With XTERRA Freedom Fest just a couple of weeks away on July 1, it’s time to start thinking about the sun. While nothing feels better after a long winter, the sun can be as dangerous as it is decadent, and it’s important to protect our skin from the harmful effects of UV rays.
While mainstream sunscreens protect from the aging and carcinogenic damage from UV light, the oxybenzone, octinoxate, 4-methylbenzylidine camphor, and parabens in these sunscreens can harm coral and inhibit coral larva growth. In fact, the 2016 study on the effect of sunscreen on reefs was so grim that Hawaii recently banned chemical sunscreens that contain oxybenzone. But many experts say that isn’t enough.
That’s why XTERRA athlete Tatyana Cerullo decided to take matters into her own hands – literally – by creating reef-safe Kokua Sun Care. Her products are created in compliance with FDA manufacturing standards, testing, labeling, and registration. It's important to get sunscreen that complies with FDA standards so that you can trust that SPF 30 means SPF 30.
SPF is the relative measure of how long a sunscreen will protect you from UVB rays, which are the chief cause of sunburns. UVB rays tend to affect the outer layer of skin, where the most common kinds of skin cancer occur. The SPF number refers to how much longer a sunscreen will protect you compared to if you wore nothing. So if you would normally burn after 20 minutes in the sun, SPF 30 will protect you for 30 times longer than this. However, keep in mind that the sunscreen won't work for 10 hours and should be reapplied every 60 to 90 minutes.
The other terms you might hear bantered around are "physical" and "chemical" sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens are usually those with oxybenzones, octinoxate, octisalate, and avobenzone, which create a chemical reaction and transform UV rays into heat and release the heat from the skin. Physical sunscreens contain active minerals such as zinc oxide, which sit on top of the skin and deflect and scatter UV rays away from the skin.
Hawaii-based sunscreen, Planet Sun, is another example of a physical sunscreen infused with botanicals, essential oils and antioxidants to nourish, hydrate and replenish the skin while exposed to the elements.
“No matter what sunscreen you use, when the sun hits your skin, free radicals are formed,” said Cerullo. “Not only do you need the physical barrier against the sun that zinc oxide provides, but you need antioxidants to neutralize free radicals that cause sun spots, wrinkles, and cancer.”
Cerullo qualified for the XTERRA World Championship in 2007 and understands that endurance athletes have to be extra careful about the sun.
“As endurance athletes, we are out in the sun training for hours and hours, so we need a lot of protection,” she said. “And because we swim in the ocean and run on the trails, we are stewards of the environment. The last thing we want to do is dump chemicals into the ocean.”
Learn more about XTERRA Freedom Fest