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Be Skintelligent: Simple Steps to Keep Your Skin Healthy

Be Skintelligent: Simple Steps to Keep Your Skin Healthy

As you head out to train and prepare for Pelotonia’s Ride, it’s important to keep your skin protected and be sun safe.  Sun exposure is cumulative over your lifetime and can lead to skin cancer.  We obviously don’t want that to happen, so we want to help you instill habits that will not only prepare you for Ride weekend but will continue far beyond the weekend.


Haven’t been wearing sunscreen when heading outdoors? Consider these statistics:

  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S. [1]
  • 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. [2]
  • One blistering childhood sunburn doubles the risk of developing melanoma.[3]
  • 1 American dies from melanoma every hour. [4]

So what can you do to protect yourself?  We recently spoke to Dr. Susan Massick of OSU Dermatology to learn more about how to be “skintelligent” leading up to Ride weekend, as well as every day.  Here are her recommendations:

Just as you protect your body with good training, nutrition, and hydration, you need to do the same for your skin.  Following basic sun safety tips in training and in your daily routine will help keep your skin healthy.  Sunscreens should be used routinely, not only when training outdoors but on a daily basis; however, with the many products on the market, it is hard to know what to look for and how to use.  That’s where I’m here – to help you understand what to look for and what recommendations we give regarding skin care.

  • What type of sunscreen should I use?
    • Look for “broad spectrum coverage” with both UVA and UVB protection
    • SPF 50 or higher is ideal
    • Water-resistant
  • UVA, UVB and SPF: what does it all mean?
    • UVA rays cause skin aging, wrinkling, and skin cancer. UVB rays cause sunburns. You want your sunscreen to have protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
    • Sun Protection Factor (SPF) primarily measures UVB protection, not UVA protection. It is calculated by measuring how much time it takes protected vs. unprotected skin to burn when exposed to sunlight.
      • SPF 15: If it takes 20 minutes for unprotected skin to start to burn, then SPF 15 sunscreen prevents skin from reddening 15 times longer.
      • SPF 15 filters out 93% of UVB sunrays, SPF 30 filters out 97% of UVB sunrays. The higher the SPF, the more protective it is.
  • What ingredients should I look for?
    • Mineral sunscreens deflect UV rays off the skin, basically a barrier against UV rays from penetrating the skin.
      • Key ingredients: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide
      • Examples: Elta MD UV Clear, Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby, Aveeno Baby
    • Chemical sunscreens actually absorb the UV rays and dissipate them.
      • UVA blockers: avobenzone (Parsol 1789), oxybenzone
      • UVB blockers: Padimate O, Octinoxate, Octisalate
      • Examples: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch, La Roche Posay Anthelios Sport
  • Mineral sunscreens tend to be thicker in consistency than chemical sunscreens, making chemical sunscreens easier to apply; however, chemical sunscreens can cause mild skin irritation if you are sensitive to the chemical ingredients.
  • Follow expiration dates on your bottle, and buy new supply each season.

Are sunscreens safe?

  • Sunscreens are considered safe for daily and routine use in all ages, including babies >6 months of age and pregnant women.
  • Tips on how to apply sunscreen
    • Apply 30 minutes BEFORE you head outside
    • More is better: 2 ounces, equivalent of TWO shot glasses to cover all areas, particularly face, lips, ears, arms and hands, legs
    • Reapply every 2 hours
    • Consider sunscreen sticks on places like on face/lips to prevent stinging in eyes and running into the mouth with perspiration
  • Is sunscreen waterproof? [5]
    • No sunscreen is waterproof.
    • FDA measures water-resistance, or how long the sunscreen stays on wet skin, whether from swimming, perspiration, or rain.

Two classes: “water-resistant” (up to 40 minutes protection) and “very water-resistant” (up to 80 minutes protection)

Recommended sunscreens: Choose the right one for you and your skin.

  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen SPF 60
  • Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Baby SPF 60, Active SPF 30+
  • Neutrogena Ultimate Sport Face Oil-Free SPF 70+
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Broad Spectrum SPF 50+
  • Neutrogena
  • Elta MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
  • Aveeno Protect and Hydrate Lotion Sunscreen SPF 70
  • CeraVe Sunscreen Stick Broad Spectrum SPF 50
  • Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby Sunblock Stick SPF 60
Stop by the first aid tents throughout Ride weekend if you need some extra sunscreen

Stop by the first aid tents throughout Ride weekend if you need some extra sunscreen

What other sun protective measures should I follow beyond sunscreen?

Seek Shade

  • Avoid training at high sun intensity hours (avoid 10 am-3 PM)
  • Follow the UV index: the higher the UV index, the more intense the UV rays are.
  • Find shady trails if possible


As you train for Pelotonia, you can also protect your skin by wearing clothing that helps keep your skin protected.  Some suggestions that Dr. Susan Massick has are:

 Find clothing with a high UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) [6]

    • What is UPF? UPF measures how much sun can penetrate through fabric.  It’s the SPF for clothing!
    • UPF 30: 1/30th of UV rays reach skin
    • The jerseys for sale by Pelotonia are made my Hincapie and are UPF 30
  • What determines UPF? The tightness of weave, type of material, thickness of material, color
    • Tightly knit fabrics are more protective than loose knits.
    • The best materials are synthetic or semi-synthetic (polyester) over bleached cotton.
    • Thickness=Density. Thinner lightweight materials allow more UV rays through the clothing, hitting the skin, than denser materials
    • Color: the darker the color, the more protective
    • A white t-shirt=UPF 5 vs. dark denim jeans=UPF 1700
  • Once wet, fabrics can lose half of their UPF
  • Hold the fabric to the light: if light passing through, then not protective
  • Consider UPF 30+ arm sleeves and gloves to protect arms and hands when cycling
  • Don’t forget to protect your eyes! Invest in a quality pair of sunglasses.
    • Sunglasses with >99% UV protection
    • Brown lenses provide color contrast; yellow lenses provide color contrast and depth perception

Remember that sun exposure is cumulative, so being sun safe at all times will help decrease your risk of developing skin cancer.  Train hard, stay safe, pedal fast, and protect your skin from the sun.

As a dermatologist who treats skin cancer on a daily basis, I thank you for your commitment to Pelotonia.  Your dedication provides much needed funding for innovative research and treatment breakthroughs for every cancer at the James, including melanoma research. – Susan Massick, MD. Assistant Clinical Professor in OSU Dermatology.


Sources that Dr. Massick cited for this piece:

[1] Guy GP, Thomas CC, Thompson T, Watson M, Massetti GM, Richardson LC. Vital signs: Melanoma incidence and mortality trends and projections—United States, 1982–2030. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015; 64(21):591-596.

Guy GP, Machlin S, Ekwueme DU, Yabroff KR. Prevalence and costs of skin cancer treatment in the US, 2002–2006 and 2007–2011. Am J Prev Med. 2015; 48:183–7.

[2] Stern RS. Prevalence of a history of skin cancer in 2007: results of an incidence-based model. Arch Dermatol. 2010 Mar; 146(3):279-82.

[3] Skin Cancer

[4] American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2018. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2018.

Siegel RL, Miller KD, Jemal A. Cancer statistics, 2018. CA Cancer J Clin. 2018; doi: 10.3322/caac.21442.

[5] Wolverton, S. et al.  Comprehensive Dermatologic Therapy, 704.

[6] Gohara M, Morison W, Sarnoff D.  Skin Cancer Foundation website.  “Clothing: Our First Line of Defense.”  May 2016.

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