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Ten Tips To Keep Your Skin Protected When You Bike in The Sun

Skin sun protection
Photo by Dan Russo on Unsplash

Summer is the perfect time to hit your favorite biking trail and enjoy a leisurely ride, but your best-laid plans can go south quickly if you neglect to consider adequate sun protection. So before you strap on your bike helmet, you will want to make sure you know how to keep your skin looking great when you cycle in the sun. 

Here are the top ten tips to ensure that you and your skin enjoy the ride.

  1. Apply Sunblock Formulated With Minerals
  2. Wear the Right Clothing
  3. Wear Gloves
  4. Stay Hydrated
  5. Shade Your Eyes
  6. Change Your Ride Time
  7. Opt for a Bicycle Canopy
  8. Remember Your Lips
  9. Don’t Let Clouds Fool You
  10. Clean and Moisturize

1. Apply Sunblock Formulated With Minerals

As you pedal your way over a trail, you will subject yourself to the sun’s rays, regardless of how fast you move or whether you find yourself under a sky full of clouds. So do your skin a favor by applying sunblock with a minimum SPF of 30. The sun’s rays have a way of reaching every exposed part of your body where they can quickly cause painful burns and other damage. For extra protection, consider using a product formulated with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Unlike products consisting of chemicals that absorb through the skin into the bloodstream, these natural minerals create a barrier between harmful UV rays and the skin’s surface. They are also less likely to cause rashes and irritations than other varieties. Still, as with any formula, it is necessary to take a break to reapply approximately every two hours when you are out for an extended ride.

2. Wear the Right Clothing

Of course, you will want to wear clothes that will allow you to move freely, but you also need to consider how they will protect your skin from sun exposure. Before dressing for your biking trip, assemble a set of clothes with built-in protection. Many manufacturers offer clothing with tightly woven fibers designed to prevent harmful UV rays from getting through them. Removable arm and leg sleeves can eliminate the necessity to reapply sunblock but are removable when temperatures rise, and you need to cool down.

Although a helmet is essential for protecting your head if you take a spill, it will not necessarily deflect or block the sun’s UV rays. In addition, a full head of hair may offer some protection for your scalp, but your locks will remain exposed. The best way to protect your scalp and hair (Yes, hair consists of a type of skin cell.) is to wear a cycling cap beneath your helmet. Choosing one that fits over your ears and has a flap to cover the back of your neck will also protect those sensitive areas.

3. Wear Gloves

The hands receive constant sun exposure during a ride, though many cyclists forget about protecting them from burning. Wearing biking gloves not only helps sweaty hands maintain a firm grip on your bike’s handlebars; it blocks the path of powerful UV rays that beat down on your hands which remain in a fixed position throughout your ride. As a result, riding gloves are one of the best ways to prevent your hands’ premature aging or the development of age spots. Also, try applying a non-greasy hand moisturizer before you slip on your gloves to lock in moisture and avoid the drying effects of the sun’s heat. There is also no reason you shouldn’t double up on the protection with a coat of sunblocking lotion under your gloves.

4. Stay Hydrated

Dry skin is susceptible to sunburn, but you can combat it by drinking lots of water. Still, drinking water before and after your ride is not enough to help your skin remain well-hydrated. Instead, fill a thermos with cool water and bring it with you on the trail. Sipping small amounts of water throughout your ride is the best way to replace the fluids you lose while sweating. In addition, staying well-hydrated will prevent your skin from becoming dry and leathery as you move under the sun. Drinking sufficient water is also essential for flushing away any dirt that accumulates in your pores and will help you prevent rider’s acne.

5. Shade Your Eyes

Sunglasses can reduce glare to help you see better and prevent accidents, but that’s not the only reason to wear them. Your eyes are as susceptible to sunburn as your other exposed skin tissue. Signs of sunburned eyes include light sensitivity, gritty sensations, and excessive tear production. Excessive sun exposure also increases your risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration. In addition, eyewear for cyclists should offer protection from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, which age and burn the eyes. The best sunglasses wrap around the face to protect the eye’s delicate external skin areas.

6. Change Your Ride Time

The sun is strongest in the middle of the day. Midday cyclists subject themselves to the day’s hottest temperatures and the sun’s most powerful rays. Try taking your ride during the early morning or evening hours for a more comfortable and safe ride. You will reduce your risk of sunburning, be less likely to experience dehydration, and require fewer sunblock applications.

Cyclists who are preparing for races will need ample time on their bikes to stay in shape. Consistently training during peak sun hours will age your skin and increase its chances of developing melanomas and painful burns. Schedule your longest rides when the sun does not peak in the sky.

7. Opt for a Bicycle Canopy

If you are going out for a leisurely ride, you might want to try retrofitting your bike with a canopy. This removable accessory has a thin frame that attaches to a bike’s seat or handlebars to support a UV blocking fabric over a rider without obstructing vision. Although a canopy can protect you from the sun directly above you, it is still necessary to apply and reapply sunblock for maximum protection.

You might enjoy using a bicycle canopy for a lazy ride along a quiet path, but you may find that it can become a burden when you want to pick up speed or train for a cycling event.

8. Remember Your Lips

We use our mouths every day for essential activities, including eating, drinking, and speaking, yet we sometimes forget to protect them when we head out into the sun. As a result, our lips are among the exposed skin areas that can burn most easily during a long ride. Sunburned lips become dry, flaky, and red, and they can turn meals and other fun activities into painful experiences. Before your ride, try exfoliating your lips with a terry towel or some salt before applying a high SPF lip balm to seal in moisture and keep out the sun’s rays. Avoid formulas that contain drying ingredients, including:

  • Camphor
  • Menthol
  • Phenol
  • Salicylic acid

Be sure to reapply liberally after each time you stop for a water break.

9. Don’t Let Clouds Fool You

If you think that cycling during overcast days will protect you from the damaging rays of the sun, think again. The sun’s UVA and UVB rays can penetrate clouds and make their way to your skin as you ride beneath them. Although a blanket of clouds across the sky can block up to 90% of high-intensity UVB rays, which cause burning, skin-aging UV A rays can penetrate clouds.

UVA vs. UVB
UVA / UVB Skin penetration

A significant phenomenon known as the broken cloud effect can also cause significant skin damage, many severely sunburned riders may attest. Scientists theorize that this may happen when the sky is partially cloudy, causing UVB rays to bounce off widely spaced clouds without blocking them. Thus, different layers of clouds in a partly overcast sky will allow UV rays to freely bounce toward the earth, where they can cause severe sunburn.

 So ignore the clouds in the sky and proceed to apply your sunblock liberally wherever your skin will be exposed or requires additional protection.

10. Clean and Moisturize

After a rigorous and long bike ride involving lots of sweating along dusty roads, you will probably find an accumulation of grime on your face and body. But, of course, that layer of impurities does not protect your skin from the sun. Wash your face and body in a cool shower using mild cleansers. Leave some water on your skin and follow your cleansing routine with a hefty dose of facial moisturizer. Massaging your favorite body cream all over your body will help to lock in the moisture. Finally, calm any sunburned areas with a gel formula consisting of aloe vera, known for its soothing and healing properties. In addition to its therapeutic benefits, its refreshing fragrance is uplifting.   

Cycling is one of the healthiest activities you can enjoy outdoors. It can strengthen your muscles and bones, improve your balance, improve self-esteem, and promote graceful aging. Still, if you want to get the maximum benefits from your rides, you must also consider sun protection. Fortunately, protecting your skin does not mean avoiding the sun entirely when you remember some simple practices. For more helpful tips and suggestions about riding safely, drop us a line to learn what our bike enthusiasts have to say. In the meantime, get out there and enjoy the ride!

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