You can't always avoid the sun's rays, but you can protect yourself from sun damage and skin cancer. Here's how.
Last month, former Vuelta a España winner Luis "Lucho" Herrera revealed that he’d been dealing with skin cancer on his arms, hands, and face for the past six years. The 56-year-old famed Colombian climber shouldered some of the responsibility. “We didn’t take precautions to apply sunblock because there was no time, and sometimes we were sweating a lot," Herrera said.
Most of us can relate, as we haphazardly swipe a few blobs of sunscreen on our face and arms, toss a leg over our saddles, and roll out for a few hours, where said sunscreen will likely sweat off before it does us much good. But we can—and should—do better, especially if we hope to avoid the same fate down the road, says longtime cyclist Allen Richburg, MD, of the San Diego Sports Medicine and Family Health Center.
“The risk is cumulative, so the damage you’re incurring today can show up as cancer decades down the road,” he says. “Like riding itself, you can’t eliminate all your risk, but you can take measures to minimise it.” Here’s what Richburg and other sun safety experts recommend.
Apply Early and Often
For sunscreen to do its job you need to apply it early and give it time to soak into your skin. The recommendation for most products is that you apply at least 15 minutes beforehand. “Thirty minutes is even better,” says Richburg, noting that cyclists are prone to applying sunscreen as the last thing they do before clipping in and rolling off, usually when they’re already out in the sun.
“Rework your pre-ride ritual so you apply it before you kit up. Then get your stuff together, have a bite to eat, fill your bottles, and so forth. By the time you roll out, the sunscreen will have had time to sink in.”