do with your skin being too wet all the time) and it went away within a month, so I was lucky.
But ask any Australian surfer and they will know someone who actually had skin cancer. Or they’ve had it themselves.
The incidence rate of skin cancer worldwide is increasing
And this doesn’t only apply to Australia. Each year, the number of people worldwide diagnosed with skin cancer increases. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation Statistics, one in every five Americans will develop skin cancer before they are 70.
I was also shocked to learn that more people die from skin cancer in the UK than in Australia. And out of 42 European countries with incidences of malignant melanoma of the skin (one type of skin cancer), my home country the Netherlands ranks number 3!
Although the ozone layer is slowly repairing itself, there’s still an ozone hole of 14million square kilometers. That means there’s a huge part of the world that isn’t protected from the sun’s radiation. And the number one cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) radiation (although UV light from tanning beds is pretty bad too).
Researchers think that the increasing number of incidences of melanoma is also connected with an increase in recreational activities, such as outdoor sports or even tanning beds (for sure a recreational activity when you live in a cold country).
Sunscreen benefits: top 5 reasons why you should lather up
To prevent skin cancer, it’s simple: don’t expose yourself to too much sun. And go easy on those tanning beds.
When you do go spend a lot of time in the sun, make sure you use sunscreen. Sunscreen has a lot of benefits:
1. Sunscreen reduces your risk of developing skin cancer by 50%
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the daily use of SPF15 sunscreen reduces the risk of developing skin cancer by 50%.
Skin cancer happens more to people with lighter skin because they have less of the protective pigment melanin. Skin cancer occurs less often in people with darker skin.
Here are some individual factors that increase the chance of developing skin cancer. If these apply to you, then definitely use sunscreen.
- light skin
- blue, green or hazel eyes
- blond or light-colored hair
- tendency to burn
- history of severe sunburns
- an abundance of moles and freckles
- skin cancer runs in your family
2. Sunscreen prevents sunburns
Spending time in the sun without sunscreen will eventually cause your skin to burn. Especially when there is a nice breeze, you won’t notice this at all.
Burned skin increases your chance of developing melanoma or other types of skin cancer, it hurts and recovers very slowly, and that part of your skin will always remain sensitive.
3. Sunscreen helps to prevent pigment spots and skin discolorations
Pigment spots are caused by, among other things, too much sunlight (UV radiation), which confuses the production of pigment and produces too much pigment. The results are dark spots on the skin, which can be very annoying, especially when they are in your face.
By applying sunscreen, you stop UV radiation from penetrating into your skin.
4. Sunscreen helps to prevent and reduce dry skin
After a day in the sun, you might notice it straight away: your skin is dry and feels uncomfortable. This is even worse when you spend a lot of time in the salty ocean.
Sunscreen doesn’t only prevent your skin from drying out, but it also helps to reduce dry skin when it’s already dry. You can also use coconut oil to moisturize your skin. Just make sure you’re out of the sun. Coconut oil does have an SPF 5 factor according to some sources, but I don’t think it is wise to rely only on coconut oil.
5. Sunscreen prevents premature aging
It’s been proven that too much UV radiation causes wrinkles. Wrinkles are a part of life, but everything at its appropriate time. You don’t want to have your hands look like an 80-year old when you’re 30 (trust me, it sucks).
Prevent your skin from prematurely aging and apply a high factor especially for your face. And, try to not stick your head in the sun too much. Wanna go for a surf? Go in the early morning or late afternoon!
Avoid sunscreen with retinyl palmitate and oxybenzone
It’s clear that too much exposure to the sun damages your skin and puts your health at risk. There are studies though, that claim sunscreen itself is responsible for causing cancer.
However, this goes for certain types of sunscreen with these ingredients: retinyl palmitate, retinol or vitamin A, and oxybenzone (which can disrupt the hormone system). It’s best to avoid sunscreens containing those ingredients.
So what sunscreen should you use?
I have tried many over the last couple of years, ranging from cheap drugstore creams to more expensive spray-ons and zinc sticks. But there’s one brand that’s my favorite and that’s Island Tribe. And I don’t say this because they sponsor my Retreats (because they do, yay!). Seriously though, I wouldn’t recommend a product that I don’t absolutely LOVE.
My choice: Island Tribe
One of the best things about the Island Tribe products is that they do not contain any of the potentially harmful ingredients discussed above (retinyl palmitate, retinol or vitamin A, and oxybenzone).
You can use Island Tribe in the water while surfing or when you’re out and about. What I really like is that their sunscreen is transparent. When I use zinc, I tend to get it everywhere (including on my backpack, clothes, and surfboard) except on my face.
They have clear gels, sticks, sprays, lip balm, and aftersun aloe. So far I haven’t been burned once using Island Tribe and I will happily continue to use this brand.
Do you regularly use sunscreen? And if you don’t, why not? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!