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  • Oars + Alps

The numbers are alarming. Skin cancer rates over the past decade have risen more than 55% for men, and there are 62,260 expected melanoma cases in American men in 2021 alone.1 Experts predict the numbers will only keep rising. By 2040, melanoma will be the No. 1 cancer in American men.2 

Men’s skin has less fat and more collagen compared to women which makes its cellular structure more susceptible to the oxidation caused by UV rays.3 But on top of that, men wear SPF less than women. A recent study found that just 14% of men use sunscreen on both their face and other exposed skin when outside on a sunny day for more than an hour.4 It’s a shockingly low figure, seeing as men under the age of 40 are 55% more likely to die of melanoma than women.5

The good news is regular daily use of sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50%.6 So we made it our mission to understand why guys aren't using sunscreen and, ultimately, to develop an SPF line that makes sun protection easier for them. We surveyed guys to find out what products they would ideally want and to test their knowledge about daily sunscreen use. They made it clear that SPF was something they knew about, but generally didn’t put on for a number of reasons. Among the aversions and complaints were a series of misconceptions, so we wanted to set the record straight.

Here are the 5 most common questions we heard about using SPF along with the myths we heard alongside them.

Do you really need to apply sunscreen daily?

Myth: “I only need SPF if I’m at the beach.”

Answer: You don’t have to be sunbathing for skin damage to occur. UV exposure happens year-round, even on cloudy days and through windows when you're indoors. While you might not think about these daily instances of UV exposure, their damage is cumulative and increases your skin cancer risk over time, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. On a related note, if you've ever heard that occasional UV exposure helps to develop the skin’s melatonin defenses, that's another misconception. 

Protecting your skin daily doesn't have to be a nuisance. If you want easy skin protection without adding an extra step to your routine, replace your everyday face moisturizer with one that has SPF like our Everyday Anti-Aging Face Moisturizer with SPF 37. It absorbs quickly and leaves your skin smooth, so you’ll feel great and stay protected before you even walk out the door.

Do you need sunscreen when you are driving?

Myth: “I spend most of my time inside or driving. I don't need to wear SPF every day.”

Answer: UVA rays can penetrate the windows of a building or car, and they've been proven to contribute to skin cancer development. For many years scientists only believed UVB rays were dangerous for the skin. We now understand that UVA rays are as well. What's more, UVA rays represent "95 percent of the UV radiation that reaches the earth and maintain the same level of strength during daylight hours throughout the year."

So yes, you need to wear sunscreen even while you're driving or indoors, and you always want to use one that offers Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB protection.

How often should you reapply sunscreen?

Myth: "If I use a sunscreen with high SPF, I only need to apply it once a day. The higher the SPF, the more UV rays it blocks."

Answer: Many people use sunscreen with too low of an SPF for their skin or don't apply it as frequently as needed. The number of SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, actually measures how long you can stay in the sun before your skin begins to burn. Finding this exact number requires a bit of math. You multiply the number of minutes it would take for your skin to turn pink without sun protection by the number SPF you’re using. The resulting number is how long your SPF will last, in minutes.

Let’s say you typically burn after 10 minutes of sun exposure with no protection and you’re wearing an SPF 30. That will give you 300 minutes—or 5 hours—of sun protection before you need to reapply. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF 30 or higher to provide adequate protection. 

Swimming and sweating are other factors to consider. If those activities are a possibility in your day, you'll want to use a water and sweat-resistant SPF. Sunscreens that don't explicitly call out that feature will become less effective when exposed to water. Make note: Water and sweat-resistant sunscreens will tell you the number of minutes that their SPF remains effective through water and sweat. Make sure you reapply within that time frame.

To maximize your time in the sun, we made our Hydrating Antioxidant SPF 50 Spray. It’s a long-lasting, water and sweat-resistant formula that’s packed with vitamins that help fight cancer-causing free radicals.

Is it harmful to wear sunscreen every day?

Myth: "All sunscreen has lots of chemicals in it. It can't be good for my skin or the environment."

Answer: There's a wide spectrum of sunscreens out there, and it's true that many options contain chemicals that we wouldn't advise using on your skin. But there have been great advances in sunscreen technology and companies (like us!) dedicated to creating options that are safe to use every day.

All of the products in our SPF Essentials line are free of chemicals that, for a variety of reasons, we advise avoiding in your skincare and sunscreen. For example, we do not include Octinoxate or Oxybenzone, both of which are in many conventional sunscreens and are currently being researched by the FDA to determine if they can be deemed “generally recognized as safe and effective.” Our sunscreen spray comes in a non-aerosol can (so we can avoid the chemicals needed for aerosol propulsion) and uses less alcohol than conventional sunscreen sprays so it's less drying for the skin. All of our SPF products are compliant with Hawaii Reef Act 104. 

Do you need sunscreen if you don’t burn easily?

Myth: “I don't burn, so I don't need to wear SPF.”

Answer: Although some skin types are more prone to burning, UVA and UVB rays can damage any kind of skin. Not only is there  a risk of developing melanoma in darker skin, but one study cited by the Skin Cancer Foundation found that melanoma in persons of color is often diagnosed at a later stage and thus commonly results in a worse prognosis. Another found an average five-year melanoma survival rate of just 67% in Black people, while white people were at 92%.

To suit all skin tones, we developed our Go Stick Clear Sunscreen. It comes in a handy stick and goes on totally clear, so you don’t have to worry about white streaks, residue or cast.

Will wearing sunscreen prevent my body from absorbing Vitamin D?

Everyone knows our bodies get Vitamin D from the sun.7 When sunlight hits human skin, it penetrates the surface and comes into contact with naturally occurring cholesterol inside your skin cells. UVB rays specifically cause your skin to synthesize vitamin D, which provides health benefits on many fronts. 

Because sunscreen blocks UVB rays, it can also prevent your body from producing some Vitamin D. But what many don’t know is we can also get Vitamin D from supplements and everyday foods. Cow's milk, soy milk, orange juice, cereals, and oatmeal, among other foods, are commonly supplemented with Vitamin D—often enough to meet daily requirements.8

Other factors that can easily impact your daily intake of Vitamin D include air quality, skin color, age, and body fat, which is known for absorbing a lot of Vitamin D. 

Other Common Questions About Sunscreen

Sunscreen is still a topic men know much less about than women. A recent study shows that women were more accurately able to answer questions about sunscreen compared to men.9 So, we wanted to answer some of the most common questions we get from men about SPF and how it can affect their skin.  

Can sunscreen damage your skin?

When used properly, sunscreen is proven to prevent skin damage. But if not applied often enough, some sunscreen can actually enhance skin damage, according to one new study.10 It showed that some forms of chemical sunscreen can cause more UV damage than they prevent when one of three chemical sunscreens (octylmethoxycinnamate, benzophenone-3, and octocrylene) are applied, but not reapplied often enough.

This can ultimately damage your skin cells’ walls and DNA. "Sunscreens do an excellent job protecting against sunburn when used correctly," said chemist Kerry Hanson of the University of California, Riverside. "This means using a sunscreen with a high sun protection factor SPF and applying it uniformly on the skin. Our data show, however, that if coverage at the skin surface is low, the UV filters in sunscreens that have penetrated into the epidermis can potentially do more harm than good."

How long is sunscreen good for?

In the U.S., sunscreens must retain their original SPF strengths for at least three years, as enforced by the Food and Drug Administration.11 So, you can and should still use leftover sunscreen, even if it’s from one or two years ago. If you’re not sure of your SPF’s shelf life, check its expiration date. It will tell you when the SPF inside is no longer effective. 

If your product doesn’t have a date, throw out the bottle when three years from purchase have passed, just to be safe. To maximize your SPF’s efficacy, don’t expose it to direct sunlight or an excessive heat source. To avoid this, put your sunscreen in the shade or under a towel—and always throw away SPF with obvious changes in color or consistency. 

Should I apply sunscreen to my tattoos?

You’ve probably heard that sunlight can lead to signs of aging like sagging skin and cause ink to fade—both things you want to avoid if you have tattoos. But you should actually avoid applying SPF to a new tattoo until it can heal properly, at least four to six weeks. Otherwise, you risk your new artwork getting infected, fading prematurely, or feeling even more irritated.

However, after the initial healing period, you should always apply SPF to your tattoos before going out in the sunlight. Any tattoo artist will tell you it’s one of the most effective ways to keep your tattoos looking bright and new.  

Why you should not use sunscreen?

You should not use certain sunscreens if you’re allergic to any of its ingredients. You also shouldn’t use SPF if it’s past its expiration date or has had an obvious change in color or texture. 

Otherwise, you should use SPF daily as part of a routine to prevent skin cancer, as well as premature signs of aging like dark spots, wrinkles, sagging, and more. It’s one of the best ways to keep your skin young and healthy looking. 

Does sunscreen age your skin?

No. When used correctly, sunscreen will actually prevent your skin from showing signs of aging.  Use it every day to protect against sunburns, skin cancer, and wrinkles. One study showed people who use broad-spectrum sunscreen daily have 24 percent fewer signs of skin aging than those who use it inconsistently.12 

Take Action Before it is Too Late, Start a Daily Sunscreen Routine

When it comes to sun damage and skin cancer, knowledge is power. Forming a daily sunscreen routine goes a long way towards reducing your risk factors and protecting your health. If you want help figuring out the best products to fit sunscreen into your daily routine, we're here for you. Reach out anytime at hi@oarsandalps.com.

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