The dangers of UVA for runners and the difference between Physical and mineral sunscreen

 Author: Tom Marshall, Founder of Ride Skincare


A disclosure first, as the founder of Ride Skincare, I am writing this in the hope you might buy some of our products. My main aim, however, is that you become more aware of the dangers posed by the sun whilst running and feel encouraged to protect your skin, either with Ride Protect sunscreen or whatever sunscreen works best for you.


ride recover and protectWhy do runners need to protect their skin? You may have got a little sunburnt after that June heat wave, but now you have a good base tan and no more burning, right? (Unless we did go on that 20 mile long run, in the middle of the day, in a vest, yes we got burnt then). Firstly, we need to understand what causes our skin to burn. The sun produces a spectrum of UV rays, and the ones that can damage our skin here on Earth are UVA and UVB rays. People are generally familiar with UVB rays, which are responsible for making your face look like a plum tomato after the first sunny day of the year. We all understand that when we get sunburnt it’s not great for us (and it hurts like hell), so we use sunscreen to protect ourselves. The amount of protection from UVB rays is determined by the SPF rating of a sunscreen, which relates to the amount of time you can spend in the sun before you get burnt. Typically, if you would normally get burnt after 10 minutes, applying a factor 15 sunscreen should allow you to stay in the sun for 15×10 – so 150 minutes. So theoretically if you apply a factor 50 you could stay in the sun for 500 minutes (50×10), though if you read the back of most sunscreens they will tell you to re-apply every 2 hours. The SPF is also not a great indication of what percentage of UVB rays a sunscreen can block. For example, SPF 15 will block 93% of UVB rays, SPF25 about 96% and SPF50 98%. As we can see, the SPF rating is not a clear as it might seem.

What about when you have been running all summer and you can go out for an hours run without sunscreen and not get burn? No problem right? Wrong, because this is where UVA rays can get you. Though they don’t generally make your skin visibly burn after exposure, they are instead responsible for wrinkling and ageing of the skin as well as contributing to the development skin cancers. This is why it is so important to keep on protecting your skin all the way through the summer, because although your skin might not show visible sunburn, under the surface there is damage being done.

You can ensure that the sunscreen you are using is protecting you from UVA rays by looking for either the boots start rating system, a UVA symbol in a circle (which represents the UVA protection is at least a third of the SPF), or the words ‘broad spectrum’ appearing on the packaging. Ride Skincare’s Ride Protect SPF25 sunscreen uses the European UVA circle symbol, and the UVA protection is two thirds of the SPF.

A lot of consumers might not be aware that there are actually two very different types of sunscreen. There is the regular high street ‘chemical’ sunscreen, which use a number of synthetic chemicals (called chemical filters) that absorb into the skin and break down the UVA and UVB rays in a chemical process rendering them inert. The second type of sunscreen is called ‘physical’ or ‘mineral’ sunscreen, which instead use mineral filters (either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) that sit on top of the skin and reflect the UVA and UVB rays.

There are a number of advantages and disadvantages of both. Chemical sunscreens for example can be made to be very light, thin and clear for easy application. They are also cheaper to manufacture. Mineral sunscreens have the advantage that they start protecting the skin as soon as they are applied (chemical sunscreens require you to wait 20 minutes before sun exposure), and can also achieve their protection using just one ingredient. Chemical sunscreens will typically use a combination of various different chemical filters to achieve their protection along with photo stabilisers to stop the chemical sun filters degrading from the UV rays.

There are a large number of studies that point to the potential harmful consequences from a number of chemical sun filters. I would however stress however that no government has banned or issued warnings about dangers of these chemical filters that are currently available. At Ride we simply like to do things in a more natural way, and therefore there was no doubt in our mind that we wanted to create a sunscreen using a mineral sun filter found occurring naturally on Earth. We use the mineral Titanium Dioxide, which gives a great balance between UVA and UVB protection. Furthermore, we chose a non-nano grade of Titanium Dioxide to ensure there was no risk of particles entering the body and blood stream and causing unknown side effects, which is an issue that has been raised with the use of nano grade mineral filters.

The most important thing is to protect your skin, which ever type of sunscreen you choose. You skin will thank you for it in the years to come.

By: Tom Marshall,

Disclosure: the5krunner is known to occasionally frequent Bushy Park parkrun based in Teddington and Ride Skincare is based in Teddington. We don’t know each other at all. But, hey, Teddington is a nice place full of nice people so this post gets put up and no fee has changed hands.








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2 thoughts on “The dangers of UVA for runners and the difference between Physical and mineral sunscreen

  1. Broad spectrum by itself means nothing. It must be in the form “Broad Spectrum SPF [value]” on the front label to fit the FDA guidelines (but those guidelines don’t seem that strict):

    The EU standard of UVA in a circle only means 1/3 UVA is blocked but seems like they also have a UVA with stars logo that gives a better indicator of high level of coverage:
    (EU regulations are way better then FDA standards)

    Its important to know who’s standards they are claiming to follow to understand the protection as its very hard to self test. Many sunscreens fail outside testing:

    Also important to have time between application and start of the activity. Its more then just activation time as mentioned above but bonding time for the carrier ingedients to evaporate off and have the protection bonded to your skin

  2. Hi, Tom from Ride Skincare here. Yes you are absolutely correct that the American regulations are quite loose and that’s why we stick to the EU UVA symbol that shows our UVA protection is at least a third of our UVB protection (In our case it’s two thirds). We also haven’t relied solely on laboratory results and prior to production conducted tests all over world providing real feedback to us (though to gain the SPF and UVA ratings the product is fully tested to EU ISO standards in the lab) and we continue to monitor the effectiveness of the protection.
    To help Ride Protect bond to the skin and make it water resistant we use wax from the candelilla plant so as soon you apply it’s water resistant and protecting you straight away.
    Feel free to drop me a line at to**********@ri**********.uk if you have any other queries.

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