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Using sun cream effectively

Published 26 July 2022. Written by Chris Worfolk.

Woman applying sun cream

We have just been through a heatwave over here in Europe and so this week the blog is going to something fundamental: how to get the most out of your sun cream.

It might sound pretty basic but as someone who burns very easily, I find that the following five tips made a big improvement in staying safe in the sunshine.

1. Care about waterproofing

First, get the right sun cream. UFP 50+ is going to provide the best protection. But we also need to consider that we are often swimming, and/or sweating, and this can wash off the sun cream and reduce its effectiveness.

Many brands do sports versions but you may also want to look at children's sun cream which often comes with water resistance.

Be aware though that the industry standard for "waterproof" is that it will remain effective for 40 minutes: well below what many of us may be out for a sweaty run or bike ride. Some brands do offer longer protection than this such as SolRX and ThinkSport.

2. Use plenty of it

Be liberal with your application. There is little point in using a high-factor sun cream if you do not put enough on, so make sure you apply plenty.

3. Apply it before you need it

Sun cream does not become effective immediately. You should apply it at least 20 minutes before you head out into the sun.

If you usually apply it and then head straight out the door, try to apply it in advance to benefit from maximum protection.

4. Cover everywhere

Sports clothing moves. Our shorts ride up, our socks slide down, our wristwatch moves a little. When we apply sun cream with all of this on, it is easy to miss a bit.

If you are at home and have some privacy, I highly recommend stripping down completely and applying it in the nude. That way, you avoid having to mess around trying to cover everywhere while trying not to get it on your outfit.

If you are out and about, roll your shorts and sleeves up as much as possible, remove all watches and wristbands, and take your socks off if you can.

5. Take some with you

Some brands will do smaller containers (50ml bottles, for example) that are a lot more portable. These can slip into a backpack, jersey pocket or bento box so that you can re-apply sun cream at regular intervals.

If you are looking to practice some more advanced skills, I have successfully reapplied sun cream in the aero position during a full-distance triathlon: just make sure you have plenty of clear road ahead of you!