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Beauty and the bike: See the light

Unless you’ve been living under a very dark rock you’ll already know that exposure to too much sunlight results in premature skin ageing and even skin cancer.

If you’ve ever succumbed to a tell-tale kit shaped cyclist’s tan (or burn) after a long ride or due to the cumulative effect of hours in the saddle then you need to brush up on how to use UV protection effectively, and fast.

To drive the message home, here’s Kevin Franks from Specialized explaining why it’s a good idea to wear sun protection:

Now, here’s how to get it right:

1. Harmful UV rays are present all year round so wear protection everyday on exposed areas of skin, not just on sunny days.

2. The spf number measures protection against UVB (burning) rays. Protection against UVA (ageing) rays is indicated by a star rating. The recommended minimum spf is factor 15 (I go for at least spf30, even in the UK) and you should seek out 5 star UVA protection.

3. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune on spf creams: you just need you buy a product with sufficient levels of protection and apply enough of it, often enough. That means every two hours (and more often if you get sweaty) and preferably while you are undressed and beneath moisturiser and make up so it can absorb properly.

Aim to slather spf lotion on thickly rather than dabbing a bit here and there, and remember that, on the bike, your face, thighs, arms, fingers, ears and back of neck are particularly vulnerable. By the way, don’t rely on that old bottle of sun cream hiding in the back of your cupboard: once opened it will only be effective for 12 to 18 months.

The Coppertone Sport range is designed to stay despite ‘extreme sweat conditions’ and wont run into your eyes and sting, while Neutrogena Ultimate Sport Sunblock Spray spf100 (£13.05) gives ultra high protection and is also sweat resistant. It’s also worth investing in protection for sensitive areas such as lips, eyes, ears and your nose: Clinique SPF35 Targeted Protection Stick (£16.oo) is an easy to use option.

4. The sun’s rays are strongest between 11am and 3pm. If you can avoid riding at these times then do so and if you have the option of riding in the shade at any time, then take it.

5. Invest in cycling clothing that contains UV protection. Look out for shorts, jerseys, arm and leg covers and gloves in the Specialized clothing range that contain DeflectUV, fabric-based protection of at least UPF 30 and up to UPF 50 (UPF – Ultraviolet Protection Factor). Rapha Women’s Souplesse Jersey offers the equivalent of spf 50+ protection. Wraparound sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection are also essential to protect your eyes. Check out the cycling specific designs from Oakley. A helmet peak offers some protection to the top of your face, though to be honest, it’s variable at best.

6. And finally, if you want to look tanned, fake it. We’ll be reviewing the best self tanners for cyclists soon!

Next week, Adele will take a closer look at the spf products on the market that are best suited for us cyclists.

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